Vic Law’s prodigious athletic talents and lanky measurements make him a unique player who can defend almost anyone in the Big Ten and play above the rim at times while knocking down threes at an above-average rate. Calling him a three-and-D player would undersell Law’s ability to rebound and pass the ball. Nonetheless, Law’s athletic gifts leave Northwestern fans craving the dominance that comes with a 6-foot-7, lengthy frame. By all measures, Law had a successful season, but as his recruiting classmates graduate, how can Law take his game to another level?
The following numbers taken from KenPom.com.
Statistically speaking, Law’s 2017-18 campaign mirrored his 2016-17 season in many ways. His usage and efficiency was similar year-over-year, as were his rebound, block, and steal rates. Law was more efficient inside the arc and at the free throw line, but also took fewer shots at both of those spots than he did the year before. Injuries limited Law’s minutes at times, but his primary skill set as an exceptional defender and a knockdown perimeter shooter was on display all year. He rebounded very well for his position and forced turnovers at a high rate as well, especially in conference play. His offensive efficiency declined against better competition—Law reached double figures in scoring in only four of the final 14 conference games he played in.
Law had one of the more dramatic changes in shot distribution among the 2017-18 Wildcats. 51 percent of Law’s 261 field goal attempts came from behind the three-point line, up from 40.5 percent during his sophomore season. He converted his threes at a solid 38.3 clip which bumped up his true shooting percentage to 55.4 percent. The additional three-pointers came at the expense of Law’s shots at the rim, which could explain the decline in Law’s free throw rate (26.1 percent in 2017-18 versus 33.4 percent in 2016-17). Law got better at creating his own shot at the rim and off the bounce, evidenced by a decrease in assisted field goals, but Law still needs to work on his playmaking ability to replace the void left by Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh.
It’s probably safe to say Vic Law was Northwestern’s best all-around player in 2017-18. The 6-foot-7 wing is the team’s best perimeter defender, often drawing the matchup with an opponent’s best offensive player before Chris Collins switched to a zone during conference play. His outstanding length and athleticism helped the redshirt junior generate 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Law rebounded exceptionally well for a wing, logging the highest defensive rebounding rate on the team.
On the other end of the floor, Law relied heavily on the three-pointer for offensive production. He finished second on the team in three-point percentage and carried Northwestern’s offense against Michigan State and Creighton by hitting five threes in each game. Law was able to create his own three-point shot more effectively in 2017-18 and also increased his assist rate to 15 percent, logging four games with five or more dimes.
Law exploded for 30 points on 19 shots in Northwestern’s third game of the season against Creighton, but as the season progressed, Law took a back seat to McIntosh and Lindsey on the offensive end. He struggled to make an impact on the offensive end against stiffer competition, which often left McIntosh and Lindsey in isolation as the shot clock wound down. Given Law’s efficiency at the free throw line, it would have been nice to see Law be more assertive in getting to the rim and drawing fouls.
Law also missed five games to injury and was limited in two more. Obviously, that’s nothing Law can control, but Northwestern went 1-4 without Law, and its offensive spacing was thrown off balance.
Without McIntosh and Lindsey, Law will be the most accomplished returning ball-handler next season. He needs to work on creating his own shot off the bounce, which means getting to the rim more, becoming more comfortable dribbling to his left, and perfecting the pick and roll with Dererk Pardon. He could also use his size to develop some post-up moves against smaller defenders. It was nice to see Law develop his playmaking skills in 2017-18, and that’s a tool he will need to use more and more next winter if a new point guard doesn’t emerge immediately.
The Bottom Line:
A unique athletic talent, Law has battled injuries to become an exceptional defender and rebounder with capable shooting skills. If Northwestern wants to improve on its 15-17 season, Law will need to add versatility to his offensive game and stay on the court. Law’s floor is exceptionally high—he will enter his senior season as Northwestern’s best player. However, it will be his ceiling that determines how successful the Wildcats will be in 2018-19.