Coming into the year with expectations of leading the team in many ways on both sides of the floor, Anthony Gaines had a lot on his shoulders when games began to arrive. He was tasked with being a lockdown defender, and there were hopes that the athletic guard would be more dynamic on the offensive end.
As the season got underway, however, we began to see numbers that did not reflect a significant improvement on either side of the ball. The disappointing start to the year was explainable to an extent by nagging injuries that hampered Gaines consistently before his season was ended entirely due to a shoulder issue.
Let’s take a look at where Gaines’ issues resided in his past season, and where he will look to break out when fully healthy in the upcoming season.
As you can see, there was no place where Gaines was truly efficient. With a 40 percent clip from the field and a 31 percent clip from behind the arc, in addition to a 43 percent eFG percent, he wasn’t a reliable option to score. The final number stands out the most, as an effective field goal percentage around 40 for a guard is a serious problem.
Gaines’ steal rate of 3 percent highlights his ability to disrupt on the defensive end, but his assist rate to turnover rate being under one shows that he wasn’t effective as a ball handler either. It’s the offensive end where Gaines needs to improve, and the numbers back that up.
When you look at the numbers, there are some that glaringly stand out in a negative manner. Gaines only converted on eight percent of his two-point jumpers, and 25 percent of his attempts on the year were of that variety. His 31 percent clip from beyond the arc is better, though not great, and he took 33 percent of his shots from three-point range.
Though he was inefficient shooting the ball, Gaines was much better when driving to the rim. 42 percent of his attempts came at the rim, and he converted on 60 percent of those tries. Further, he shot 82 percent from the line, making him a reliable option when fouled around the basket.
Overall, the statistics indicate a slight increase when compared to last year in terms of field goal percentage at the rim and on three-pointers, but although the sample size is small, they don’t match the expectations that were there for Gaines before the year. Part of that might be due to his injury issues, but in the end it wasn’t good enough.
Gaines’ best performance came in an early season victory against Providence. At the time, it felt like the contest would provide a spark for both Northwestern and Gaines himself. But it proved to be one of the highest points of the season for both.
In 32 minutes of action, Gaines notched 14 points, four assists, seven rebounds and two steals in a stellar all-around performance. He didn’t match his points total or assists total in the rest of his appearances.
When active, Gaines looked to be active and energetic on the court, providing energy and leadership for a team that sorely needed it. At the very least, no one would ever tell you that he had a bad attitude or wasn’t a valuable asset on the defensive end of the floor.
On the offensive end, he was efficient when attacking the rim, and probably would’ve done so more often if not for his injury woes. Like I said earlier, it’s also easy to believe that those injuries hindered his shooting numbers as well as his ability to be as athletic and influential as he usually is.
The other side of the coin is that Gaines provided no reason to believe that he’d actually improved offensively, and Northwestern sorely could’ve used another scorer. Without injury, it’s possible that he would’ve been able to provide tht, but he didn’t give any indication of that.
Often times in Gaines’ ten outings he frankly just looked lost, as if he wasn’t the oldest player wearing purple, and it cost the ‘Cats early in the season. He had to be better for NU to avoid brutal losses and pull off upset wins, and he wasn’t.
Priority number one for Gaines has to be getting healthy. That’s going to be the biggest thing, and from there he’ll be able to work on his offensive toolbox. Gaines’ defensive prowess is established, so it’s a matter of improving his shooting and finishing in his final year.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it was a disappointing year for Gaines. Injuries aside, it was clear that he wasn’t playing at the level that was expected of him coming into the year. As someone that was supposed to lead the team, Gaines’ had a lot to live up to, perhaps too much, but injuries ultimately derailed any chance of him proving that he could be the guy for NU. Hopefully he’s able to do that in his senior campaign.