Friar Basketball

Digging in on Al Durham

Al Durham Indiana University Athletics

News of Al Durham’s transfer from Indiana to Providence came days prior to David Duke’s announcement that he would forego his senior season at PC to head for the NBA Draft. Suddenly, the 6’4, 175 pound guard from Georgia was elevated from nice piece to critical component of the 2021-22 Friars.

The Providence athletic department made the news official on Tuesday.

Durham is a left hander who will graduate from Indiana this spring and then use his final season of eligibility in Providence. He averaged double figures in scoring for the first time this past season when he put up over 11 points per game, and shot 38% from 3 and 76% at the free throw line. Last season marked the second straight year in which Durham shot 38% from deep. For a Providence team that once again struggled from beyond the arc, he brings a needed outside shooting presence.

But let’s dig deeper to try to further measure Durham’s potential impact.

Durham was excellent in spot-up situations last season, according to Synergy Sports Data. His 1.205 points per possession ranked him in the 92nd percentile of all Division 1 players when spotting up last year. When Synergy measures spot-up situations they are not just looking at catch and shoot opportunities. These are opportunities that can include when a player catches and shoots, but it can also include when he takes a jumper off of a dribble or drives to the basket from a spot-up opportunity.

As a team, Providence was ranked in the 19th percentile in spot-up situations last year, so clearly Durham should help there.

He was at his best when he let it fly in catch and shoot opportunities last season. His 46.5% shooting and efficient points per possession placed him in the 91st percentile nationally when firing from the catch and shoot. Forty three of the 68 shots Durham took out of spot-up situations were no dribble, catch and shoot opportunities.

While this isn’t a player you’d want to leave open for catch and shoot opportunities, his numbers dip when putting the ball on the deck.

Durham had a high number of opportunities to score in pick and roll opportunities (70 possessions), but ranked in the 39th percentile in points per possession in those chances. He shot 14-53 (26.4%) when shooting off of pick and roll opportunities. He shot 29.8% on all jump shots off of the dribble, and ranked in the 7th percentile nationally when shooting at the rim. Former Indiana coach Archie Miller rarely put Durham in isolation opportunities, as he had just ten of those possessions last season.

As a point of comparison, David Duke had 142 pick and roll ball handler scoring opportunities last year, Jared Bynum finished with 42, and Alyn Breed 30. No other Friar had more than seven. Duke ranked in the 58th percentile when shooting out of pick and rolls, while Breed made the most of his limited chances (shooting 47.8%).

Duke’s presence will be badly missed next year in terms of creating jumpers off of the dribble, where he ranked in the 71st percentile nationally, all while seeing considerable defensive attention. He took 129 shots off the dribble, a number that dwarfs similar attempts from Durham last season.

Providence would be well served to find as many catch and shoot opportunities for Durham as they possibly can next year. He was an efficient catch and shoot shooter regardless of the quality of the coverage against him. He shot 46.9% on uncontested catch and shoot jumpers (80th percentile) and 41.2% on contested jumpers (86th). Durham torched zones last season, shooting over 60% — which was an area in which Providence really struggled (15th percentile nationally in points per possession, 37.2% shooting).

Last season’s Friars shot 32.4% on guarded catch and shoot Js, and 34.1% on uncontested jumpers.

The further away from the basket Durham is, the better he seems to shoot it. He ranked in the 8th percentile on jumpers from 17 feet and in, but 88th from mid-range (17 feet to the 3-point line) and in the 86th percentile from long range.

This isn’t to say Durham does not impact the game inside the arc. He drew 81 fouls last season (Duke drew 121, while the next closest PC guard finished with 34), and his 11 and-1s would have been good for second on Providence behind Nate Watson’s 20.

Defensively, Durham should help make up for the absence of Duke (whose defensive numbers dipped last season as he took on greater offensive responsibility). Synergy ranked Durham in the 89th percentile last year in points per possession against. They ranked him in the 84th percentile in spot up situations on defense, 87th versus pick and roll scorers, and 69th against both screens and isolation scorers. Those numbers are elite.

Opponents shot just 27-103 on jumpers against him last season, a mark that included 1-11 from mid-range and 21-80 from three (26.3%) — and that was in the highly-regarded Big Ten.

Judging by his advanced numbers, Providence looks to have found a veteran who can really defend, shoots catch and shoot jumpers at a very high level, but sees his efficiency drop when attacking off of the dribble.


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