The thought of just swapping in Omer Yurtseven for Jessie Govan for your 2019-2020 Georgetown Hoyas feels as if it’s the simple solution. Swap X for Y, let all the young guys improve and all set, right? Maybe. While they are similar in many ways, there are distinct differences between the two. I’m sure Patrick Ewing would gladly concede certain areas to the prior version if marginal improvements can be made elsewhere with Yurtseven.
That is based around the thought that the young players, James Akinjo and Mac McClung specifically, are good enough to reshape an offense that is geared more towards than them than it was prior. I would expect less straight post-ups this season than the 185 that Govan totaled last season. The guards can handle more responsibility in the half-court and Yurtseven himself is more comfortable as a pick and roll partner than the departed Govan. During his one season under Kevin Keatts at N.C. State in 2017-2018, Yurtseven was logged as a pick and roll roll man for 114 possessions compared to Govan’s 47 possessions of such offense last season under Ewing.
While I would not expect the same volume of post touches as Govan received, Yurtseven is good enough to keep this as a staple of the offense. When Yurtseven does find position on the block and the ball is dumped into him, there is an interesting aspect to his game compared to the right hand dominant Govan. Yurtseven loves to turn over his right-shoulder. In fact, out of his 83 shot attempts that came from post-ups in 2018, Yurtseven turned over his right-shoulder 55 times. For those 55 attempts, Yursteven shot 27-55 compared to 11-28 over his left shoulder. For comparison Govan only went over his right shoulder 21 times out of 107. Where Yurtseven can fail at times is what Govan struggled with against bigger and better competition. At NC State, Yurtseven could be at times seen losing his balance and not getting vertical on his post finishes. He’s too big, too strong and now too old to get rooted out. This issue was shown in his lack of ability to get to the free throw line. In 2018, Yurtseven only drew fouls at a rate of 3.6/Per 40 minutes. Elite post-players at finding the FT line often hover around 5.0-7.0 mark on KenPom. Part of that can be style of play and opportunity, but for a big man such as Yurtseven, to only attempt 80 free throws in a 33 game season feels awfully low.
Here’s a look at his favored right shoulder turn:
Yet getting off balance and falling into trouble:
Handling Double Teams
If Yurtseven proves to be a good enough post option that teams willingly send hard double teams towards, this will be a good problem to contend with. A strong part of Govan’s game last season was the ability to handle double teams. For Yurtseven, it’s an unknown for now. Yurtseven only faced 22 hard double teams all of 2017-2018 (per Synergy), but managed to turn the ball over on 8 of those possessions. Any time you’re turning it over at a 36% clip, you have an issue. It’s a rather simple fix for any good post player his size - be strong, be patient. Consider that Govan only turned it over 10 total times on 65 such possessions. Given that Yurtseven is due for a greater amount of post touch opportunities, it’s a skill that he’ll have to improve on.
Pick & Roll (Or pop)
Where Yurtseven was most utilized in his last season at NC State was as a ball screener in a an empty floor offensive system. He was often surrounded by four perimeter players while the offense was centered around Yurtseven with guards Al Freeman and Markell Johnson utilizing ball screens. Yurtseven ended possessions as a roll-man to a total number of 144 possessions. He is lighter on his feet than given credit for and has shown good hands while being a large target for his guards to find.
How Ewing deploys certain lineups and offensive schemes involving the pick and roll should be interesting. What made NC State such a dangerous offensive team in 2018 (21st nationally via KenPom) was the fact that Yurtseven rarely played next to a traditional power forward (roughly 27% of the time). As a Hoya, Yurtseven is sure to share the court with Josh LeBlanc often. Ewing often positions the opposite big at the ‘dunker spot’. The dunker spot or short corner is simply the area just outside of the paint along the baseline. Where I’ve found the Hoyas to have the most success (particularly in Ewing’s first year with Marcus Derrickson) is to fan that extra big outside the 3 point line and attack with a truly spaced floor and empty paint area. Of course, LeBlanc's shooting limitations hinder those possibilities - as his value as an offensive rebounder or someone who can relocate as a cutter and should be best used in the dunker spot.
You can see an exaggerated version of this here with Ben Simmons as someone who can’t play off the ball to space the floor and instead is occupying the dunker spot - and any space is ruined:
Too often in recent years it’s felt to my eye that that dunker spot became much too stationary. Be it Marcus Derrickson, Kaleb Johnson or Trey Mourning, there frequently seemed to be just a body occupying the baseline area and drawing an extra defender. It’ll be imperative for LeBlanc or anyone opposite of Yurtseven to keep moving, keep finding cracks in the defense and understanding when and how to space to make things operate. In the first two clips below you see an inactive LeBlanc in the dunker spot, followed in the last two clips of the benefit that spot can hold with an active, instinctive body:
LeBlanc is smart enough to figure out how he fits in and obviously he’s too good elsewhere to not log upwards of 30 minutes per game. I’d be he’ll get a better feel of when to fan out, when to be a release available for a catch and overall an increased understanding of how to space. However, I would not be opposed to seeing some more of a true 5 out offensive system, particularly when LeBlanc rests. And please, do not pair one of the other freshman centers with Yurtseven. So, whether it’s a result of an improved shooting LeBlanc, or Galen Alexander or Jamorko Pickett showing the toughness needed to play a small ball four, a five out look is something I’d like to see to see more of. It does feel based off of NC State’s offensive success in 2018 that there is something to work with in surrounding Yurtseven with a small lineup. Take a look at how well the Wolfpack offense fared with Yurtseven on the floor (and again, not often paired with a traditional 4 man):
And in video here, you can see how open the floor was around him with the option to roll or pop (and also a look at Georgetown going 5 out at the end):
Where Yurtseven lacks what Govan left behind is the ability to shoot the ball at such a high level. Govan didn’t just turn into a good shooting big man, he turned into a great one. With Yurtseven, sample size is key, can he really shoot it as well as he did in a limited amount of attempts at NC State? His 22-44 from three mark in 2017-2018 is very enticing and at least exhibited the potential that there might be something there. If he could ever hit 40% on a higher volume (say, 30-75 on a season) that could help unlock a Hoya offense that could be as versatile and efficient as any group dating back to the Chris Wright & Austin Freeman era. Time will tell. Here, more than any other area of his game, could have been helped the most from the year off. His release is a bit unorthodox but repetition matters above all in shooting. I’d gladly take a higher volume at anything over 35% and run with it. And that seems achievable. If he does prove to be a legitimate threat from the outside, it opens opportunities for drag screens, pick and pops and even letting Josh LeBlanc run some pick and roll (as the roller) without totally shrinking the floor. Also of note, Yurtseven rarely attempted any shots that weren’t at the rim or from behind the 3 point line. Whereas Govan worked a bit from the mid-ragne, that aspect of Yurtseven’s game was non-existent in Keatts’ offensive system:
Nobody in a Hoya uniform since Josh Smith in 2015 has posted as high of an offensive rebounding rate as Yurtseven did at NC State. His rebounding rate of 12.8% was good for 58th nationally in 2018. Pair that with an already active offensive rebounder in Josh LeBlanc (11.6%), the Hoyas could be a formidable team to contend with on the offensive glass. Yurtseven is just a bit bouncier of his feet than Govan and at his size, he has proven the ability to root out space around the rim when the ball is up for grabs. Ewing recently cited Yurtseven as having ‘sneaky athleticism’, and to that I would agree. He’s not quite the lumbering, stationary post that Georgetown has had of late.
It’s certainly an added benefit and in a Big East season that is sure to have numerous close games this season, every possession will matter.
In conclusion, if you ask me who the better offensive player is, I’ll go with the 2019 version of Govan. His shooting truly reached exceptional levels. He was an option as a post-up option, a spot up shooter and an excellent weapon against zone defense. But if you were to ask who fits this team better? It’s a much closer call. You can play small around Yurtseven as a pick & roll man and his need for post touches isn’t nearly what Govan’s was. He’s a bit more agile and that can show in his ability as a screener and his extra bit of bounciness around the rim can pay dividends on the offensive glass. Govan’s ultimate value centered around how far he could take you scoring the ball, and the offense had to be geared towards him. That’s not so much the case with Yurtseven, he’s a vital piece but his impact on offense can be felt in ways other than him putting the ball through the hoop With a pair of guards eager to take the next step, this fit might be the one that is best.