As we near the midway point of the 2022-23 season, it seems like a good time to check in on each player on the roster and examine how they are performing against preseason expectations.
Race Thompson’s traditional numbers through 13 games:
- MPG: 23.8
- PPG: 8.4
- RPG: 6.4
- APG: 1.2
- BPG: 1.4
- SPG: 0.8
- TPG: 0.8
- FG%: 47.3
- 3FG%: 27.6
The preseason chatter: Coming into the season, the main questions surrounding Thompson were whether he could augment his game to resemble that of a more modern power forward, with improved perimeter shooting and ball handling ability. Moreover, with a more depth on the roster, would Thompson’s minutes go down?
What is going well:
Thompson appears to be on the right track when it comes to taking better care of the basketball. His 10.2 percent turnover rate is a career best mark, No. 153 in the country and second best on the team. To be sure, some of that relates to a modified role that has him playing almost entirely off the ball (i.e. not attacking off the bounce) in post-up or catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s also led to a career low free throw attempt rate (as a percentage of field goal attempts) of just 22.6 compared to 67.5 in 2020-21. But in any event, Thompson’s ball handling and decision making seems to have improved.
Also, is it just us or does Thompson appear to be an improved vertical athlete this season? He’s produced several highlight reel dunks and continues to be productive on the glass. But there are also numbers to back up the theory. Thompson’s block rate has more than doubled this season to 6.3 percent. It’s worth noting that half of his blocks have come in the three games Trayce Jackson-Davis did not play this season. That seems to lend some support to the idea that Thompson could be a fairly effective small ball five when Jackson-Davis checks out of games. Perhaps some of his minutes should be utilized in that role.
What needs to improve: What’s different this season for Thompson is his 3-point shot volume, which is up to 5.2 per-100 possessions, vs. 3.3 a year ago. His make rate of 27 percent is in line with his career and prior season averages, but the volume has driven down Thompson overall efficiency. With Trayce Jackson-Davis the clear star of the team, and opposing defenses having some measure of success taking him away via double-teams, effective perimeter shooting from the power forward spot looks like the keystone to Indiana’s offense right now.
Thompson was able to produce a late season surge from three a year ago, making 42 percent over his final 16 games. He’s made 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) over IU’s last five games after a slow start. Hoosier fans can only hope that’s the start of sustained production from beyond the arc to finish the season.
Final thoughts: Because he’s somewhere in between a power forward and a center, Thompson can end up in difficult defensive matchups going up against both slashing wings and bigger players on the block. So far the Indiana staff hasn’t decided to be more strategic in how they utilize Thompson in an effort to mitigate those challenging matchups. His minutes are indeed down this year — from 28 per game each of the last two years to 23.8 so far this season. But how Thompson is utilized in a reduced role seems like the real formula.
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