For a 7-foot, 250 pound center, Michael Durr’s 2020-21 offensive efficiency numbers are a bit concerning, at least upon a quick glance. How can someone with that size only make 41 percent of his shots from the field?
In fact, the new IU junior center has seen his field goal percentage drop each season, from 51 percent as a freshman, 49 percent as a sophomore, to that eye-catching 41 percent in his final season at South Florida.
The fairly straightforward reason behind Durr’s decline in efficiency is that his field goal attempts have been increasingly occurring farther away from the basket. According to hoopmath.com, Durr took 69.5 percent of his shots at the rim in 2018-19, and 52.3 percent in 2019-20.
The drop-off in attempts at the rim continued in 2020-21 when only 46.8 percent of Durr’s shots occurred there, and he made 52.3 of those attempts. His efficiency drop off was as a result of making just 35 percent of his 2-point jump shots and 20 percent of his 3-pointers.
Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said on Wednesday he believes Durr can make 3-pointers. And despite his career 4-of-24 shooting from behind-the-arc, we’ll take the first year head coach at his word. But Woodson is also earning a reputation for his straight talk with players and recruits, and his likely message to Durr will be this — either improve the perimeter shooting percentages significantly, or get back in the paint.
Durr is arriving in Bloomington with the expectation he can play alongside All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“We’re definitely playing together,” Durr told The Daily Hoosier on the day his transfer was announced.
But in order for that to happen with any degree of regularity, either Durr or Jackson-Davis is going to have to start making shots from long range. Woodson has stated that he expects Jackson-Davis to start shooting more perimeter shots, but to this point he hasn’t even attempted a 3-pointer during his time at IU.
There is a track record at IU and in the Big Ten showing that formerly paint-bound big men can become real threats from 3-point range. Thomas Bryant made just 5 of 15 attempts from three as a freshman before converting on 23 of 60 (38.3 percent) as a sophomore. Luka Garza made just 29.2 percent of his hoists from three as a sophomore before making 35.8 and then 44 percent over his last two seasons with Iowa. Kaleb Wesson progressed at Ohio State from just 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) as a freshman to 34.7 and then 42.5 percent (on 106 attempts) over his final two seasons in Columbus.
That is the kind of progress either Durr or Jackson-Davis will need to show to allow them to become a functional duo in Woodson’s four-out system. But with 13 players on the roster, Woodson doesn’t need to try to force something that isn’t there.
And even if Durr can’t make the leap as a shooter, his value to the team can still be meaningful for this upcoming season. His size alone cannot be taken for granted. He is IU’s first 7-foot player since the Hoosiers had a pair of them on the 2012-13 roster. Durr is the tallest player on an IU roster that now features six players 6-foot-6 or taller, and three 6-foot-9 or taller. There will be plenty of Big Ten matchups, such as against Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Purdue’s Zach Edey where Durr’s size becomes a major asset.
Obviously if neither Durr or Jackson-Davis is a threat from the perimeter, Jackson-Davis is not getting bumped out of the lineup. But he may see his minutes tick down a bit thanks to Durr — and that is probably a good thing. Jackson-Davis was the only forward or center in the top-eleven in the Big Ten when it came to minutes played per game at 34.2 per contest, well ahead of Garza at No. 12 at 31.8. Jackson-Davis seemed to run out of gas at times last year, but IU often had little choice but to leave him in games with no other viable options at the five. Durr provides the opportunity for Jackson-Davis to do more with less minutes.
Durr is a high-level rebounder, ranking in the top-100 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage according to KenPom, and he is a top-200 shot blocker. On a per-40 minute basis Durr averaged 12 rebounds last year. On paper he at a minimum seems like an ideal backup center, and on top of all that, he takes much of the stress out of any early foul trouble for Jackson-Davis.
It is worth keeping in mind Durr has two years of eligibility remaining. If he is able to take the long view, he has a clear path to be a fifth year senior starter in the Big Ten in 2022-23 after Jackson-Davis makes his almost certain move to the professional ranks.
In the meantime Durr can provide Jackson-Davis daily work against the length and physicality that has bothered him throughout his first two seasons. He can also provide the same to freshman Logan Duncomb, who can develop substantially working with Durr and Jackson-Davis in practice, and the recently turned 18 year old can possibly take a redshirt season if that ends up being warranted.
By adding Durr in place of Jerome Hunter, who overlapped significantly with new addition Miller Kopp, Indiana has balanced out its roster, added important depth, provided the opportunity for others to develop, and addressed a 2022-23 roster need.
And if Durr steps out and makes threes at a high rate like Woodson believes he can, that is just the icing on the cake.
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