Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 30, 2012

Losing Michael Dixon

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:42 pm

In what was undoubtedly the most faithful and uncanny reenactment of a Keith Richards song title that I’ve ever seen, Missouri guard Michael Dixon announced his intention to transfer out of the program last night. Dixon had been serving a suspension of indefinite duration all season while (we only just learned this week) university authorities looked into allegations that he committed one sexual assault in 2010 before allegedly committing another one this summer.

Assuming the charges leveled against him have been investigated and substantiated, Dixon, of course, had to lose his basketball playing privileges. Indeed for my part I find it hard to envision that even the most ambitious win-at-all-costs coach imaginable would be in any great hurry to sign Dixon as a transfer after reading this. But in terms of the impact that Dixon’s absence will have on an admittedly trivial and subsidiary front, Missouri’s performance as a basketball team, I think one further word is in order.

Andy Katz wrote this morning that the Tigers “are still a legit threat to finish in the top three in the SEC,” and that the team “will be fine on the court without [Dixon].” I’m ready to co-sign both statements: Missouri can absolutely finish in the top three in the SEC without Dixon, and that strikes me as a fair definition of doing “fine” in his absence.

But doing fine isn’t the same thing as getting the same level of production out of Dixon’s position as what was seen previously, and I think many observers have been prone to underestimate what Dixon accomplished last season. For example, his shooting from the floor (as captured by effective field goal percentage) placed him at No. 178 in Division I out of 3000 or so players who got on the floor often enough to have such things measured. Meaning, speaking purely in the abstract (and we’ll rejoin our good friend reality in a sec here, don’t you fret), Frank Haith could reach into a big bag labeled “D-I players” and have roughly a 47-in-50 probability of pulling out a player less accurate from the field than Dixon. Those are not very good odds.

So much for the abstract. Dixon had help in attaining those outstanding numbers, of course. He played alongside one of the nation’s top featured scorers in the person of Marcus Denmon (who, incredibly, was even more accurate from the field than Dixon). He also had the good fortune to be teamed with Phil Pressey, a point guard who turned enough heads to be named preseason SEC Player of the Year in October. Each of these guys helped his teammates record exemplary individual stats, and Missouri’s offense was superb as a result.

Yet even accounting for these atmospheric effects, Dixon’s performance was still aberrantly good. True, Oregon transfer Jabari Brown will become eligible after the fall semester, and obviously the Tigers are fortunate to be able to turn to a player who was so highly ranked coming out of high school (much more highly rated, it need hardly be added, than was Dixon as a recruit). But let’s be fair to Brown and peg his Dixon-level performance targets precisely. He’ll need to use 24 percent of Missouri’s possessions while playing 66 percent of the minutes. Brown will also need to hit 58 percent of his twos and 37 percent of his threes. Lastly he’ll be expected to shoot 88 percent at the line while drawing five fouls per 40 minutes.

It’s exceedingly likely that Brown will not hit those numbers. Maybe Dixon wouldn’t have either, but losing the guy that did all that is no small matter.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

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