The last installment of the series will cover the most important need the Aztecs have this offseason. The Aztecs need playmaking, shooting, size, and would benefit from more as well. The most important thing they need is a star. A player who makes their teammates better.
When it comes down to it, basketball is a simple game. The team with the best player usually wins. Last season the Aztecs had an assortment of good players. There was some debate all season amongst fans as to whether Matt Mitchell or Jordan Schakel was the best or most important player on the team. That debate missed out on what was most important though. The real question was, which player would work best as the first offensive option?
One of the team’s biggest issues last season was the lack of a true first option on offense. Mitchell and Schakel were both great players, but both would’ve been better as a second or third option.
One of the main benefits of having a true star player is that it lets everyone else slot into roles that fit their skillset better. Compare Matt Mitchell the last two seasons. As a senior Mitchell had to lead the team in scoring, forcing him to take tougher shots and hurting his efficiency. He also had to be more of a playmaker, which didn’t suit him well, as he would force plays and had more turnovers per game than assists. As a Junior, when he was able to be the second option, Matt was much more efficient from all parts of the floor. His True shooting percentage was 4 points better as a junior. He had a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio, and actually rebounded a greater percentage of available misses.
The 2020 team was so good in large part because it was led by an All American in Malachi Flynn. The 2018 team went 1-3 in conference in the games Trey Kell missed with injury (including the UNLV game where he got hurt three minutes in.) Once Kell returned they won nine in a row, including the Mountain West Tournament championship, and a game in which they made Nevada (who reached the sweet 16) look like a Division 2 team.
Last season the Aztecs showed that great depth and multiple second options can work out pretty well, but for the team to truly succeed in the postseason, they’ll need a true star. They’ll need the player who bumps everyone else down into the role they’re best suited to play.
Matt Bradley recently committed to San Diego State. He was a top-10 player in the transfer market, scored 18 PPG despite playing a slow pace, and did so efficiently. For the moment he is the number 1 option. There are some issues however.
First off, the way the roster is currently constructed, Bradley looks like the starting small forward. His game and size are better suited to playing shooting guard though. So both he and the team as a whole would benefit from getting another wing who could play the 3 and move Bradley to the 2.
Bradley also has a very similar skill set as Matt Mitchell. It means in a lot of ways he can move in and take over the role with minimal transition issues. It also means that while he can create for himself, creating for others will be an issue.
Bradley’s presence does help the other players get into better roles. Seiko will be able to focus more on defense. Mensah will be able to do the same. Butler won’t be forced to put up tough shots simply because no one else can. That being said, the Aztecs would benefit from another guy.
The best option here is Timmy Allen, as he can do just about everything well on the court. He is coming off a first team all Pac-12 season and his versatility would let him fill a lot of roles and cover up the weaknesses of whoever is on the floor. He is a skilled scorer, who excels at finishing at the rim and getting to the free throw line, and is also a good decision maker in the pick and roll. A guy like that would help the team slot into their ideal roles, including Bradley, and raise the ceiling considerably.
Basketball is a simple game. The team with the best player usually wins. Matt Bradley is a step in the right direction, and raises the ceiling of the team. A true star that makes their teammates better is still needed though.