2013-14 In Review:
With the season firmly in the rear view mirror, we can take a step back and look at just how good Dez Wells was for the Maryland Terrapins. Or wasn’t. Or kind of was.
Wells is a difficult player to quantify because of the nature of his play. His high’s are extremely high; as good as any player in the ACC (including superstars like T.J. Warren and Jabari Parker). But whereas those guys don’t have many lows each year, Wells does, and his lows are that of the average ACC player. That is to say, still good, but not capable of carrying the Terps the way a superstar ought to.
It’s not easy shouldering the burden of being the best player on the court night in, night out, but that’s what Coach Turgeon tasked Wells with. In smaller dosages, Wells did indeed accomplish that. Most won’t soon forget that 33 point game against Boston College wherein Wells nearly scored all of Maryland’s points in the second half to secure a victory. Nor can you gloss over his 21 points against Miami in which he hit every single shot attempted from the floor to bail Maryland out, or the 18 points against Virginia during the Terps final ACC home game to score a major upset.
But these games were interspersed with ordinary lines, like a “pedestrian” 12 points against Virginia, or the lowly 5 points against Pittsburgh in a blowout. When Wells isn’t taking over a game, he’s less effective than absolutely necessary for the Terps to win. That’s the price of stardom: even when you’re decent, the standard with which you’re held is so high that decent is a disappointment.
No one was interested that Wells hit double figures in all but four of his games this year when Maryland was losing. No one also cared that Wells was one of the most efficient players in the country last year, and shot better than most forwards and centers. Or that he was top ten in scoring in the ACC, as well as top seven at getting to the free throw line.
Historically, we’ll look back and realize that Wells had an absolutely fantastic season for just about any player. But without a tournament berth to his name since leaving Xavier, fans and (likely) Wells viewed it as a disappointment. Personal accolades mean nothing for a team player like Wells, and he’s said so himself.
Wells is proving to be a Jack of all trades, really. You can almost always rely on Wells to finish each and every game with a similar stat line: 14 points, 5 or 6 rebounds, a few assists, a block. Wells does everything you want out of a combo guard/forward, and he does pretty much everything as efficient as you can ask someone who stands 6’5 to do.
Overall, Wells didn’t change much from his first year in Maryland. The numbers are incredibly similar and don’t lend themselves to the idea that Wells improved as a player:
But where Wells really showed off his value was during conference play. Compare the two:
PER (or Player Efficiency Rating) is far from an exact science, but it does give a decent indicator of a player’s overall performance in a number. As I’ve highlighted above, Wells improved dramatically in terms of PER because of how much better he shot the ball. And when I say shot the ball, I of course mean got to the line.
It’s old news by now that really good players get to the line at high rates. Olivier Hanlan, Jabari Parker, KJ McDaniels, T.J. Warren. Those are the only guys who got to the line more times than Wells did in conference play, and Wells shot an incredible 84% from the charity stripe. Wells didn’t leave points lying around, and when things weren’t going well for him on actual jump shots, he forced contact to score points the easy way.
Wells also played more minutes this season and managed to cut down on that astronomically high turnover rate that plagued him last year. It isn’t much, but the difference between 60 turnovers and 44 makes a big difference to overall team efficiency. For a guy who prides himself on being the most efficient player on the court, that was a glaring misstep in Wells overall game.
The bad news is that the one area that could have propelled Wells to superstardom (outside shooting) had he improved, he didn’t. Wells shot fewer three pointers than last season (69 to 56) and hit even less as well (23 to 17). Part of that is a product of an offense that just added in Evan Smotrycz and gave Jake Layman more minutes, two guys who attempt a whole lot of outside shots. But the other part is that Wells really didn’t get much better at shooting.
If Wells could stretch defenses, his life would be that much easier. Defenders start biting more often when you’re a credible threat from deep, and hitting triples is a way to score while expending less energy. Wells couldn’t do that as well, so when defenses sat in zone against Maryland, Wells wasn’t able to exploit as many scoring opportunities.
Wells rebounding numbers went down as well, but that’s more a result of Maryland becoming a better rebounding team with Smotrycz than it is a result of Wells no longer being a capable board crasher.
The only real complaint anyone should have with Wells game is that his adjustment from becoming a role player (as he was during his high school years and freshman year at Xavier) to becoming “The Man” has taken longer than expected. Wells has played with guys like John Wall, C.J. Leslie, and Alex Len his whole life, and most of the team that means taking a backseat to them.
Now, Wells is the driver of the car, and it’s taking a little while for Wells to realize that he has the green light to do whatever he wants 100% of the time. Wells is a natural glue guy and a fantastic, unselfish teammate, so it’s got to be strange to be the guy and override his passive, more team oriented traits. I’m sure it’ll come, but most thought it would be last year after his ACC tournament run the year prior.
It wasn’t, so we have to hope it happens next year, or else it probably never will. And that’s unfortunate for a guy as incredibly gifted as Wells.
Overall Grade: B+
Improved overall, but didn’t guide Maryland to the tournament. Such is life for the star of the team.