For today's piece, we take a look at the second year players for Purdue and ask which one will have the biggest impact for Purdue in 2015-16.
When people look at last season's first year players and their impact at Purdue, everyone flocks to the impact Jon Octeus and Isaac Haas had on the team, though Edwards may have been just as important to Purdue's success last season. Purdue's two year NCAA Tournament absence was heavily influenced by an inability to shoot, so the addition of a 6'7" forward like Edwards that could attack the rim, convert from mid-range and even square up and hit from three was a huge gain for the Boilers. He wasn't the flashiest in any specific area, but he averaged just under nine points, five rebounds and three assists per game. In his freshman season Edwards proved to be a consistent scorer for Purdue, could help distribute the ball and create for his teammates and then eat up boards inside. Unfortunately for Edwards, his role is likely set to diminish somewhat as Caleb Swanigan will be penciled in at the four. With Purdue likely starting Johnny Hill and Rapheal Davis, that means Edwards will be in heavy contention for minutes with Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias (both of which are better perimeter shooters). That being said, Edwards could easily be the team's sixth man and his versatility would allow Painter to basically play him at almost any position on the floor. Purdue will need to space the floor and Edwards ability to score from anywhere on the court will be vital, while his ability to distribute the ball and rebound down low will likely keep his minutes up, even if he doesn't start.
Haas came out strong last season, stealing away the starting spot from A.J. Hammons before struggling early in Big Ten play and going back to a backup role. Either way, the addition of Haas paid dividends for Purdue last season. He's still a bit raw, especially offensively when dealing with the more talented opposition in the Big Ten, but his ability to score inside and clean up on the glass was a solid addition and the foundation is set for Haas to potentially be one of the better Big Ten starting centers his junior and senior seasons. Haas' role is extremely important for Purdue next season, even with Swanigan coming to town, because of how he's been paired with Hammons. A.J. has had issues in the past with getting into foul trouble and occasionally getting worn down by the end of games. With Haas available to spell Hammons, it helps make Hammons foul issues irrelevant and keeps the starting center fresh throughout the night. Even better is Painter always has a center that is at least seven feet tall, giving Purdue a huge height advantage over most of the conference. With Swanigan set to play the four, Haas should continue to see the same role in 2015-16 and if he continues to develop like he did last year, will be huge for Purdue past this season as well.
At one point P.J. Thompson's role for the upcoming season was going to be huge for the Boilers thanks to the loss of Jon Octeus. However, the late addition of Johnny Hill means Thompson won't be thrust into the starting spot and can continue to develop in a backup role. That's definitely a good thing as Thompson's role with the team quickly diminished through conference play, playing less than ten minutes in eight of the last ten regular season games. Thompson started to make a name for himself on defense in his limited minutes, though he all but disappeared offensively as he shot a total of 20 field goals (scoring 19 points) in 14 Big Ten games. Thompson's ability as a point guard could go either way, as his inexperience last year led to him being a bigger contributor on the defensive side of the ball. His shooting definitely will need to improve in order to find more playing time (33.3% FG, 28.6% 3PT), especially as Purdue will need perimeter shooting to keep the floor spaced for their frontcourt. If Hill didn't transfer into Purdue, Thompson's role would be huge this season. As is, he's mainly added depth and shouldn't be relied on to heavily. Even more so if Painter decides to utilizes guys like Rapheal Davis and Kendall Stephens to also help push the ball up the court this season.
It'll be interesting to see if Mathias will keep a similar role in the rotation (19.6 minutes per game last season) or if he could lose out on minutes due to a cluttered roster. The late addition of Swanigan creates a log jam up top, with Hammons and Swanigan likely to hold down the front court and Hill or Thompson likely set to run the point. That leaves two spots on the starting lineup, with Painter likely wanting to include versatile Vince Edwards and senior leader / defensive star Rapheal Davis. That means Mathias might be relegated to a backup role, though the need for perimeter shooting is how Mathias will get onto the court. Of course that means Mathias could be battling with Kendall Stephens for playing time, with the more consistent shooter getting more minutes. And naturally both guys had major issues last season with consistency. While Mathias has the ability to convert from deep, he had far too many games where he would repeatedly fire it up and struggle to send it down. Mathias wasn't typically as reckless from the field as Stephens, but if he shoots 32.7% from the field (32.2% from three) again he's going to fade out of the rotation, especially if someone like Ryan Cline can come in and open things up from outside. The sophomore had several procedures this offseason to help with some respiratory problems, hoping for it to make a difference. Painter has typically had a three point specialist in the rotation, and don't forget guys like D.J. Byrd and Ryne Smith didn't always start, so there's plenty of potential for Mathias if he can improve his three ball. Oh, and fun fact, both Byrd and Smith shot less than 30% from three their freshmen seasons.
Out of the five second year players on Purdue's roster, Taylor will be the least likely to see playing time this season. In a somewhat similar scenario to Jay Simpson's freshman season, Taylor played early on in a reserve role before sitting out the rest of the season due to nagging injury issues (leg). The end result was Taylor got some experience and plenty of time to get healthy. That being said, while Taylor is finally healthy and bulked up to 240 pounds (from 217), he was a raw prospect coming into West Lafayette and will need time to develop. Measuring in at 6'9", Taylor could see some time at the four in the future, but now will be buried on the depth chart behind Swanigan, Edwards and Smotherman. The end result is Taylor should see some time over the first two months of the season, but once Painter trims the rotation he'll likely see plenty of DNPs. There's some potential here, but Taylor needs to hone his craft. Best case scenario is he could develop into a poor man's JaJuan Johnson, worst case scenario he could fail to develop and not find any playing time like Jacob Lawson.
The second year player set to have the biggest impact for Purdue this season likely comes down to either Vince Edwards or Isaac Haas. P.J. Thompson would have been the likely pick, but with Johnny Hill now on the roster he won't be forced into a starting role. As for Edwards and Haas, the role of Isaac Haas is extremely important for Purdue, but since he's a backup Vince Edwards will likely be the most important second year player. While he is going to lose minutes with Swanigan coming to town, his ability to score inside and out will be huge for Purdue, especially if Edwards can improve on last season's 32.6% from three. The Boilers loaded frontcourt puts a heavy emphasis on their backcourt being able to shoot effectively from outside and with two point guards that aren't great outside shooters, guys like Edwards, Davis and Stephens will need to take care of business to help keep the floor spaced. If not opponents can clog the lanes inside and Purdue's offense could fall apart with a large frontcourt that becomes inoperable.