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Haas’ Injury Isn’t As Big Of A Deal As You Think

Why you shouldn’t give up on Purdue

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round: Purdue Boilermakers vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Isaac Haas’ career is done.

By all accounts, Isaac Haas was one of the classiest and most-liked guys in the Big Ten. There will be plenty of time for a retrospective look at the gentle giant’s career.

But Purdue has games to win. And I’m not convinced the Haas injury stands in their way. Here’s why.

Haas Was Never the Difference Maker in the Areas that Mattered

Purdue’s fortunes have risen and fallen in proportion to two things this season: outside shooting and rebounding. Isaac Haas is 0-0 from three point land in his career, and he has always been—difficult as it is to believe—a mediocre rebounder.

Purdue’s best two-game stretch was at home against Wisconsin and at Iowa. In those games, Haas had three and two points, respectively.

This Purdue team is dangerous because it is so good at outside shooting. That’s still true. It’s vulnerable because it is a bad rebounding team. That’s also still true. If this injury means more playing time for Grady Eifert and Nojel Eastern, two guys who have a nose for knowing where the ball is going to be in a way that Haas never did, Purdue may have improved as a rebounding team.

The Offense Stagnated with Haas

At the start of the year when teams were doubling the big fella, the motion offense had motion when Purdue played through Haas. Pass inside, double, kick, easy three. But at some point, teams realized it was better to play Haas straight up and let him get his. Since that change, possessions that go into Haas end one of four ways: a turnover, a missed shot, a made shot, and a foul drawn on the other team. Rarely does it ball come back out.

It’s difficult to quantify the impact of the fouls drawn, but we can look at the other areas. Haas turned the ball over 15% of the time and shot 60%. If you take the 85% of the time he didn’t turn it over, multiply that by 60%, and multiply that by 2 points per made shot, you get 1.02 points per Haas possession. That 1.02 points is well below Purdue’s average. Only twice this year did they fail to crack that level.

You can get 1.02 points per possession by shooting a three pointer and making it 33% of the time. Purdue has four guys at or above 40%.

If you have a monster like Haas, it’s incredibly tempting to use him all the time, but the truth is for his size and skill he was never as dominant as he might have been. If he was hitting 75%, he was all-American level good. At 50%, he was a possession sink. The truth is, his injury will force Matt Painter to do what he probably should have been doing before now—call Haas’ number less often.

The Golden State Warriors have shown us all what the future of basketball looks like: small ball with guys who are quick enough to defend all positions and can shoot threes. Purdue has the personnel to run something like that, but not with Haas out there.

Haas Was a Liability Defending the Pick and Roll

Matt Painter’s Purdue squads have been known more for their defense over the years than their offense. This year, that wasn’t true. A big reason why is that it was easy for teams to exploit pick and roll mismatches. Haas couldn’t switch onto a guard, and his foot speed wasn’t sufficient to allow him to hedge effectively without fouling. Multiple times this season Purdue has gone offense-defense at the end of games. Haas was never on the defensive team.

Haas Didn’t Make His Teammates Better

I have seen lots of people comparing this injury to Robbie Hummel in 2010. This is nothing like Robbie Hummel’s injury. Hummel was the guy who made the offense go, the versatile jack of all trades who could score, rebound, and—most importantly—set up his teammates. Without Robbie on the floor, Purdue’s offense was entirely different, because he was able to put other guys in positions where they could shine.

Haas didn’t do that often. He would catch the ball and then either score or not score. Once the double-teams stopped coming, playing through Haas didn’t free up Dakota Mathias for easier looks from deep.

Without Haas on the floor, Purdue’s offense will function much the same way it always has. 40% of the time the Boilermakers played with Haarms at the 5. That offense is what they’ll run going forward. This isn’t a situation where the team will need to re-learn how to play with each other.

The comparison that I think is relevant is not to Hummel, but to Caleb Swanigan. Very few people thought Purdue would be a better team without Biggie this season, but they are. For as much as the Boilers miss Biggie on the glass, everyone at the beginning of the season remarked how much better the offense flowed without Swanigan eating up possessions. Sure, he scored a lot, but the Motion Offense works best when there’s, you know, motion. Purdue has been very good at sharing the ball this season. Without Haas, they will be able to share the ball even more.

Haas Is Still There to Support His Teammates

Isaac Haas is the emotional core of this team. He’s a big, lovable goofball who gets excited when his teammates do well. That might be his most important function on the team, if we’re being honest, and he will still be able to do that sitting on the bench with his arm in a sling. He’s not dead and he’s not stuck in a hospital room. The locker room culture at Purdue, which is by all accounts very good, hasn’t changed one bit.

Conclusion

Is it a good thing that Haas went down with an injury? Of course not. You hate to see anybody get hurt, particularly a senior who is a stellar person on and off the court.

Would I rather have Haas available for this game? Absolutely. You should never limit your options or the weapons you have available.

Is Purdue a better team without Haas? If he’s being used correctly, no. But I think Matt Painter over-relied on him over the course of the year. In games where Haas had an obvious mismatch he was able to exploit, Purdue’s guards took a long time to get going. I can understand the temptation to use Isaac so heavily, but in a lot of ways he was a square peg in a round hole.

Purdue still has a 7-footer in Matt Haarms they can throw at teams. They have a third string center in Jacquil Taylor who is decent enough to spell Haarms. With Eastern and Carsen Edwards, they aren’t strictly a pure jump-shooting team. While the points aren’t going to come as easily down low, from my analysis above you can see that I don’t think the points came as easily as everybody thought they did, and that they came with some tradeoffs. Purdue is still a very dangerous team. This season isn’t over yet.