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Step Into My Office 2023: Tamin Lipsey

Well this should be short.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Iowa State vs Pittsburgh Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After being recruited by multiple Iowa State coaches for approximately 207 years prior to him becoming a Cyclone, Tamin Lipsey finally made his long-awaited debut in Ames (for the university). The results were a mixed bag at times, but anyone that knows even a little bit of ball would tell you it was a successful season for Lipsey. However, one particular glaring weakness made itself known early and often.

Shooting, especially from three point range.

This particular weakness was so evident that it makes this end-of-season report card/prescription incredibly straightforward. The path forward for Lipsey’s growth as a player could not be more conspicuous.

Season at a Glance

The first couple of things you notice when watching Tamin play are his defensive acumen and his passing vision. Tamin was probably the best defender on the team not named Gabe Kalscheur and it showed. He was able to routinely able to lock up some of the Big 12’s best point guards for long stretches, and consistently created turnovers by picking off passes and poking the ball loose.

His passing vision isn’t quite as foolproof as his defense, but it’s easy to see the available talent. He was good enough in the early portion of the season to draw some light Monte Morris comparsions. Unfortunately for Tamin, some of those freshmen mistakes did rear their head and he came back to Earth in terms of A/TO ratio. A final rating of 1.76 isn’t terrible, but he’s capable of much better.

One major factor was the amount of minutes he was forced to play due to a lack of depth at point guard after the injury to Jeremiah Williams. He probably wasn’t quite ready to play so many minutes and be the conductor of an offense, especially in this iteration of the Big 12 Conference, which is a defensive juggernaut. Famously, Morris had the luxury of sitting behind DeAndre Kane, who was able to take the brunt of the responsibility and let Monte grow at a more controlled pace.

However, on a team with minimal shooting that already had enough issues scoring the ball, Lipsey’s inability to shoot from the deep did tremendous damage to any spacing the offense tried to create, and essentially provided a free extra defender in the lane because they didn’t have to guard Tamin past the high post.

Here’s how closely a number of teams guarded Tamin down the stretch:

This is an outrageous amount of space to give a point guard in today’s game, but virtually every team Iowa State played from February on did the same thing, and it worked. On this particular play, not only did Tamin not take this wide open three, he drove toward the left block, and found himself with almost as much space at the free throw line, and he still did not take the jump shot. Such an even would difficult to justify in almost any era of basketball, but in today’s game when every guard needs to have some shooting ability, stuff like this just makes Iowa State’s job on offense significantly more difficult.

(For reference, Tamin drove to the block and kicked out to Gabe for a corner three, which missed and was corralled by Lipsey. Lipsey then dished to Tre King underneath, who then found Bob Jones on the low block before he was fouled and missed the layup. Bob Jones would miss both free throws...badly.)

The Numbers

Tamin put together a solid stat line, shooting a touch over 52% from two-point range and generating a 4.2% steal rate, which was 18th-best in the country. However, those three-point shooting stats keep sticking out like a sore thumb, as he finished 5-of-25 on the season from beyond the arc. Not only is that 20% mark not good, but the measley 25 attempts may be the most damaging part of this. Teams didn’t have to guard him away from the basketball just because he wasn’t making them, they didn’t even have to worry about him taking the shot.

That said, I don’t want the lack of shooting to completely overshadow what Tamin did well, which was a lot of the “junkyard dog” stuff. As you can see, he posted the second-highest steal rate in the conference and rebounded well for his position and size. This is the foundation to build upon and utilize while he continues to try to improve his shot.

2023-2024 Season Outlook

There are a few really great pieces of news that suggest Tamin Lipsey could prime to make a big jump this offseason:

  1. The jump guards typically make from freshman to sophomore year is substantial, as the game is slowing down and they can be more effective and deliberate.
  2. He won’t be asked to shoulder the entire load at point guard. Jeremiah Williams is healthy and will, at minimum, be able to spell Tamin for long stretches.
  3. The offense will have far more options in 2023-2024. Omaha Billew will add a super-athletic slasher to the mix, while Milan Momcilovic and a couple transfers add some much needed shooting that will greatly improve spacing. Tamin won’t be trying to make plays to post players while simultaneously driving into a crowded lane.
  4. As it relates to shooting specifically, Tamin’s jump shot actually looks pretty solid. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with it, so there’s reason to believe that lots of offseason work in the gym to improve his confidence could go a long ways toward making him a shooter the defense has to respect.

Now, that’s not to say that I think he’ll make some drastic shift to becoming a sharpshooter in one offseason, but I think it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that we see him elevate the shooting to a point where it can be incorporated as a part of the offense as a second or third option.

If he can get the number in the 30-35% range on at least three attempts per game, I think we can consider that a massive success, but simply doubling his three-point attempts to fifty and making them at a 30% clip could be enough to coax a defender out to the three point line, which is where Tamin can use his lightning-quick first step to do damage in the paint. No matter what, Lipsey will have to build that confidence from scratch, because teams will almost certainly begin the season guarding the same way we saw this spring and force Tamin to make shots.

Aside from the shooting, I expect to see his assist-to-turnover numbers improve. I don’t think his assist numbers will necessarily increase much since he’ll be sharing more of the workload, but he’ll have more options, and, theoretically, more space to work in, which should cut down on turnovers.

This offseason is a critical one for Tamin, as this is his chance to elevate his game to a potential All-Big 12 player. If he ever gets to the point where he can hit more than 35% of his three point attempts, we’re talking about a potential All-American. He has that much potential.

The next seven months will be a crucial step in that journey.