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Big Ten Basketball Previews: Purdue

Revenge of the Ents

Purdue v Wisconsin
Next time he will jump
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

BoilerUp: Thanks to MaximumSam for piecing this together while I was traveling.

2022 in Review

Matt Painter said it best during this year’s media day. He felt the team should have done better in the B1G regular season, the B1G tournament, and NCAA tournament. They didn’t and that’s on him. Last year’s team underperformed relative to expectations as the defense never gelled. As a long time watcher of Painter’s program that really shocked me, but the players as a whole didn’t do their jobs and team defense was Iowa like.

Expectations will be decidedly lower this season, as Jaden Ivey now plays for the Pistons and Trevion Williams makes cool passes in the G League. They also lost sniper Sasha Stefanovic as well as guards Eric Hunter and Isaiah Thompson. Who is back? Let’s find out.


PG Braden Smith, 5’10’’ Freshman: Up until a couple of weeks ago I was penciling Ethan Morton into the starting PG spot. But having watched clips of the fan day scrimmage, listened to Painter talk, and read articles by analysts that are much smarter than me, it appears that Braden Smith has the inside slot for that starting position. Smith is the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana. He can shoot, drive, and pass really well. So why was Smith ranked so low in national recruiting rankings? Well, he’s only 6’0” on a good day. When Smith first committed, I thought he might be another PJ Thompson type (a role player who executed his role perfectly). All of the clips I’ve seen of Smith however make me think I’m underestimating him and Painter has been quoting as saying he is going to make people wonder why he wasn’t ranking in the top 75 of his class.

I’m not saying he’s another Carsen Edwards (for one thing he’s not that good of a shooter), but he is another undersized guard who has a surprising amount of athleticism but is overlooked due to his height. Smith shot 3s at a 42.8% in HS and led Westfield to their first sectional title in 105 years. He does an excellent job of creating space to shoot and moving defenders with his eyes to free up passing lanes. On the downside, Smith’s defense was pretty poor in HS and he will probably be turnover prone this season as he adjusts to the improved level of competition. How fast he learns to play defense and avoid turnovers will go a long way in determining how many minutes he actually plays.

SG Brandon Newman, 6’5’’ Junior: In the age of transfers, Brandon Newman stayed at Purdue after seeing his playing time drop last season. For this reason the Boilermaker fanbase will be rooting hard for his success. Out of the 5 guards I have in the rotation, Brandon is the one most likely to lead them in scoring as he showed he can fill it up as a freshman but struggled with shot selection when forced into a bench role by the emergence of Ivey. His on ball defense is good as he is able to fight thru screens and use his length well but he’s struggled at off ball and help at times. Ball handling is okay and good enough that he can punish wild closeouts but Brandon is the guard least likely to bring the ball up the floor against a press. Improved shot selection should see a return to his freshman year shooting percentages. If he can match that, the expected step back of Purdues guards won’t be as bad as predicted by some. Newman may work better as the leader of the offense when Edey is on the bench so don't be shocked if Loyer starts over him but Newman plays more minutes.

SF Ethan Morton, 6’6’’ Junior: Ethan Morton is the best on ball defender on the roster. On offense he’s an above average passer but doesn’t look for his own shot unless he’s wide open. When he is, Morton knocks down threes on above 40% of his shots. Morton is capable of guarding the 1 thru 4 positions but on offense he will either play PG or wing. In either role his main purpose will be to feed the ball to Edey and help break the press.

PF Mason Gillis, 6’6’’ Junior: Gillis is the veteran here out of the three possible starters at the 4 spot and only one that can't also play the five. He might play some three in a pinch if his ball handling and defense have improved. Another good shooter from three (>40%) and above average cutter without the ball, Mason's skillset pairs best with Edey. He won't be the only one to play alongside Edey and I'm not sure he gets the most minutes out of the Gillis/Furst/TKR trio but I do think he makes the most sense to pencil in as the likely starter.

C Zach Edey, 7’4’’ Junior: Zach Edey is the preseason All-American candidate and rightfully so. His per 40 minutes last season were incredible but he was forced to split time with Trevion Williams as neither could play the 4 defensively (for the record they weren’t great at the 5 defensively either). In intrasquad scrimmages Edey has dominated, and he is likely to be Purdue’s leading scorer as he was the go-to guy on 33% of the possessions he was in the game last season. Edey’s footwork and touch around the basket are very good and outside of Hunter Dickinson and maybe Cliff Omoruyi I have a difficult time seeing opposing B1G post players defending him without resorting to hacking and hoping it doesn’t get called (which there will be games that happens, and it might be your best option).

Thru his first two seasons, Edey has been a decent rim protector and it’s been difficult to post up on him. Where Edey struggles defensively though has been pick and roll defense. When he was a freshman, I had pegged this to be the year that he developed that part of his defensive game as he isn’t as slow as an Isaac Haas and should be able to keep up well enough that if he gets beat, he is still close enough to use his length to deflect/alter guards’ shots. Edey’s minutes will probably go from 20/game last season to around 27-28ish this year. Showing he can keep up his effectiveness for longer durations may be a challenge, but it’s something we will have to watch as the season progresses. Zach is an okay passer out of the post. He isn’t nearly the weapon there that Trevion Williams was but his decision making and ability to get the ball out of double teams to wide open shooters will be important as Purdue goes back towards an Isaac Haas type of offense. One positive from last weekend’s fan day scrimmage - Edey has revamped his FT motion and went 7 of 7 at the line. If he can be in the upper 70s for % at the charity stripe, that’s an extra point a game compared to last season.


CG David Jenkins, 6’1’’ Senior: Jenkins is a multi time transfer whose latest school was Utah. He's been a bit of a volume shooter in the past but I doubt that's his role at Purdue as his percentages haven’t been great against high major competition. Jenkins gives Painter a veteran, steady hand to lean on for help breaking the press or closing out close games if the freshman aren't ready.

PF/C Caleb Furst, 6’10’’ Sophomore: Furst played poorly in Purdues secret scrimmage and is going to have to adjust to being the primary backup center. He has some post up ability but is better off stretching the floor with his shooting as a small ball 5. As a result, I doubt the same offense is run with Furst at the center as Edey. More likely a 5 out offense with less reliance on center post ups and more open driving lanes.

G/F Fletcher Loyer, 6’5’’ Freshman: Loyer is 4 star shooter who I believe won the HS competition at the Final Four last spring. His ball handling is better than past Purdue shooters (Mathias, Cline, Sasha, Smith) as a freshman but I his offense role is likely to be similar this season. Like those previous guys his defense will determine how much playing time he gets. Loyer is a possibility to start in front of Newman.

PF/C Trey Kauffman-Renn, 6’8’’ Freshman: TKR redshirted last season as there simply wasn't enough playing time to go around at the 4/5 positions. A top 50 recruit, TKR has better athleticism than Furst and a higher ceiling. His ability to drive and post up 4s reminds me a bit of a younger Trayce Jackson-Davis. His shooting ability will determine how much he plays with Edey as Edey can clog those driving lanes. I'm not sold on his outside shooting yet but as we get into games we will quickly find out whether he has developed that tool.

SF Brian Waddell, 6’7’’ Freshman: Painter made a point of talking up Waddell last fall after handing him a late offer in spring of 2021. Waddell was always going to redshirt last year but tore his ACL and MCL. Surgery went okay but rumors are that a second surgery had to be done at some point. Having just recently gotten back into practice, Waddell will likely only see playing time in blowouts, foul trouble, or injury instances this season. Waddell was a very good shooter in HS who had a very late growth spurt and whom probably didn't get properly scouted by colleges due to COVID taking away the AAU circuit between his junior and senior years of HS. Waddell may be a bit of a project but he had good height, shooting, and comes from a basketball family.

SF Camden Heide, 6’5’’ Freshman: Heide missed large parts of his senior HS season and this summer with foot injuries. That put him a little behind and considering the competition at his position probably puts him as the 10th guy in the rotation if he played this year. I think he’s more likely to redshirt, but that’s always the players decision under Painter. Heide was a top 150 recruit and has good driving ability and ability to attack the rim for a wing. He will need to improve upon his rebounding, lateral quickness, and overall defensive chops to get into the rotation but he has the tools to develop into a starter down the road.

C Williams Berg, 7’2’’ Freshman: Berg is a big center from —


BoilerUp89: Berg doesn’t have a nickname yet. Coming all the way from Sweden, the latest version of Purdue’s 7 foot tall center factory will redshirt this season after injuring his hand/wrist a couple of weeks ago. While he could probably be back by mid-December, his playing time this year would be limited and he would miss the developmental non-con games he needs to get up to speed. I have high hopes for Berg since like most European centers he actually has pretty good mobility compared to Americans, but my expectations are tempered for the next couple of years.


BuffKomodo: Matt Painter is a good coach and they will be competitive in the B1G. That’s said…in the voice of the Waterboy by Adam Sandler…They got all them bigs but they ain’t got no guards. That’s not a unique position for a B1G team, especially this year. But it does cap their ceiling nationally a bit. They’ll be fine. They usually are.

BoilerUp: The defense should take a step forward this year even as the offense takes a step back. Morton and Newman are better defenders than Sasha, Ivey, Hunter, or Thompson and Edey is better than Williams in that department. The size of that improvement is to be determined as the freshman guards have a way to go in that department and team D communication was an issue last year.

With no seniors other Jenkins, this is a mostly developmental year as Purdue tries to ready itself for a deep 2024 tournament run. But with a down conference, if Purdue can get solid play from their guards and maintain their great outside shooting without Ivey drawing attention then they could surprise some people and compete for the conference. If those things don’t happen, Purdue will try to lean on their post players and rebounding advantages to grind out a NCAA appearance.

MaximumSam: Like seemingly everyone in the conference, Purdue has some real strengths - Zach Edey and Mason Gillis make for a strong duo up front that will be difficult to guard. But like all the the other teams, they also have some pretty good warts. Relying on a freshman point guard is never fun, and figuring out where they get their scoring from when teams sag in on Edey is something Painter will have to figure out. Luckily for Purdue, he’s pretty good at figuring things out.

Other Takes

Daily Hoosier: The program has a motto “Defense Lives Here,” but someone rented out Defense’s room last year. The Boilers have dropped from No. 11 to No. 34 to No. 93 in adjusted defensive efficiency over the last three seasons. Ultimately it was Purdue’s lack of a defensive identity that sunk its promising 2021-22 season, and it isn’t clear they’ll have the pieces to regain their edge on that end of the floor. When Purdue has been at their best on defense, they’ve had a stifling on the ball presence at the top. No one appears ready to step into that role next year, and Edey’s lack of quickness leaves holes on the backside.

Inside the Hall: Purdue’s frontcourt will be capable of competing with any team in the Big Ten, but the backcourt has plenty of question marks. Jenkins Jr. has experience, but isn’t a true point guard. That means Smith could get the first crack at the position as a true freshman. Purdue could also lean some on Morton for ball-handling duties. If Painter can figure out the guard rotation and keep the floor spaced around Edey, the Boilermakers should again put an elite offense on the floor. Defensively is where Purdue needs to make strides if it hopes to compete near the top of the league. The Boilermakers were just 93rd last season in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.