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2023-24 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #23 David Joplin

Will the 2023 Big East Sixth Man Of The Year have a bigger impact with a bigger role as a junior?

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette men’s basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We’ll be going through the roster one by one: First MU’s three freshmen in last name alphabetical order — we’re skipping Caedin Hamilton because he will be redshirting this season — and then moving on to the returning active players from last season, going in order of average minutes per game last season from lowest to highest.

We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories, as we always do:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, we turn our attention to the guy on the roster who might need to step up the most for Marquette this season.......

David Joplin

Junior - #23 - Forward - 6’8” - 225 lbs. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

If there’s one thing that we’ve seen over the past two seasons of Shaka Smart’s version of Marquette Basketball, it’s that David Joplin is going to do David Joplin Things. The only question is whether or not there’s the efficiency and success rate to go along with the things.

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Joplin’s average shot attempts per 40 minutes basically didn’t change: 15.9 as a freshman, 15.7 as a sophomore. His usage rate, per, didn’t change all that much: 26.1% as a freshman, 26.4% as a sophomore.

The big difference between the two was merely playing time. Joplin went from just under seven minutes a game as a freshman to nearly half of the game, 19.0 minutes overall on the year, 19.5 per game in Big East regular season contests, as a sophomore. That gave him a big jump in production: 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, just under an assist, all noticeable bumps year-over-year, but all mostly because he just played more.

The big change, one that might have been doing a lot to keep him on the floor? How often his shot went down. Joplin finished his sophomore year shooting just barely under 40% from behind the three-point line after a freshman year of just 28.8%. He didn’t change how often he shot the ball relative to how much he was on the floor, he just made a giant pile more of them.

Reasonable Expectations

Now we reach junior year, fresh off of Joplin taking home Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors last season. He’s projected to be a starter now, taking the place of Olivier-Maxence Prosper now that OMax is drawing guaranteed paychecks from the Dallas Mavericks for the next few years. This isn’t just me saying that Joplin’s the new guy in the starting lineup, this is head coach Shaka Smart saying that during preseason press availabilities. Not just that he’s the likely starter, but that he’s solidified his starting spot over the summer.

But if Joplin’s been pretty much the same player for the past two years, just with more minutes making his stats go up, then what’s a reasonable expectation for him? If he goes from 19 minutes a game to 25 minutes a game as the starter, that’s roughly a 33% increase in minutes. So, the correlating jump in stats would be 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals per game? Are you good with that? Heck, the projection for Marquette doesn’t even go that far, pushing Joplin more towards a hard hat kind of a player than a scorer for the Golden Eagles: 10.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists. Somewhere in there is the reasonable expectation for him.

We all love The Jopwagon, but if he’s just going to keep being the same guy, then we’re just going to get the same guy with even more minutes. That’s probably good for Marquette, but that’s the reasonable approach that we have to take here.

Why You Should Get Excited

Shaka Smart won’t shut up about David Joplin’s work on the VersaClimber in the offseason. Are you familiar with the VersaClimber? It’s a StairMaster, except it’s a ladder instead of just stairs. You get an arm workout along with a leg workout. Joplin had a weeks long training program on the Climber in the offseason, him and walk-on Cameron Brown as a training partner, and in Smart’s words, Joplin has transformed his body.

That’s not going to show up in his listed measurements on the roster page, in fact, Marquette lists Joplin five pounds heavier than he was a year ago. But if Joplin’s in better cardio shape, if he’s leaner, if he’s stronger than he was last season, those are all things that are going to benefit his play on the court.

What does a leaner, meaner, hungrier David Joplin look like? Is that the guy that Shaka Smart has said repeatedly that would lead the Big East in scoring eventually? Is that the ceiling for Joplin 2.0 here?

Potential Pitfalls

If Joplin is taking over for Prosper in the starting lineup, he has to at least move in the direction of defending like OMax did for the Golden Eagles.

Last year’s defense with Prosper on the court, according to Hoop Explorer: 93.8 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition.
With Prosper on the bench: 101.6 points per 100 possessions.

Last year’s defense with Joplin on the court: 98.2 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for competition
With Joplin on the bench: 93.9 points per 100 possessions.

There’s only so much that Marquette can do to make their offense better than it was last season when had them with the 7th most efficient offense in the country and they were the best in the Big East by more than a point per 100 possessions. There’s an argument to be made that the offense will be worse this season just because it’s hard to maintain that kind of success. That means the defense will have to be better to balance out for that... and if Joplin’s replacing a guy who was, to a certain extent, singlehandedly responsible for a nearly eight points per 100 possession difference when he was on the court versus on the bench..... man, that means Joplin’s gotta step up in a big way on that end of the floor. Hitting the shots will do a lot of things to help Marquette win games, but if Joplin’s contributions on defense don’t pick up, the Golden Eagles are going to have to win a lot more track meets than Shaka Smart really would want to find his team playing.