With the 2022-23 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we’ll be talking about the 2023 Big East Sixth Man Of The Year........
Sophomore - #23 - Forward - 6’7” - 220 pounds - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
David Joplin Traditional Stats
David Joplin Fancy Stats
*** — notes a top 350 national ranking per KenPom.com
Last year, Shaka Smart loved to point out how great Joplin was at scoring from all over the floor in practice. That is potentially great news for Joplin’s playing time this season. The Golden Eagles have lost their top two scorers from last season in [Justin] Lewis and Darryl Morsell as well as the #4 guy on the list, which was Greg Elliott. Kam Jones is the only returning MU player who averaged more than seven points a game last season.... and he averaged 7.4 a night.
In other words, someone has to score for this team this season. If the coaching staff is enamored with Joplin’s ability to put it through the net in practice, it stands to reason that’s going to get him some serious minutes this season. The removal of Lewis in front of Joplin on the depth chart can’t exactly be slowing down those chances, either.
With that said, the T-Rank algorithm isn’t enamored of Joplin’s potential this season. For whatever reason, the algorithm is picturing him pretty much doing the exact same thing as last year in terms of minutes and points and rebounds. Shaking the tree to remove Emarion Ellis and his stress fracture recovery from the playing time picture does boost Joplin up to about 12 minutes a game, roughly twice what he did last year.
I’m a little bit more bullish on what he can accomplish than the algorithm projects. Depending on how rotations shake out, I could see Joplin splitting time with Zach Wrightsil to cover the minutes left behind by Lewis’ departure. I don’t know if I want to quite assign “20 minutes a night and all that entails” to him as a reasonable expectation, though. Let’s call it 15 minutes on average, and thus seven points, three rebounds, and an assist? Feels like a good sophomore year number here.
Why You Should Get Excited
No one had a greener light to shoot it last season than David Joplin. He played 222 total minutes and attempted 88 field goals, 59 of which were behind the arc. It is 100% clear that the coaching staff trusted Joplin to fire away from the moment that he checked into a game. It, uh, just didn’t go that well. Inside the arc, sure, yes, hard to beat 59% unless you’re a seven-footer. Outside? Blech. No one wants to see Joplin connect on just 29% of his three-point attempts ever again, and the less said about only hitting 24% against Big East teams, the better.
But they were letting him shoot it over and over and over again for a reason. I said it earlier, Shaka Smart loved to bring up that Joplin was the leading scorer on the team in practice. Clearly he’s draining shots from everywhere if that’s the case. If he can translate that from the Kasten practice gym at the McGuire Center to Fiserv Forum.... I don’t want to go so far as to say All-Big East performer, but Most Improved Player? That’s an easy candidacy if Joplin’s shots are going down.
If he can make use of his size — Joplin’s the fifth tallest guy on the team at 6’7” and the second heaviest behind only Olivier-Maxence Prosper — to create mismatches to drag big guys outside and pound smaller guys inside and zip past slower guys for easy buckets? Hooooooboy, the possibilities are tantalizing, and you should probably go gather up as much David Joplin stock as you can acquire, post-haste.
He has to defend. Maybe that might mean trying to slow down UConn’s Adama Sanogo for a possession or three. Maybe that means chasing around Xavier’s Zach Freemantle. I honestly and legitimately believe that Joplin has the biggest upside of anyone on this roster, at least as defined as “can make the biggest jump from last year to this year”.... but he has to prove that he can be a nightmare for opposing offenses to go against. I don’t want to say that he wasn’t showing it last year, because his minutes were going to be limited by Justin Lewis merely being Justin Lewis. But the message has been sent loud and clear and out in public: Joplin has to defend as hard as he possibly can if he wants to play.
He also has to hit his shots. It’s one thing if you miss a shot if you’re going to play two minutes here and three minutes there in a game to let Justin Lewis catch his breath on the bench. If you’re playing five, six, seven minutes at a stretch and 12, 15, 17 total in a game and shooting 28.8% from long distance, that’s a one-way trip to “Maybe you shouldn’t be playing” town. Marquette is going to have other and better options on offense if that’s the case. Maybe Joplin’s problem last year was just that he only got to shoot once or twice and never got into a rhythm. Maybe playing longer stretches will let him find his happy place behind the arc. But if his first 59 collegiate attempts are proof of concept, it’s probably not going to be a great sophomore year for him.
I think we can safely say that a lot of things went really right for David Joplin this season. Item #1 is very clearly that three-point shooting percentage, as the sophomore from Milwaukee ended the 2022-23 season just barely under 40% from long range and ranked #212 in the country in shooting percentage. He did his best work against Marquette’s toughest opponents, knocking down 39% against KenPom’s top 50 and nearly 42% against top 100 foes, which is really great stuff. We do have to note that his numbers slipped in Big East play, down to only 34.4%, and that includes an 8-for-11 outing when he nearly single-handedly destroyed DePaul down in Chicago. Still, 34% is much better than the 24% against league opponents that we saw from Joplin last season. It’s also above the 33% efficiency cutoff, so that’s still good enough to make him a serious threat while he’s on the court and a key piece to the Golden Eagles’ offense finishing the league campaign as the most efficient offense in the Big East.
The most interesting part about Joplin’s production this season is, to me at least, the fact that his usage rate didn’t change. His playing time went way up from his freshman campaign, going from just under seven minutes a game to 19 minutes a night, but other than that, The Jopwagon was doing exactly what we though The Jopwagon was going to do. In limited playing time as a freshman, Joplin fired off 26.1% of Marquette’s shots when he was on the floor, per KenPom.com. As a sophomore, he played nearly triple the minutes, but his usage was nearly exactly the same: 26.4% of MU’s shots. Whether the boost in shooting percentage is just Joplin getting more comfortable playing Division 1 basketball or if it is, as I wondered, just Joplin getting comfortable playing in longer stretches of time, it’s hard to say. I’m not going to question it, just point out that it’s clear that Sophomore Year David Joplin was much closer to the practice scorer that Shaka Smart loved to talk about than Freshman Year David Joplin was.
We knew that David Joplin was going to have to defend if he wanted to get serious playing time this past season, because even if the offense is through the roof, Shaka Smart still emphasizes getting stops, specifically consecutive stops on the defensive end. No one’s going to think that Joplin is Marquette’s defensive stopper out there, but the fact of the matter is that he did just fine. Yes, if you use Hoop Explorer and dig into it, MU’s defense was better when Joplin was on the bench. That’s fine! Some guys have different skills, and Jop’s skills are primarily “I make baskets.” The defense wasn’t bad when he was on the court, though. You’re going to win more basketball games than you lose when you hold your opponents to 98.5 points per 100 possessions like MU did during Joplin’s 19 minutes a game this season.
You know what’s weird about the Hoop Explorer breakdown of it, though? MU gave up a lot more made threes with Jop out there — 37% vs 32% — but the at the rim defense got worse when he was on the bench. I don’t make up the numbers up, I just read ‘em and report back: Teams shot just 53% at the rim while Joplin was playing defense, but a whopping 60.8% when he was on the bench. I don’t have a gigantic pile of video clips to show you to explain this, but it certainly sounds like maaaaaybe Joplin wasn’t the greatest guy in the world at rotating out to contest a jumper, but perhaps all 6’7” and 220 pounds of him hanging around the paint makes smaller players have problems. Just a guess, tell me if I’m right or wrong.
While Joplin’s fireballing from beyond the arc and the free throw line (81%!) is the primary reason why he won Big East Sixth Man of the Year, we can’t ignore the steps forward he made on the glass. We all know Marquette was an objectively bad rebounding team during his freshman season, and given his relatively limited playing time, that’s not really his fault. They were still not a good rebounding team this year, but we can’t say it was a problem for Joplin. He finished the year second on the team in Defensive Rebounding Rate, or the percentage of rebounds he pulled in while he was on the floor, trailing only Oso Ighodaro. In Big East games only, Joplin’s DR% actually went up, and per KenPom, he finished the year with the 15th best rate in the league. In a league with 11 teams and thus 11 top rebounders, that’s pretty good for a guy that doesn’t really get credit for his defense.
His defensive impact got bigger in league play, too. That’s a good sign for Joplin’s development as a core contributor. His block rate and steal rate both went up from their season averages during MU’s 20 regular season Big East games, and while he’s not coming close to being a dominant force on that end, opponents merely having to respect Joplin’s defense and what his athleticism make him capable of can be a game changing issue for the Golden Eagles. If the boost in league play is an indication of what Joplin can do next season, if it’s a sign that the light was going on as he got more and more reps out there, that’s very good news for MU.
Our attention immediately goes to Joplin’s 28 point explosion on the road against DePaul on January 28th. While we’ll remember Jop going nuts in the second half, the fact of the matter is that he “only” scored 18 of his 28 after intermission. He was having a hell of a game in the first half as MU scratched themselves out to a 33-32 lead at the break, and that has to count for something.
There’s also his 23 point effort on 6-for-10 long range shooting against Central Michigan in the McGuire Center game. That goes in the books as Joplin’s only KenPom.com MVP award of the season, so we have to consider it. It was also a 24 point win over a wildly overmatched CMU team, so I tend to not want to give that the nod here. It’s not a big scoring game, but do we want to think about Jop’s outing in the road trip against Butler, the game where MU clinched the outright Big East title? Just six points on 2-for-4 outside the arc, but he had five rebounds, four assists, and five steals. That’s season highs for him on the last two, and tied for fourth best game on the glass, all in a big game for the team, both in the season picture and just because it was a road game late in the year. Speaking of road games, can we please mention Joplin just barely missing a double-double early in the season? He had 21 points and nine rebounds on the road at Mackey Arena against Purdue. That’s a hell of a performance in a tough place to play. Heck with it, I’m giving this award to that one. More of that David Joplin, please.
It’s clear that Joplin exceeded reasonable expectations for him, either by way of the T-Rank algorithm projecting his development or my personal thoughts about what he was capable of chipping in. He was the same fearless shooter that we saw as a freshman, but now the shots were falling. He added the rebounding that a guy of his physical size needs to be able to contribute to a team, and otherwise provided respectable defense. He was capable of taking over a game on the offensive end, or at the very least catching fire and altering the outcome of a contest all on his own. He was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year, and if you flip back to my mid-season awards in late January, it wasn’t a particularly close race by the time the coaches actually voted.
That’s a whole heck of a lot to take into account here. I don’t think we can go full “HELL YES THAT RULED” when we’re issuing a grade for Joplin’s season, but I think we can go all the way to a 9 out of 10. He was really good at his role, and arguably better than we thought he would be.