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What Arkansas’ New Transfers Are Bringing to the Table

Three new basketball Hogs will come from other Division I schools. How’d they look at their last stop?

NCAA Basketball: California at Stanford
New Hog Conner Vanover can block shots, but can he improve his rebounding in Fayetteville?
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas’ 2019-2020 roster is now set, or very close to being set. Wednesday featured the Hogs earning two more transfer commits: Connor Vanover from Cal and Isaiah Moss from Iowa. They’ll join UNC Wilmington transfer Jeantal Cylla and freshman Justice Hill as new faces for coach Eric Musselman next season.

Cylla and Moss are grad transfers with one season left to play. Vanover will likely have to sit next year - although given that his coach at Cal was fired, his case for a waiver is probably decent - and then he’ll have three years left.

In this piece we’ll take a look at the three transfers to see what they have to offer. First, the raw stats:

  • Connor Vanover, C, 7’3, 7.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 47% FGs, 36% 3FGs
  • Jeantal Cylla, F, 6’7, 13.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 43% FGs, 31% 3FGs
  • Isaiah Moss, G, 6’5, 9.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 40% FGs, 42% 3FGs

A few things stand out about the kind of player Musselman is going for. All three of these guys can shoot the 3. Here at Arkansas Fight, we’ve previously discussed why the 3-pointer is an essential part of Muss’ strategy. All of these guys can spread out the defense and create mismatches.

There are also a few things that they’ll have to work on. First, none of them are great rebounders. At 7-foot-3, Vanover has the size but sometimes lacks the quickness or toughness (or both) to be a good rebounder. Cylla is a very good scorer but struggles in most other areas of the game, including rebounding. He’ll need to become a more complete player to get major minutes for the Hogs.

Interestingly, the scouting report on both Cylla and Vanover is that they struggle in man defense but can be effective in zone. That could give an idea of where Musselman wants to take the defense.

Here’s a look at some of the advanced stats, and how they compare to the 2019 Hogs lineup:

2018-2019 Advanced Player Stats

Player School Usage ORtg DRtg Off_Win_Shares Def_Win_Shares Total_Win_Shares WS_per_40
Player School Usage ORtg DRtg Off_Win_Shares Def_Win_Shares Total_Win_Shares WS_per_40
Daniel Gafford Arkansas 26.0% 113.73 94.29 3.74 2.07 5.81 0.253
Isaiah Joe Arkansas 21.0% 113.60 102.03 3.21 1.09 4.30 0.168
Mason Jones Arkansas 22.8% 110.26 101.90 3.00 1.08 4.08 0.164
Jalen Harris Arkansas 17.3% 96.54 103.28 0.57 0.91 1.48 0.057
Adrio Bailey Arkansas 17.3% 95.72 99.00 0.24 0.97 1.21 0.076
Reggie Chaney Arkansas 18.7% 95.08 96.12 0.18 1.09 1.28 0.092
Desi Sills Arkansas 17.4% 98.08 104.42 0.42 0.40 0.82 0.057
Keyshawn Embery-Simpson Arkansas 17.3% 88.86 102.52 -0.24 0.48 0.24 0.020
Gabe Osabuohien Arkansas 17.0% 83.85 96.51 -0.66 0.98 0.32 0.025
Ethan Henderson Arkansas 13.8% 85.82 93.68 -0.04 0.12 0.08 0.064
Connor Vanover California 22.3% 103.96 110.33 0.88 -0.11 0.78 0.064
Jeantal Cylla UNC Wilmington 24.7% 107.18 116.37 2.37 -1.06 1.30 0.060
Isaiah Moss Iowa 21.3% 102.12 105.26 1.24 0.48 1.72 0.081

In case you’ve forgotten, here are the definitions, with analysis:

  • Usage. Percentage of a team’s total possessions the player accumulates while he’s on the floor. The team minutes-adjusted average is 20% (five players on the floor at once). As we can see, all three transfers are fairly high-usage players, which is a good thing, since the Hogs are losing their highest-usage guy (Daniel Gafford). Usage helps us guess at efficiency, because players tend to become less efficient the higher their usage goes.
  • ORtg. Offensive rating, or the number of points produced per 100 possessions. This is points produced, not scored, so opportunity costs of other statistics are considered: turnovers make it go down because the player cost his team a chance to score, for example. Here, we see that all three transfers can score, and all would have ranked 4th on the 2019 team (3rd among returnees). The Hogs should have no trouble scoring next year.
  • DRtg. Defensive rating, or the number of points allowed per 100 possessions. This is hard to calculate, as the available stats (defensive rebounds, steals, blocks, and fouls) don’t tell us much about points allowed. It is instead calculated based on a benchmark set by overall team defense, so players on bad defensive teams will always have worse defensive ratings, even if they themselves are decent defenders. That was the case for both Cal and UNC Wilmington, but both Vanover and Cylla were poor even compared to their own teammates. Cylla in particular was the worst among Wilmington’s eight major contributors. Vanover is a pretty good shot-blocker, but he doesn’t rebound well or force many turnovers.
  • Win Shares. The number of the team’s wins the player was responsible for through their contributions. This is an incredibly complicated stat (the formula is here), but it basically evaluates the overall positive contribution made by the player. It can be broken into offensive and defensive, and the most helpful statistic is the last one on the table: win shares per 40 minutes. Here, we see that Moss may be the best all-around contributor (5th on the 2019 Hogs, behind only Gafford, Joe, Jones, and Chaney, and 4th among returnees), while both Vanover and Cylla fit more towards the back of the pile (8th and 9th among returnees), mostly due to their poor defense.

It’s very important to note that last year’s production will almost certainly not be replicated on a new team. Vanover and Cylla may be in fact be better individual defenders than these numbers suggest because they played on a bad defensive team. In a new setting, they could thrive. That’s really the point of transferring. But it’s still interesting to get an idea of what they have to offer.