AJ Hoggard has been known more for his defense and passing, but will his offense be enough to lead Michigan State basketball?
With Michigan State basketball coming off an impressive double-overtime win against Kentucky, the season seems to be off to a better-than-anticipated start. Each player contributed in some fashion to get a marquee win against Kentucky but is the lineup put out by Tom Izzo going to sustain that kind of success throughout the season?
The glaring issue I see that could hamper the Spartans’ success this season is the offensive ability of AJ Hoggard.
Don’t get me wrong, Hoggard has many strengths that help the Spartans, such as his ability to drive to the rim and get his teammates involved, but does he have enough to lead the Spartans to a successful season?
Watching the Spartans play Kentucky on Tuesday night, there were many times when Hoggard was being sagged off of on the offensive end. Flashes of Cassius Winston popped into my head as I recalled the countless number of threes he hit in the faces of defenders who gave him room to shoot. The problem is, Hoggard just doesn’t seem to have much shooting ability from range.
In the modern game of basketball, it’s hard to succeed with a point guard who hasn’t developed an outside shot. Many times on Tuesday night, it seemed as if MSU was playing with four offensive players due to the fact that Hoggard has had trouble shooting the three. Defenders were constantly playing off of him, sagging into passing lanes and disrupting the flow of the Spartans’ offense.
It’s clear that Hoggard has no confidence in his outside shot right now as he has only attempted four 3-pointers through the first three games of the season. The numbers don’t get much better after that as he is an 18.5 percent shooter from behind the arc for his career.
The main ball-handler of the team needs to be the leader, and he needs to be able to get the team a basket when they need it most. There is Tyson Walker as an option, but it seems like Hoggard is the man.
That begs the question: will Hoggard’s lack of 3-point shooting ability come to haunt the Spartans down the road?
There is obviously much more to being a point guard than scoring, and Hoggard has been impressive with his passing ability and physicality on the defensive end, but there comes a point when the main ball-handler needs to be able to take over for a team to be successful. What is the constant of championship teams in March? Great guard play with the ability to take over a game.
Spartan fans are no strangers to great guard play from the likes of Cassius Winston, Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine, and even back to Kalin Lucas. All of these players were primary ball-handlers who could take over a game, put the team on their backs, and bury a dagger to seal a victory. Hoggard may be great at getting to the rim and finishing, but what happens when teams hone in on this and clog the lanes forcing him to take outside shots?
In the small sample of this year so far, I’m not sold on the offensive ability of Hoggard being able to get a basket when the team needs it, but it’s a long season and there will be many opportunities for him to turn doubters like myself into believers.