Venoy Overton: A Foul Story

Venoy Overton, starting point guard.

It’s a case that has been trumpeted by fans and media alike for weeks now. Simply put, people want to see Venoy Overton as a starter on the Husky men’s basketball team.

You can probably blame Eldridge Recasner for sparking this debate.

The former UW and NBA point guard has been calling for the 5’11” junior to get the nod over freshman incumbent Abdul Gaddy since the non-conference season, citing Overton’s defense and energy as two big factors in his potential promotion. Recasner, a contributor on 950 KJR’s weekly Husky Honks show, has continued to make the case for Overton every Wednesday. That’s dedication.

On a daily basis, it seems, more people are hopping onto the wagon that Recasner’s been driving. Without a doubt, Overton is a fun player to watch play. He brings an unrivaled defensive intensity to the court, and lights a fire under his teammates on the offensive end, as well.

He hustles, gets under the opponent’s skin, and does everything you could ask of a guy wearing the team jersey. From a fan’s perspective, it only makes sense to start Overton. Right?

Well, you might think so, but it’s hard to support his case with numbers. There is little correlation between Overton’s playing time and his production. In games where he has received big minutes, he hasn’t necessarily produced. And in games where he’s played sparingly, he’s had some of his brightest performances.

Perhaps the only telling statistic is in the personal foul category, where the Franklin High School product leads the team in dishing out abuse, despite coming off the bench most of the year. And therein lies the problem with inserting Overton into the starting lineup.

With 61 total personal fouls on the year (Matthew Bryan-Amaning is second on the team with 55 fouls), Overton is averaging 3.05 fouls per game (FPG). The team average — without taking into account lightly-used Brendan Sherrer (sorry, Brendan) — is 2.05 FPG.

When you take into account Overton’s minutes, you find that the guard is averaging .135 fouls per minute (FPM). The team average (again discounting Sherrer) is .112 FPM. The team low is .06 FPM, shared by Isaiah Thomas and Elston Turner. The team high, not surprisingly, belongs to Tyreese Breshers, who averages .248 FPM.

The fouls per minute category can seem a little irrelevant until you extrapolate the statistic out over a certain number of minutes. So that’s what we’ll do.

Currently, Overton averages 22.55 minutes per game (MPG) which, when multiplied by .135 FPM, correlates with his 3.05 FPG (the actual number you would get in performing that calculation is 3.044, but we’ve rounded some numbers up and down along the way). Holding his FPM constant at .135, Overton’s FPG would go up to 4.05 if he played 30 MPG; up to 4.725 if he played 35 MPG; and up to 5.4 if he played a full 40 minutes.

Those numbers become problematic in that Overton can’t theoretically play a full game without fouling out first, which makes it hard to rely on him as a starter.

Interestingly enough, though, are the numbers maintained by the starter, Gaddy. He averages the same number of fouls per minute (.135) as Overton, but actually plays fewer minutes per game (19.95 MPG, to Overton’s 22.55 MPG). So even though Gaddy is the starter and Overton the reserve, Overton is seeing more playing time as a backup.

Whether you’re for or against Venoy as a starter, these numbers are simply here to help put things in perspective. Things we can take away from this Hugh Millen-esque mathematical exercise are as follows:

1. It is impossible for Venoy Overton to play an entire regulation game at his current foul per minute rate.

2. It is similarly impossible for Abdul Gaddy to play an entire regulation game at his current foul per minute rate (since he possesses the same foul per minute rate as Overton, .135 FPM).

3. Venoy may not be starting, but he is garnering nearly three more minutes per game than the current starter, Gaddy.

4. If Venoy starts and holds his fouls per minute steady at .135, there is a good/better chance that he will pick up his fouls earlier in the game and then be sent to the bench with the stigma of having picked up “quick fouls.” This could actually lead him to get fewer minutes than he currently does as a backup.

To sum it all up, if Venoy wants to be a more heavily-relied-upon force in the Huskies’ rotation, he will need to cut down on his foul per minute rate. He can do this either by a) maintaining the same number of fouls per game, but playing more minutes, or b) lowering the number of fouls per game, but holding his minutes steady.

However, if Venoy becomes a starter and maintains his current foul per minute rate, he may play less of a role than he already does, since he’d pick up his fouls earlier in the game and possibly be forced to sit on the bench for longer durations (a nod to Point No. 4 on the above list).

Like I alluded to earlier, these numbers aren’t meant to encourage or discourage the starting of Venoy. They’re simply here to align your perspective.

As a fan, I want to see Venoy start.

As a statistician (which I’m not, but in this exercise I suppose I am), the numbers don’t support Venoy beyond his current role.

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