Loyal Cougars

The Tyler Haws Offense: Can BYU’s star scorer carry them alone?

As part of our ongoing season preview, Loyal Cougars will profile each member of the 2013-2014 BYU basketball team. In this installment, Evan Hall considers Tyler Haws’ status as an elite offensive player and whether it’s possible to rely too heavily on his considerable talents.

There’s this thing we’ll call “the Stephen Curry conundrum,” which is important in a consideration of Tyler Haws and which goes like this: Is a deep three really a worse shot than a shot at the rim when the player shooting the three shoots it at a higher percentage than most players shoot at the rim? Well, obviously not. Because a three is worth more points than a two, and because the implicated benefits of someone shooting that well and that frequently from three on your offense is probably incalculable.

It’s not really a conundrum when you have Stephen Curry though. The answer is always, “Yes. Let Stephen shoot as much as he wants from wherever he wants.” But that’s because he’s Stephen Curry, and good crap, look at this YouTube video if you want or his Basketball Reference page if that’s more your flavor. In short, if you have Stephen Curry, you give him the green light and design the rest of your offense as appendages to his everything.

But the issue becomes more complicated as we move away from the otherworldly basketball savant territory where Curry dwells and toward Division I college players in the WCC. In fact, where exactly does it become more complicated? Where in the progression from Stephen Curry to Jonathan Tavernari does a coach start limiting his players’ shot selection? Or when does he alter the design of his offense to maximize a singular phenom’s talent?

The best BYU basketball team since the Danny Ainge days was the 2010-2011 team — a team designed around Jimmer Fredette’s specific set of offensive skills. Even the zone defense, as coach Dave Rose would publicly admit, was designed to allow Jimmer to save energy for his offense. The scheme was tactically brilliant and philosophically justified.

Enter Tyler Haws: the crazy efficient, turnover-immune, shot-making automaton whose form never falters and whose decisions are almost always appropriate. He is not Jimmer — by which I mean his skill set, though impressive, is fundamentally different, and consequently so should be any expectations imposed on him. But he is by far the best player on this BYU team, and the distance between him and the next best may be more vast than was the disparity between Jimmer and Jackson Emery, the second-best player on the Jimmer-era teams. So at what point is it a good idea to design an offense around supplying Tyler Haws with as many shots as he can plausibly shoot?

Haws is not particularly adept at creating his own shot from the perimeter, and his elbow-post game, though entertaining, would require a certain revamping to be the center of the offense. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to building an offense around Haws is that he is actually more effective operating without the ball in his hands for larger stretches of the offense.

Most of his points come from his quick, pre-conceived moves toward a more effective shot: his fadeaway, his mid-range jump shot, his Dirk Nowitzki-esque roll to the basket after showing high. All of these require him getting the ball in the proper place on the floor, typically the job of an effective passer. Whereas Jimmer could create offense simply by holding the ball, Haws works best as a function within the offense — coming off screens, spacing out zone defenses by cutting to the elbow and then down to the post.

Still, the question remains: Could an effective offense be built around getting Haws as many touches and looks as possible within the confines of his effective areas on the court? I’m not really sure, but here are some things to consider:

  • As we mentioned in our Carlino preview last week, this team currently lacks trustworthy scoring options.
  • Also in that preview, a certain degree of chucker-tude is tolerable in college basketball, where teams struggle with basic fundamentals of half-court offense, like getting a shot up.
  • Even with the sixth highest usage rate in the WCC last year, Tyler Haws still had the sixth best true shooting percentage in the conference at 58.1 percent.
  • Taking into account the number of attempts, he was the best free throw shooter in the conference (89% on 211 attempts).
  • He was third in the conference in win shares at 6.3, which was more than Elias Harris, Brandon Davies and Kevin Pangos.
  • He was second in the WCC in points produced and turnover percentage, fourth in PER, and first in offensive win shares.
  • If you happen to be a statistical traditionalist, he was first in points per game, first in field goals made, and fourth in field goal percentage.
  • He was also a sophomore.

Those facts may seem slanted, but I’m being honest when I say I really don’t know if Tyler Haws is the kind of player around whom you can design an offense. I merely use them to show that Tyler Haws is really good at basketball in a really specific way. The statistics don’t even unearth his kind of greatness particularly well (but how do you expect them to when his primary weapon — a distilled kind of mid-range jump shot with no wasted motion that looks EXACTLY THE SAME every time he shoots it — is worth the same amount of points as a lay-up?). They merely point toward what we already know, which is that Tyler Haws is incredible, and remind us of what we don’t know, which is whether, as incredible as he is, he’s a Kevin Durant-at-Texas brand of offensive weapon whose game can hold up under the burden of an entire offense.

Want more hoops action? Get your fix by reading more player profiles from our 2013-2014 season preview:

The cerebral Kyle Collinsworth
Next Level: Cougars need polarizing Matt Carlino to make ‘the leap’
BYU newcomer Frank Bartley knows the importance of family
Non-traditional Anson Winder a perfect fit for BYU system
What’s Cooler Than Being Cool: Nate Austin and the 3-point shot
Freshman Eric Mika expected to fill big shoes
Josh Sharp: Come for the dunks, stay for the dirty work
Skyler Halford: More than just a deep threat
Happy Days: Luke Worthington and the power of fun


  1. Sanpete

    October 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    No doubt there will be lots of reps of plays designed to get Haws the ball in situations in which he can score, and lots of looking for him to get open in his spots in general. And having two point guards on the floor, as Rose apparently has in mind, will facilitate that. But Haws won’t be expected to carry the team. Carlino, Collinsworth, and probably Mika should all be scoring significant points, and hopefully others will step up too. (Brandon Jones predicts 8 points a game for Bartley.) There’s no need to alter the defense for Haws, it appears.

    • Brett Hein

      October 10, 2013 at 10:15 am

      That’s the hope — that Haws *doesn’t* have to carry the load, despite his great talent. Why? Because if defenses have to respect Carlino or even one other player, Haws can move freely around the floor. If not, Haws will likely face double teams, getting chucked while trying to move across the middle, and more. He’s shown the ability to keep scoring in such a difficult situation, but as an MO for 30 games, that would be quite tiresome.

  2. WhiskeyPete

    October 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Haws can’t carry the team. How many games last year was he simply non-existent but still played his full minutes? It seemed like every 4 or 5 games he’d have a day, for no apparent reason, where he’d go 1-10 and score 4 points. You can’t have games like that EVER if you’re expected to carry a team. He’s a good player, but amazingly streaky.

    • Brett Hein

      October 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

      I wouldn’t call him streaky, just human and not an elite scorer. Elite scorers don’t have terrible games like that, but he’s still pretty good. And now with a full offseason to use — and playing with Team USA — perhaps his consistency has improved and he is moving toward elite levels. That’s my hope! But we’ll have to wait and see.

    • Dean Bonney

      October 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      2 out 34 games where he scored in single digits. http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/gamelog/_/id/45802/tyler-haws Doesn’t appear very streaky to me. Here’s hoping for a great season from Tyler and all the Cougar hoopsters.

    • Steve Pierce

      October 10, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Yeah, I would not say Tyler is streaky, as Dean pointed out. And I would argue that he IS an elite scorer, particularly at the college level. (You don’t come in 7th in the nation in points per game without being elite at putting the ball in the bucket.)

      I think there’s reason for concern that, if no one else can draw the defense away from him, Haws can struggle because he doesn’t naturally create off the dribble. If defenses can dedicate one or two guys to hounding him and being physical with him off the ball, preventing him from catching it in his spots (or at all), he will have a tough time.

      This happened against Gonzaga in Spokane last year and, to a lesser extent, whenever Davies got in foul trouble. He needs that second (and preferably third) option to draw some of the heat and open up the court for him to operate off-ball. Hopefully he gets it.

  3. justin whiting

    October 10, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I don’t buy the argument that the difference between Haws and Carlino is bigger than Jimmer and Emery. First off, Carlino and Haws were both sophomores last season. Emery was a senior during that year. Carlino has been streaky, but he has the capacity to carry the team more than Emery did. Emery was great and did a lot of positive things on the court, but I think Carlino will be much better than Emery as he continues to get smarter on the court. Carlino will have some bad games, and probably make some bad decisions, but I think he will have quite a few 20+ games this year. My bold prediction is that Carlino has more than 1 30+ games this year.

    Jimmer was totally in another category of player compared to the rest of the team. I totally agree that Haws is better in most aspects of the game than Carlino, but I think they are both on a similar level and have the same chances to produce.

    I am definitely a Carlino fan and think that people have jumped all over his mistakes without giving enough credit to the good things he does. My expectation is that at the end of the year, Carlino and Haws are getting the equal attention that they deserve.

    My hopes for Mika, Bartley, Winder and others is much lower. Hopefully Collinsworth will play a large role and if the team is going to finish higher than 3rd in the WCC we need good production from a very young team. Going to be a tough year but I think they have the chance to be very good if the young guys can contribute.

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