The Oregon Ducks basketball team has a conundrum regarding its point guard situation. Johnathan Loyd has been playing extremely well as of late – much better than Dominic Artis – but Artis is more talented and has had a (slightly) better overall season. Head coach Dana Altman has one day before the Ducks’ first round game of the NCAA Tournament to decide which point guard deserves the bulk of the minutes.
Momentum is a large talking point this time of the year. Many people believe teams that are hottest going into the Tournament have the best chance to go deep. This is a hard theory to prove, especially when it comes to individual players, but if Altman is a momentum believer, he would go with Loyd over Artis without hesitation.
In Loyd’s last seven games, he has averaged 10.6 points per game, with a 2.67 assist-to-turnover ratio, 48% field goal percentage, 44% from behind the three-point line, and 81% on free throws. These stats would make Loyd an All-American if he posted them over a full season. Oh, and he won the Pac-12 Tournament MVP award, culminating with a monster 19-point, 4-assist, 57% shooting performance in the title game victory over UCLA.
Artis has practically been the polar opposite of Loyd in his last seven games. He’s averaged less than 4 ppg and is shooting only 26% from the field in that span. However, the story behind the stats can be attributed to the foot injury he suffered in January, which caused him to miss about a month of action. He also is not putting in the minutes that he was before he was injured. Artis played very well before this injury, and while he hasn’t looked quite the same since, coach Altman has been forthright in saying all along that Artis will need time to get back to where he was.
So should Altman give the majority of minutes to the more talented point guard who’s been better over a larger sample of games, or should he go with the older, healthier player who’s been on fire at the end of the season? Even if Artis regains his health by tomorrow, I believe Altman should stick with the hot hand.
It’s not like Artis has been forgotten by Altman in the last chunk of games, either. Sure, Loyd has played more minutes than Artis in these recent games, but Artis has still averaged 18 minutes per contest over his last six games, which all came after he suffered his foot injury. The Ducks have won with Loyd getting more playing time while still giving Artis a substantial role.
If Artis is close to 100% healthy by tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma State and Loyd struggles early, Altman can simply give Artis more minutes as the game goes along. If Loyd stays hot, then Altman has the always desirable “good problem” to deal with, assuming Artis is healthy and productive. Right now, Loyd deserves more playing time than Artis, but if Artis can get back to his early-season level of play, OK State will have an incredibly difficult test on their hands in San Jose.