Former Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan announced that he would be entering the 2017 NBA Draft back in May, immediately generating legitimate skepticism for the Boilermakers’ upcoming Big Ten title chances. Swanigan, a runner-up Naismith and Wooden candidate, was named Big Ten player of the year after recording 28 double-doubles in 35 games. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season to help guide the Boilers to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the days of Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson.
And though Swanigan’s departure is enough to set any program back a step, head coach Matt Painter and his group are fortunate enough to have Isaac Haas – one of college basketball’s largest bodies – as a senior front court leader. At 7-2 and 297 pounds, Haas is undeniably the bulkiest frame in the sport, but also possesses a great deal of on-court production to boot.
Haas is an unusual college basketball center not only due to his unmistakable size, but how he plays when he checks into games. The Alabama native has played alongside some tremendous Big Ten forwards during his three years at Purdue, including A.J. Hammons, Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards. He has averaged exactly 10 points per game in his collegiate career, but has played for 25 or more minutes in just six of 104 appearances (5.8%).
Since 2010, there have only been six individual seasons in which a center has recorded a usage percentage greater than 30% while playing less than 20 minutes per game. Isaac Haas, coincidentally, is the owner of three of those six campaigns. (Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor)
Haas has also recorded 24 appearances with eight or more field goal attempts and less than 20 minutes played. That’s 10 more than the second-highest total, UCLA’s Joshua Smith (14).
“Haas will have a bigger role this season,” said Thomas Beindit of SB Nation’s Big Ten Powerhouse. “The biggest thing I’m watching for with Haas is how he performs in extended minutes. He was crazy efficient before, but can he do it for close to 30-ish minutes?”
Whether or not Isaac Haas can produce over lengthier outings is one of the main worries for Purdue fans. Haas is a skilled center with pro potential, but now that neither Swanigan or Hammons can eat up minutes down low, Haas will have to find a way to extend his longevity.
“He will just see more playing time with less proven depth upfront. The question is whether his production drops off with more minutes,” Beindit said when asked about his role within the Boilermaker front court this fall.
The table below shows Purdue’s top 15 front court seasons in terms of usage over the previous eight seasons. Even as a freshman, Isaac Haas had the highest usage percentage over that same period. In the following two seasons, that average has only risen.
Only two other players on Purdue’s 2018 roster stand 6-10 or taller: redshirt junior Jacquil Taylor (6-10, 240) and freshman Matt Haarms (7-3, 245). Taylor has played a very minimal role since coming to West Lafayette, leaving the bench in just 19 games in two seasons and almost exclusively appearing in garbage time. Haarms – who expects to be at least a solid rotational center at some point in his Purdue career – is raw and could be a season away from being a consistent producer.
“Perhaps nobody in the Big Ten was better in the block than Haas last season,” Beindit explained. “Yes, this is partially due to his raw size. But he did a nice job of getting in position to score down low. That should continue this season.”
Thomas Beindit is the managing editor of SB Nation’s Big Ten Powerhouse. He’s also a contributor to Michigan high school basketball site Prep Hoops Michigan. You can follow him on Twitter under the handle @tbeindit and also find his work at btpowerhouse.com and prephoops.com/michigan.