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Xavier 2015-2016 Player Preview: Remy Abell

The defensive metrics are confusing, but there's absolutely no doubt about how valuable Remy Abell is to this team.

I think he works out.
I think he works out.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier has been built recently on at least one lockdown defensive guard. First was Stanley Burrell, then Dante Jackson, and then a cameo in the role by Landen Amos. With the level of play that Xavier would see on a nightly basis increasing, finding a player that could smother an opponent's best backcourt player was vital. Into that gap stepped Remy Abell. Or at least, he seemed to. Remy frequently found himself in the position of the stopper but his defensive win shares (.9) and defensive rating (106.8) seem to suggest he wasn't terribly effective there.

Those numbers are somewhat marred by Xavier's poor perimeter defense (DRtg especially skews toward the team totals) and could also be a reflection of Remy always drawing the hardest matchup. Remy's value may come from deleting his man from the game in a way not measured by steals, misses, or turnovers. When Remy's man does beat him, it tends to come at a higher price than whoever has drawn the worst player on the opposing team. That could explain why the numbers and what seems to be happening on the court don't line up. Personally, I think Remy is an excellent defender hurt by metrics that don't capture what he does.

There is going to be debate on exactly what Abell does on the defensive end, but if he isn't solely a stopper, what is he? Well, last year he was the second most efficient offensive player on the team. He shot 54.8% inside the arc, higher than all but Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds, and he buried a team leading 41% of his three point attempts. Perhaps Remy Abell is actually an offensive weapon hiding in plain sight. For what it is worth, the team was 9-4 in games when Remy scored double digit points and would have been 10-3 if another ball handler had survived the Auburn game.

Best-case scenario:

Remy continues to be a defensive player that essentially makes the game four on four. It's not at all unreasonable to assume that his three point percentage will stay high and possibly even climb (he's at 42.7% for his career), and that he'll add value with his ability to find the rim on the drive. Abell takes care of the ball and keeps himself on the floor by not committing fouls. Last year he went for 8.4/2.0/1.2 in 27 minutes per game. That kind of value can't be understated, but it's not the ceiling for Remy.

Worst-case scenario:

Remy is actually more like the defender that the metrics think he is. That hampers Xavier's already porous perimeter defense. Offensively, Abell can't find a rhythm with his unusual delivery and eventually begins to play his way to the bench.

Most likely scenario:

More of what we got last year. Abell was very good and did it mostly very quietly. His work ethic is unquestioned and the stability of his numbers over three years lends no credence to the idea that he will get worse. Remy Abell is the kind of player that Elite Eight teams are built on. He's efficient, good defensively, and he stays on the court. Be stunned if the season doesn't feature a lot more of that.