Jalen Poyser opened the 2016-17 season scoring in double figures in nine straight games, with 20 points or more in four of those games. Now he is barely a part of Marvin Menzies’ rotation.
Poyser didn’t play in UNLV’s 77-64 loss at San Diego State on Sunday due to a violation of team rules, according to Menzies. Even before the punishment Poyser’s playing time was shrinking.
The most likely reason for Poyser’s declining minutes is his shooting. After hitting 38 percent of his three pointers in non-conference play, Poyser has made just 8 of 43 (18.6%) threes since Mountain West play started.
Poyser’s sudden inability to shoot has been perplexing throughout the season. He is getting plenty of open looks in conference play.
He was relieved of his point guard duties, which should have allowed him to focus less on playmaking and more on scoring. But that switch has also changed the location of Poyser’s threes. He is shooting more from the corner and less from the wing.
A lot of his threes have come of possessions where Poyser hangs out in the corner or runs the baseline waiting for someone else to create an open shot.
Poyser has made just 20 percent of his corner threes this season, while he’s knocked down 35 percent of his threes from the wing. When he was the point guard, his three-point attempts came off possessions where he initiated the offense then found space at the top of the key to get an open look.
The move away from point guard, which came around the start of conference play, has put Jalen Poyser in spots that he doesn’t shoot well from. In non-conference play, just 14 percent of Poyser’s threes came from the corner; in Mountain West play that number has jumped up to 35 percent.
He also hasn’t attempted a three from directly above the top of the key in conference games, after 13 percent of his threes came from that location in non-conference games.
So Poyser has had his shot location changed due to Jovan Mooring taking over the point guard spot. But the position change also limited the number of times Poyser touches the ball on a possession. When he was the point, Poyser would often touch the ball multiple times on a single possession before shooting. Now he is in a catch-and-shoot role, where the only time he touches the ball is when he shoots.
The lack of production can’t all be attributed to corner threes. Poyser’s shot in general has disappeared. After shooting 42 percent on three pointers from the wing, Poyser has connected on just 22 percent of wing threes in conference play. That includes going 2 for 13 from the left wing against Mountain West teams, which was his best spot early in the year at 55 percent.
Even with the position change, it is still a mystery as to why Poyser can’t score at an efficient level in Mountain West games.
It is also important to remember that 13 conference games is not a large sample. Poyser has attempted just 43 threes in Mountain West games. For his career he is still over 32 percent from three despite the recent fall off.
UNLV needs Poyser. He has offensive skills on a team that ranks last in the Mountain West in adjusted efficiency, three-point field goal percentage and two-point field goal percentage.
Poyser can help this year’s team buck a seven-game losing streak, and as a sophomore he can help Marvin Menzies build UNLV back to the top of the Mountain West.