2015 Purdue Basketball Preview: Isaac Haas
[Click here to see the rest of the 2015 player preview posts.] 2014-2015 Season Reflection
"It's great exposure, and under Matt Painter, almost every 7-footer who went to Purdue went to the NBA," Haas said. "It's a great place to develop bigs. I feel it's the best place to achieve my dreams."
That came after Haas’ November 2013 commitment to Purdue, which followed a verbal commit to Wake Forest. I remember reading headlines of conflicting reports, saying Wake had either pulled their offer or Haas was having second thoughts, and the next thing everyone knew Coach Painter left practice to attend Haas’ high school practice. The commitment to Purdue seemed out of the blue (UAB was the favorite), but it looked like Painter’s extensive last-minute efforts paid off.
We can’t really begin talking about Haas without starting with his 7’2”, 300lb+ frame. He’s massive. Like, really really huge. This is our starting 7’, NBA prospect center standing next to Isaac.
AJ LOOKS LIKE A CHILD, HAAS IS A MONSTER, WHAT HAPPENED, HOW MANY WHOLE COWS DID ISAAC’S PARENTS FEED HIM AS A CHILD, THIS IS AN ENT IN A REALLY GOOD HUMAN COSTUME.
What I'm trying to say is that Isaac has some truly incredible size, and that’s been his biggest point of strength since coming to Purdue. Throughout the year, he showed an ability to take hits, even after many of them are uncalled fouls. Offensively, Isaac was incredibly comfortable in the paint, and has a few very natural offensive instincts (despite having a few off-nights where he forgets how to use his hands).
He’s not go jumper, no ball-handling, no post passing skills to speak of (edit: this was written before the UNOH game, this might be rapidly changing)…but he also knows his identity. He knows that his job is to set hard screens, flash in the paint and seal his man when Ray Davis or Vince Edwards drive to the hoop. He knows that, on defense, his job is to be massive in the paint. He doesn’t try to work outside of his skill range, and that is perhaps the most crucial aspect of his role on any basketball team (or as a general life skill).
Check out this Vine: a broken play that is salvaged perfectly by Kendall Stephens, but watch Haas:
He’s patient, stays in the right spot, gets his stance wide and has his hands ready for the pass. He makes Stephens look good with his positioning, then turns and finishes through contact. Oh, and this was against a top 10 team who’s projected to win the conference this year (albeit, with some very talented incoming bigs).
Here’s another one that shows just what Haas could grow into on the offensive end:
LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT DROP STEP. HE POSTS UP AT THE ELBOW AND DOESN’T NEED TO DRIBBLE.
That’s made by Haas’ instincts on offense, and the way he rarely hesitates before making a post move. As a freshman, it’s in stark contrast to AJ, who needed a year to get comfortable with his size. Isaac loves being a monster, and if his offensive footwork continues to improve then the sky really is the limit.
Defensively, his lack of lateral quickness can cost Purdue when he’s drawn even a few feet away from the basket. He doesn’t have the natural rim-protecting instincts that AJ has, and that causes the team to be a few points worse when Haas is on the floor (when compared to AJ during last year’s Big Ten stretch).
But perhaps the biggest source of value Purdue got from Haas last year was his effect on AJ Hammons. Isaac really made AJ work, and it made AJ considerably better. AJ apparently loved being Haas’ mentor, and Painter even said that he’s never seen a guy work so hard to help a backup take his job. Also, seriously, Google Image search “Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons” and look at the pictures. 100% of them include AJ smiling. For some reason, having another 7-footer around makes AJ happy, and Isaac seems very content to be AJ’s backup for two years before taking over.
Just look at that. It’s incredible. Those two love pushing each other, and the addition of Biggie and progression of Vince should make this frontcourt among the best in the country.
Undisputed Strength: He’s the size of a freaking barn, and could dead lift a Prius with Killer Mike and Action Bronson sitting inside into space. He’s got a killer drop-step. Also, he looks like Ivan Drago.
Biggest Weakness: Fine motor skills? Sometimes the trainers forget to pack his arms and legs in the team bus for long road trips, and then they get to the opposing stadium and look to get Haas ready to go, and then they realize they forgot all of Haas’ limbs in West Lafayette, but they need a backup center and so they end up sending Isaac in without arms or legs, and he’s basically out there on a basketball court as a giant tree trunk with a basketball jersey on, but he’s pretty massive so sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t because basketball is best played with arms and legs attached to your body.
GIF/Vine/moving picture of the year:
Haas running the floor, grabbing a missed layup and throwing it down? Displays of athleticism and basketball coordination from a 9’3” semi-truck-sized human? Haas and Hammons celebrating together? Yes please.
A close second:
The perfect Purdue reaction gif.
Nickname: Isaac the Ent. Ivan Drago.
|This year||13||4.55||3.25||0.07||Z E R O||0.89||1.63||1.95|
CLICK HERE to see projections for everyone on the team.
Methods: Projected each player’s stats per 40 minutes (loosely based on increases/decreases from last year), scaled to my projected minutes per game.
Assumptions: Nobody (read: Cline and Smotherman) redshirts, and the team totals are as stated. Parenthetical numbers are where those team totals would have ranked in 2014-2015. Remember, last year’s team was 10 players deep, this year’s team could be 13 players deep.
When we all thought Swanigan was heading to Cal or Michigan State, it looked like Haas would be in for a big role with the team. But everything changed once Biggie decided to join the fold.
Taking a look at my overall stat predictions, you can see that I penciled Biggie in for a substantial amount of minutes. I don’t think Painter wants to play with 3 centers on the court at once, so those were obviously taken from Haas. Just like the minutes reductions for Mathias, Stephens, and Davis, this is indicative of Purdue’s immense depth this year. Coach Painter is going to have his work cut out for him juggling his lineups to find what works.
As the primary backup center, Haas was looked to as almost exclusively a scoring weapon. As you can see by the GIFs, Haas was on the court because he produced a very unique size advantage, and capitalized often. This year, I think he might take a sophomore slump step back in scoring production, mostly because of a lack of opportunity.
Rebounding rate should see a slight uptick, as the combination of Biggie and Haas should bully anyone on the glass. I wrote my predictions before the scrimmage, and didn’t see Haas as a facilitator out of the post…but maybe that’s where I was wrong. Haas looked very comfortable hitting open shooters out of the post, and this could be huge for the offensive potency Purdue’s second unit.
Unsolicited BS Advice for 2015-2016:
Just like Stephens, strive to succeed in your reduced role this year. You’re being overlooked because of the addition of Swanigan, but being able to attack second units with even more size presents Purdue with a huge advantage.
Offensively, keep working on your footwork and try to improve your post passing. Last year, you only had 9 assists all season. Nine. Let’s try to up that particular number, especially given the shooters that should be spotting up around you will be given a lot of space. If the defense knows they can collapse on your without repercussions, you’ll get hacked as many times as last year. It’s a critical skill for this team’s success.
Defensively, focus on moving laterally. Most of the blocks you got last season (and in the preseason game) were just because you’re the size of a sequoia. But with simple corrections in footwork, keeping your shoulders square to the defender, and remaining vertical, your defense will be good enough to allow Purdue’s perimeter defenders to stay aggressive without worrying about the rim defense without AJ.
Finally…just wait your turn. That’s probably the most frustrating sentence to read, especially given your talent. But with AJ and Biggie this year, you’re not going to get as many opportunities as you’d like. Next year, though…that’s a whole different story. Focus on developing chemistry with Swanigan, and a late first round NBA grade isn’t out of the picture.
BEST/WORST: Remember, this is the top and bottom of the spectrum. The most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. (Worst case scenarios come with a complimentary side of ACL tears.)
Best case: Purdue has the best frontcourt in the country, and it’s not very close. Sure, the household names of AJ Hammons (17pts, 9rbs) and Biggie Swanigan (14pts, 10rbs) are known to everyone, along with the fan favorite Vince Edwards (14pts, 7rbs, 6asts) all getting NBA buzz. But the underappreciated player that truly makes this a special frontcourt is Haas, who is averaging an impressive 9 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes of play per game. Coaches and players alike are frustrated that the Boilers can bring the Loch Ness Monster off the bench, and Haas takes it to poor bench scrubs that don’t stand a chance against him. Purdue rides this frontcourt foursome to a Final Four/National Title run, providing the antidote to everyone saying post-play is dead and that “nobody teaches the fundamentals”. Young high school bigs see the program at Purdue and line up to play for Matt Painter.
During the offseason, Haas grows 6 inches and becomes a hyper-muscular Yao Ming. He spends the entire year developing his defensive instincts, and post passing isn’t a problem because 1) he’s 7 feet and 8 freaking inches tall and can see over everyone, and 2) he’s 7 feet and 8 freaking inches tall and hits every shot he takes in the post. Swanigan and Haas develop an undeniable chemistry, and both leave Purdue to become NBA first round picks after a second straight National Title. Haas gets drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, who are looking to rebuild after losing out on a franchise center in 2015’s DeAndre Jordan chase. Dirk Nowitzki, known Purdue lover, is still chugging along and pairs perfectly with the center of the future. Mark Cuban, an IU alum who saw his Hoosiers get constantly crushed by Purdue’s frontcourt, trades for Swanigan as the perfect successor to Dirk and the perfect partner for Haas going forward.
Worst case: AJ’s consistency issues (both on and off the court) continue to persist, and Painter starts to rely on Haas for starting-level center minutes. Haas hits the sophomore wall, however, and his conditioning is lacking for the coaching staff to rely on him for a nightly 24+ minutes. Haas never really develops great chemistry with Swanigan, who is solid but isn’t the player most Purdue fans were hoping for. What could have been the most powerful frontcourt in the country turned into a disappointing and slow bunch that anchors Purdue down, and everyone takes a step back in their development.
Looking for inspiration, Painter starts to experiment with Haas and Jacquil Taylor in at the same time as Swanigan and Hammons. The four-big lineup looks to revolutionize basketball…*checks notes*…yeah, nevermind, it’s pretty much awful from the start. Painter rides it through the end of the year, however, because why not get crazy when you’re at the bottom of the Big Ten. Haas becomes a considerably worse player, and Purdue’s reputation of producing powerhouse bigs disappears into the ether.
Haas hates his new role, and heads closer to home by playing for Avery Johnson at Alabama. As always, the Little General knows exactly how to play his bigs, and brings in his old buddy David Robinson to work with Haas. They mesh perfectly, and Haas turns into the post demon he was always destined to be.