With the departure of both Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods, it’s now time for a new era of Deacons’ guards.
Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown are set up to take the reigns of the backcourt. While both have some experience starting, this will be the first year that they should feature prominently at the 1 and the 2 for Danny Manning and Wake Forest.
Here’s how I anticipate they’ll contribute this upcoming year.
Improved Backcourt Defense
The Deacons weren’t the best defensive squad last year as they ranked 10th in the ACC in total efficiency on defense. Part of that was due to the many four-guard lineups that head coach Danning Manning used. These units were sometimes used out of necessity, at least in Coach Manning’s mind, and other times just sheer stubbornness in play a small lineup.
This year’s defense may be a whole new story in large part due to the new frontcourt. Both Childress and Brown have been able to translate their successful defense from high school to the collegiate level, as both those players had a positive defensive win share rating last year.
Brown, in particular, showcased his skills on the defensive end even when he was tasked with defending the wing on other teams. The main reason for this is his 6’5” height with a 6’8” wingspan. This size advantage, which is longer than former Deacons’ guard Keyshawn Woods, allowed him to become the sole standout on the defensive end last year. This defensive prowess should be able to translate to his bigger minutes as a starter, hopefully at the 2, but then again, we thought he would get more time last year as well.
With a more developed defensive backcourt, the Deacons now open up new possibilities on that end of the floor. One of those is the potential of an increase in defensive production from new starting center Olivier Sarr, as there will be more instances of opponents driving inside in large part due to the team’s backcourt pressure on the perimeter.
If done well, the team can have that perennial shot-blocker that has been the staple of the program since its inception. Another possibility that arises is more switching opportunities on the pick and roll. With two fundamentally sound players at the guard positions, the Deacons can take advantage and use more switches which, if coordinated successfully, can translate to an overall better defensive unit.
Tempo was one of the main storylines of the Deacons last year. Between stretches of games, the team periodically switched back and forth between their style of play, and never truly found one that was permanent.
But, the addition of the new backcourt starters will hopefully put an end to this speculation. During his first two years in college, Childress, in particular, has become an excellent facilitator. He has a 21 percent assist percentage for his career, including an above average 26 percent last year. This passing ability will dramatically help the overall offense as his minutes’ increase.
In the halfcourt setting, Childress’ passing skills should allow for a more controlled flow on offense. The departure of Doral Moore puts a big question in terms of how the offense is going to be run this year. Is Olivier Sarr ready to become a high-production inside scorer?
If that isn’t the case, then the team may keep their recent system of offensive success: guard play. Both Childress and Brown have been able to showcase a three-level tier of offense. Both are able to drive inside using their great athleticism, while also being able to hit that outside shot. Childress will have to continue to improve his shooting efficiency from inside the arc, but he has shown that he can get the mid-range shot off, as well as get to the rim. Now it’s about finishing consistently.
In terms of setting up others, I imagine that there will be more off-ball screens happening this year as they will most likely transition to a more fluid “positionless” style of basketball. This style of offense should help Childress shine as he now has more of an ability to find great shot selections for his teammates. This, in theory, would lessen the number of isolation plays, which will create quicker style on offense.
More Transition Opportunities
The transition game is another facet of the game that could see improvement as a result of the new lineup changes. Brown, in particular, has been a well-above-average rebounder for his position as he was tied for third most in rebounds per game on the team last year. As a result, the team could now create more opportunities off of defensive rebounds. As Sarr recently modified his body to become a better rebounder, he could become a perfect complement to Brown on the boards.
Brown’s athletic ability can also increase the team’s offensive potential. His speed can allow for him to run off the defensive rebound and find an open guy downcourt for the easy bucket. He could also dish it off to Childress, who could also help and find the open guy on the fastbreak. The addition of combo wings Isaiah Mucius and Jaylen Hoard are perfect complementary pieces to this new system. This is because they have also shown a knack to run in transition, and they will be getting a lot of touches on the fastbreak.
All in all, the “addition” of Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown to the backcourt will hopefully bring a whole new identity to the Deacon’s team. Their defensive ability and basketball IQ can transition the squad to a well-organized and better-sounding group on both ends of the floor.