Jordan Hulls has been a force for the Hoosiers over the last two years, and as he enters his senior season, a prevalent question seems to be: can he successfully play off the ball? It's a good question, as Hulls started out his career as a Hoosier essentially as a part-time starter at off-guard, letting Verdell Jones & Jeremiah Rivers split the point guard position. But as Crean said recently in sort of reassuring everyone that Hulls would be starting this year, Hulls has always been just too good to sit offensively, you just gotta find time for him somewhere.
Hulls has seen his shooting marks improve throughout his career: Look at the steadiness, and overall improvement in his shooting from his freshman year to last season.
2pt FGs: 42.1% > 55.7% > 51.4%
3pt FGs: 40.2% > 41.4% > 49.3%
FTs: 80% > 91.2% > 89.9%
We can see that he hit two-pointers and free-throws slightly more accurately as a sophomore, but seriously, who could complain about those numbers? And that three-point shooting is simply unthinkably good. One of those threes he even hit left-handed, in what had to be one of the most impressive shots of the year. I simply loved the complete offensive game that he displayed last season: shoot, drive, dish... Hulls was a nice triple threat. Furthermore, he played plenty of point last season, and played it pretty well. Look at his per-game assists and turnovers over the last three seasons.
A/TO: 1.5/1.2 > 2.9/1.7 > 3.3/2.1
It's nice to see his assists rise, but his turnover rate actually rose this past season. That's one major cause for concern I have in an otherwise sterling offensive game that Hulls has pieced together. Defensively, he has become a bit of a marked man. You could see it in the second Kentucky game, but honestly, his rebounds & steals have steadily increased in total and rate throughout his career (although his block rate is still basically zero). It's tough, because I don't think Hulls is actually that bad of a defender, I believe he had three steals against NMSU in the NCAA first round. But once guys think you are a weak link, they just keep coming at you, and it can get hard to keep your head up, even if they aren't scoring on you more than anyone else. Hull is so deadly on offense, that even being a marked man on defense, it's hard to sit him. For example, he had 12 points, 9 assists and zero turnovers in that second Kentucky game? Wow. And check out the move that he busted out against NCSU at the :50 mark of this highlight reel.
Still, his turnovers are the most concerning thing to me. The rate increased, and he had a hard in time some of IU's biggest games posting either 4 or 5 turnovers in a single game: (UK, @MSU, @PSU, @OSU, @Pur, VCU). He's too experienced to be turning the ball over like this as a junior. If Michael Lewis could hang onto the ball while playing a similar role, I know Jordan can too. The very best thing about Hulls last year to me, was his resiliency. It wasn't that he might not get frustrated in a game, he would, but he would always bounce back. You simply don't see Hulls have back-to-back bad games. I love that. He was growing into a leadership role last season, I'm hoping he really embraces it this year.
What can we expect from Jordan this season? We simply must see an improvement in on-the-ball defense. I hope that IU isn't forced to shift to zone defense to protect these guys, or that we don't see Hulls playing Dakich-on-Jordan defense. He's clearly quick and smart on offense, that should be enough to play good defense at this level. I suspect that Jordan will continue to shoot well, I don't foresee any Senior slump here, and he'll help run a truly elite offense as long as he cuts down on the turnovers. Hulls is simply too good to have to put on the bench, and simply needed for his mental toughness and leadership. He doesn't need to be the first or even second offensive initiator, but he should be looking to touch the ball on almost every possession - a stand in the corner and wait role would be wasting Hulls' considerable offensive game. He must make himself valuable on defense, consistently, and then Indiana will be very hard to stop. I can't wait to see what he does this year, actually.