Change is never an easy thing, but the changing of the literal guard in Gonzaga's backcourt has been far more bumpy than many had hoped. Whether it's fair or not to compare Josh Perkins to a four-year starter with magical hair, he was always going to be held to the standard set by #4--at least for this season.
Josh has flashed the wide array of his talent several time this season--games against Texas A&M, Washington State, Pepperdine and LMU come to mind. But, there have been far too many games where he consistently made poor decisions with the basketball, was too loose with his handle, played out of control, and been mired in foul trouble.
While the loss of Przemek Karnowski undoubtedly hurt, inconsistent guard play is the reason Gonzaga is on the outside looking in with regards to the rankings. The entire backcourt has struggled to start the season, but Josh's struggles are magnified considering the position he plays, the player he replaced, and the player his talent suggests he should be.
However, let us not forget that Josh is technically a freshman--at least in terms of basketball experience. That inexperience shows up in game situations. For example, this shot clock violation:
Josh got the ball with 10 seconds left, dribbled around on the perimeter but didn't do anything with it (cut out of the video), and then dumped it off to Domas with 2 seconds left which resulted in a violation. As the point guard, you have to recognize the situation earlier in the clock, and understand that giving it to the big man in those circumstances, even if it is Domas (heart eyes emoji), is a poor choice.
Josh has also struggled toeing the line between aggressive and out-of-control play. This has led to some lopsided turnover numbers. As the primary ballhandler, it's inevitable that he'll have some TOs in a game. However, two games with five turnovers (Montana & Arizona), and another with six (Northern Arizona), cannot happen. Many of these turnovers were avoidable and can be chalked up to either playing too fast, or attempting to make the spectacular play. Fortunately, Josh appears to be getting this under control as he's only logged two turnovers in the last four games.
Josh's shooting has also been uneven throughout the season. I suspect the reason for this is his inconsistent mechanics with regards to his balance.
Here, Josh seems to rush his shot and is both falling backwards and leaning a little to his left, resulting in a missed open jumper off an inbound pass.
In this clip, Josh's shot looks much more controlled as he doesn't rush his gather upon receiving the ball, and his feet are landing forward following his release, just like you're taught.
Now, I understand that game situations don't always allow a player to take a textbook jumpshot every time; and, not everyone can shoot like Kyle, but Josh's inconsistent balance stands out in his game film.
The beauty of Gonzaga's offensive scheme with this roster is that the high-low actions ease a lot of the burden on the point guard to create for his teammates. However, even with our talented big men, that gets taken away from time to time. When this happens, I'd like to see Josh drive and attack the heart of the defense more. I don't think he does it enough, but when he does, good things usually happen.
Instead of settling for a perimeter shot above, Josh drives off the post pass from Kyle and hits a nice floater.
Here, Josh gets penetration again, and while he misses the floater, the attention he drew from the defense allows Domas to slide into position for the offensive rebound and score.
Josh got a nearly identical sequence as the previous clip where even though he missed, his penetration allowed Ryan Edwards to snag an easy board and get an And-1.
Perkins is a gifted athlete with an offensive arsenal--when harnessed--that can apply real pressure to defenses. His defense continues to need work as he tends to foul a lot (9 games with 3 or more fouls, 2 games where he fouled out), and he can sometimes be slow to recover when helping.
Josh Perkins is a better player than he's shown so far, but inconsistency has plagued his game. Both the good and the bad in his game can manifest themselves from one play to the next. A point guard must be the steady, guiding hand of the team. He doesn't always need to make the flashy play, just the right one. Josh's physical abilities exceed that of his predecessor, but he still has a lot to learn about the mental aspects of his position. As his experience grows, the hope is that he can just play without overthinking everything he's doing. If he can get it, the Zags can again set their sights on the Final Four.