Caleb Furst will be looking to build off of a freshman campaign that had him showing a lot of flashes of productivity.
Caleb Furst started out his freshman campaign strong, including games like a 12-point, 8 rebound outing against Indiana State, 14 points and 11 rebounds against Wright State, and scoring a dozen with four boards against Villanova. Once Purdue got into the conference schedule, Furst dealt with an illness that kept him sidelined for a bit. During that time, he lost the starting gig to Mason Gillis, and Furst never had a truly consistent role after that.
It is hard to take away any conclusion about Caleb Furst other than he showed some real skill at times, but you could tell he often was not comfortable. He was thrown into the starting lineup as a freshman, however, so this is to be expected at times.
With Zach Edey and Trevion Williams being dominant centers, Furst was forced to play almost exclusively at the four for Purdue. At times this worked, as he would cut off of Trevion for easy buckets, or knock down a corner three to help space the floor. At times though it put him into a really tough defensive matchup. With Williams gone, it is assumed that Furst will be featured more at the four this upcoming season. That may be what he needs to really allow himself to excel.
Let’s dive into what I’m excited about for Furst, and what are some things I hope to see him improve in at Purdue this season.
One thing that showed up right away to me was that Furst understands basketball. On offense, he did what he was supposed to most of the time, understanding the ebbs and flows of an intricate offense such as Purdue’s from the start. On any given play, Furst could be tasked with cutting off the post, setting a screen in Chicago action, or spacing the floor in the corner.
I think where these qualities show up the most is in offensive rebounds. Watching him back, he did a lot of work early to get positioning for offensive rebounds. He was not the strongest, but he leveraged his size and positioning to put himself where the ball would bounce. Furst had the third-highest offensive rebound percentage on Purdue at 9.7%. This statistic is basically dividing Furst’s total offensive rebounds by the total number of offensive rebounding opportunities he had while on the floor.
The 9.7% puts him in the 71st percentile for bigs per cbbanalytics. That is very solid but becomes even more impressive when you take into account that Williams and Edey were respectively in the 96th and 99th percentiles for ORB%. Furst basically was always on the floor with one of them, but he still found a way to contribute heavily on the offensive glass. Some of it is hustle, and some of it is just understanding basketball. Furst was part of the reason Purdue was so good at offensive rebounding.
The other aspect of his IQ is his cutting abilities.
First things first, Trevion is and always will be an insane post-passer. I’d argue he’s one of the best post-passers in recent history.
Moving back to Caleb Furst, he does a good job reading his defender and getting behind him. Once the defender loses contact with him, it becomes as simple as Furst moving to an open area of the court. He has a good feel and understands where he needs to go.
This was a surprise for me from him. He ended up shooting 42.3% from downtown last season, including 46.7% on above-the-break threes. This was on low volume, but he also had one of the lowest usages on the team. In an expanded role, will the efficiency stay? I think there is reason to believe.
This video above was pretty early in the season, and look at the spacing Furst provides in the corner. His man helps on the drive, and it leaves him wide open on the kick out. These were the type of treys that he took, wide open and in rhythm. If he provides that spacing at the 5 some this year, it adds needed spacing to the offense.
Again, Purdue did not run a ton of pick-and-rolls with someone as talented as Ivey, so I do not expect them to really be featured in the offense this season. However, Furst showed some promise as a pick and popper on *very* low volume.
Per Synergy, Furst popped on seven screens last year which resulted in him shooting. One of them he drove, and the other six were catch-and-shoot threes. He went 4-for-6 for a 2.0 PPP. Insane efficiency on once again, insanely low volume. Maybe it was just outlier shooting, but if space is needed by Purdue, I would not be surprised to see Furst popping some after screens.
My bad on the clipping for this possession. Bear with it for a second before actually getting to the Caleb Furst pick and pop. Eventually, the screen happens though, and his man goes to Ivey which leaves him wide open. He was ready to shoot and let it fly.
Things to Improve
Often times Furst would be caught off the ball by a cutter, or overhelping on drives. This may have been because he was often put up against quicker power forwards, and I think this relates to more of the philosophy of how Furst will be used.
If he guards centers, he will be quicker than most. If he guards fours, he will be slower than a good percentage of them. He has wiry strength, but can be bullied at times down low. He has good length, but at times can be stiff, and he often times does not get into a deep defensive stance which allows him to be exploited.
All of that to say, the tools are more than there for Furst. Having a year under his belt will help improve this side of the ball a lot. I think his guarding more 5s and backup 5s will also help, although I do worry about some bigger centers being able to muscle through him.
Tyler Wahl (#5) on Wisconsin is basically begging to go on an isolation post-up against Furst. He gets lower than Furst and gets exactly where he wants in 3 dribbles flat. Wahl is their four. If Furst is going to be guarding opposing 5s, he is going to need to learn to use his strength more and leverage position.
If bigs aren’t muscling through him though, Furst provides an intriguing option against more mobile big men. I am thinking of Trayce Jackson-Davis and even Hunter Dickinson who have the ability to either be a lob threat on pick and rolls or stretch the floor respectively. Furst has a good set of tools (with many that are opposite of Edey’s) that can allow him to be a disruptor.
I think Furst has good lateral movement, but he struggles to open his hips quickly to keep people from penetrating into the paint. Below will be two defensive clips by him.
In the first one, he will be able to keep his defender moving more left to right (after some great hustle). This causes a not-so-great shot from Minnesota.
Great hustle, closes out, and keeps his man in front. Great defense overall.
Compare that with this play.
Furst does not get down into a stance which causes him to not be able to cut off his man until he is already at the block. It takes him just a half second too long to rotate open, but that is all the time needed for someone to drive. He does a decent job eventually getting back in front, but the defense already rotated and the points are there.
If Caleb Furst plays the five more this year for Purdue, it won’t be as big of an issue, but it is still something to monitor.
I have already been talking about this, so I won’t harp on it too much more. Caleb Furst is an interesting case in that he probably was out of position at the 4 last year for Purdue, so will moving him to the 5 help? It feels to me that he should mainly be the backup center, and can be brought in at the four to help with spacing more. If teams go small to try and counter Edey, or when Edey sits, Furst brings an entirely different skill set that makes it tough for defenses to adjust.
This was one of the few times Caleb Furst was playing the five last season. Illinois ran a pick and roll, and Furst was in drop coverage. He played pretty well, keeping both the ball handler and the roller (his man) in front of him the entire time. I think if he is capable of playing drop coverage, it makes it much easier to play him at center. Adding drop would make him the most versatile big defender because he could drop, show, or even switch on some screens.
Attacking the Advantages
We’ll start with the play from Furst that made me gasp more than all others when watching back film.
Caleb Furst gets the ball on the perimeter, rips through and drives, and then has the awareness to dump it off to Edey as his man went to Furst. I do not ever expect Furst to be a playmaker, but if he can attack advantages? That’s an insane boost to the offense for Purdue. When looking back to his high school games (yes I get it is only high school), he showcased a lot of this self-creation potential. Given how smart of a player he is, I don’t think he would ever force drives like this.
If he plays the five however, he should be given more opportunities to create for himself and others like this, especially if it is maintaining the advantage already created on offense.
I think the future is really bright for Caleb Furst at Purdue. He has the tools and potential to be this 4/5 hybrid that can do almost anything that could be asked of from those positions. He has the length to be disruptive on defense (especially if he can start playing a little lower). On offense, he has shown the ability to be this plug-in guy that can shoot, handle, rebound, and cut. When looking at his overall game, there is no reason to think that Furst won’t be a top 20 player in the Big Ten at some point.
This year will be interesting to watch him and his playing time. If Edey is dominant, there may be games in that Furst does not see the floor as much. On other occasions, he might be the first one off of the bench for Purdue, and he will be everything in between.
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Let’s start with the play that most surprised me when going back through film.— Joe Jackson (@Joe_Jackson2210) August 31, 2022
Race on IU gives a soft closeout to Furst. This was one of the few times all season that he took his man off the dribble, but it was a great time to with all the space. Great dump off to Edey pic.twitter.com/VBOSCWfZzL