The Arizona State Sun Devils come into the 2017-18 season with a pair of elite scorers leading an extremely-talented front court, one that will likely find itself near the top of the conference in total offensive output come the end of February.
It’s not just the three returning seniors, however, as ASU also boasts a few exciting prospects behind Holder, Evans and Justice.
Let’s take an in-depth look at member of Arizona State’s backcourt:
Tra Holder (6-foot-1, 180 pound senior guard)
The senior floor-general from Los Angeles, Calif. will begin his fourth and final year starting for the Sun Devils during the 2017-18 campaign.
His improvements from year to year have been more than incremental, he has truly blossomed under former two-time national champion Duke point guard — now ASU head coach — Bobby Hurley. His field goal percentage, three-point shooting, rebounding and even free-throw shooting has improved in each of his first three years in Tempe.
Holder has also developed an innate ability to drive into the lane and finish ways that other guards of his size struggle to. That, combined with his career 34.6 percent three point shot have made him a dangerous scorer, but he’s never been much of a distributer. Holder has never averaged more than 3.7 assists a season, a number unacceptable based on both his role as the one guard and the talent level he’s been surrounded by in recent years.
In fact, his assist numbers have been trending downward since his first season on the court. Per sportsreference.com, Holder’s assist percentage — that is, the number of offensive possessions that end in a pass that leads to a score — has sunk from 25.7 percent in 2014-15 to just 17.1 percent last season. During those years, as you would imagine, his usage rate increased significantly.
It’s been an interesting road to Holder’s senior season. He is no doubt a terrific scorer, but it remains to be seen if he can share the ball effectively and/or produce an beneficial performance over the course of a season to this program — his plus/minus has bounced around quite a bit in Tempe.
Shannon Evans II (6-foot-1, 172-pound senior guard)
The similarities between Holder and Evans are aplenty. They both shoot similarly, can get to the hoop and at times switch-off running the offense.
However, Evans is just a bit better.
He’s not a true point-guard level passer, but he out-classes Holder in the category. Even while playing at the two guard last season, he average nearly an assist and a half more per game than the L.A. native. He also manages the same amount of steals, out-shot him at the free throw line and doubled his plus/minus.
Evans’ slightly-superior ability demonstrated last season isn’t — usually — a detriment to the ASU offense. Having two talented, experienced guard who can run the point and Hurley’s scheme is never a factor to overlook.
What has been overlooked, however, is Evans’ performances against good teams. He has beat up and even destroyed terrible teams often, dropping 25 against Washington, 28 against UNLV and 23 against Central Arkansas — three of his four highest-scoring games of the season. But against teams that are well above average down the stretch, Evans struggled.
Arizona State has a brutal final five games of the season, taking on UCLA, USC, Arizona and Oregon. After averaging 15 a game the entire season, Evans scored just 11, 10, 9 and 7 respectively. In those contests Evans fell by the wayside and the Devils lost all but one.
Kodi Justice (6-foot-3, 160-pound senior guard)
Justice is the Sun Devils’ final senior guard, and will serve as ASU’s sixth-man. Although, last season, the Mesa, Arizona native saw a huge uptick in minutes due to no real help from the backcourt from the bench.
Justice’s 2016-17 season was strange. He played 31.1 minutes per game, shot an absurd 42.1 percent from the field — including 41.7 percent from three — but only averaged 9.2 points a game. He wasn’t much of a passer, no Arizona State guard really is, and he never really got to the line.
But clearly, he was a great shooter and an element of Hurley’s offense the Sun Devils likely wouldn’t function without. What Justice needs is confidence. Confidence to be that guy, the guy that Torian Graham became by shooting at will and taking over games whenever his shot was falling.
More often than not, Justices shots fell. He just didn’t take enough of them.
Seven field goal attempts per game is not enough for a player that put up 17-plus points six different times last year, including four games against the likes of Utah, UCLA, USC and Arizona. Those are (for the most part) elite-level teams and above average defenses. Justice was able to score because he would get on a streak and fire from wherever he wanted, bringing an energy off the bench most teams failed to match.
With Graham gone, it’s time for Justice to emerge as one of the more vital components of Arizona State’s backcourt. It’s time for him to fly down the lane, create problems and fire from beyond the ark, to see just how many more 20-point games a confident Justice has in him.
Remy Martin (6-feet, 170-pound freshman guard)
Martin still has yet to play during a game that counts toward Arizona State’s record, but his impact has been felt in Tempe already.
Martin has been a force throughout the preseason for Arizona State, demonstrating the ability to quickly get through a congested lane and somehow get the ball off the glass and into the basket like his senior counterpart in Holder. He’s explosive, a leader and a flat-out playmaker, everything Hurley likely wants in his go-to scoring option.
He’s never played at the college level, so there are no numbers to applaud or criticize him for, but he definitely passes the eye-test. So much so that it seems his potential is above Holder’s, he came in ranked as the No. 85 prospect in the country, eight spots behind fellow ASU recruit Romello White.
I would even argue that we could see Martin’s floor elevate to Holder’s as soon as this winter. Holder played an unholy 35 minutes per last season, Martin is far too talented to warrant that kind of usage again.
Martin will be given every opportunity to impress this season, and he will absolutely deliver. After the departure of Holder, Evans and Justice, the backcourt will be in good hands.