Should We Be Concerned With Florida’s Turnover Problem?

While the Gators have improved in multiple facets of their game from opening night until now where they have come off a Charleston Classic tournament win there is still one area of the game that has plagued the Gators and that’s in the turnover department.

Averaging over 12 turnovers per game the Gators have been loose with the ball and it’s resulted in frustration from both the players and coaching staff. In the first few games of the season these turnovers were devastating due to the fact the Gators were struggling offensively and not even getting a chance to put the ball up at the rim was deflating. In recent games where Florida has built big leads the turnovers gave their opponents chances to get back into the game.

Turnovers are damaging for multiple reasons. First, you obviously don’t even get to shoot the ball, and even a low percentage shot like a contested long-two heave with a 17% chance of going in is better than the 0% chance if you don’t get the opportunity to shoot. Additionally, if you give up a live-ball turnover your opposition can head the other way, usually with a numbers advantage, and transition opportunities after steals are some of the most efficient and valuable shots in basketball.

With the Gators turning the ball over a good deal through their first seven games I wanted to see if the amount they are turning the ball over is a small sample size fluke or if it’s a symptom of a problem in the way they are operating when they have the ball.

To do this, I watched ever possession the Gators turned the ball over this year and charted what type of play (or, misplay) resulted in a turnover. All turnovers aren’t created equal and there are a boatload of different ways you can turn the ball over. By breaking down the 87 turnovers they have as a team into each play type I could take a closer look at whether the team is making careless errors, making some of the general mistakes that are going to occur in a 40-minute game, or running into particularly good defenses.

Here are each of the groups of plays (sometimes with subgroups) that led to turnovers, the number of turnovers for that play type, and some commentary on what the Gators can do to improve in that area and not turn the ball over as much.

Team Turnovers (Shot Clock Violations, 5-Second Inbounds, Etc.): 9

These hurt, make no mistake about it.

Florida’s stall ball when holding a lead has been a topic of frustration amongst the fan base for multiple seasons now and there has been some head scratching moments already, especially against Xavier where bleeding time off the clock ended up backfiring with shot clock violations.

Here is the thing about Florida’s offensive system—it’s one that takes some time to develop in the half court as they move through the progressions. They had great success against Miami and the first half of Xavier using the Princeton-inspired offense that uses back screens to free players up and that takes a good chunk of the shot clock. They were getting great shots, usually 16-19 seconds into the shot clock.

Fast-forward to the second half of the game against Xavier and the Gators were holding onto the ball to use clock and usually they’d start their offense around the 18-second mark. Well, considering the fact it was usually taking the Gators 16 seconds or more to get a good shot early, that didn’t leave much room for them to operate. That led to multiple shot clock violations.

Don’t get me wrong—I actually do see value in limiting possessions at the end of games when you’re ahead by using clock. The thing is, in Florida’s case their offense isn’t particularly fast in the half court anyways so they can be killing clock by simply going through their normal offensive progressions.

Moving forward if the Gators have a lead and they’re trying to milk the clock I’d recommend they just go through their normal progressions as the earliest they’d probably get a good shot is around the 15-second mark, but it’s likely they’d use more like 20 seconds of the clock. Besides, a good look between 15-20 seconds into the clock when protecting a lead is better than chucking up a prayer in the final two seconds.

Failed Entry Passes: 15

Watching the games live these were some of the more frustrating turnovers and watching the possessions isolated they weren’t much better.

It’s clear the Gators are trying to get the ball to their bigs, especially Kerry Blackshear Jr., on the inside but they’ve committed 15 turnovers trying to do it and a lot of them have been careless turnovers.

A lot of these entry pass turnovers were ill-advised passes from the point position, and trying to go from the point to the low block is an extremely difficult pass. The angle is a challenging one where a bounce pass usually isn’t available so multiple Gators (Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson especially) have tried to float rainbow passes to the inside. A lofted pass from the point to the block means there are lots of help defenders in the area and that pass has been deflected or stolen a ton.

The best way to get the ball on the low block is a pass from the wing, not the point. Instead of trying to get the ball right from the point to the low block they need to go point-wing-low block and utilize quick ball movement to do it as to not let the defense shift over early and take away the interior passing lane.

Of all the turnovers the Gators had these may be some of the lowest percentage plays, really difficult passes that really shouldn’t be attempted. This is definitely an area they need to clean up and a look at film would do them wonders here.

Inbounds Pass Interceptions: 5

This has been a strange one for the Gators as they have had a few baseline out of bounds plays go awry and turn into turnovers (strange considering how great they were on these sets a year ago) and they also have had multiple passes from under their own hoop intercepted. A few of these have been pretty fluky and I don’t see it being a major issue moving forward.

Miscellaneous Passing Errors (Including Press Break): 10

As you can see when it comes to passing errors leading to turnovers, most of them were the 15 turnovers from trying to force the ball inside but there have also been 10 turnovers that occurred from basic passes such as a player in the high post making a lazy pass to the wing or a sloppy push in transition leading to a ball careening out of bounds. Some of these turnovers were so careless that it could just be chalked up early season jitters and a lack of polish. Some of them, especially from Omar Payne, came from what looked to be a lack of understanding of the offensive system as it can be somewhat complex and as confidence grows in the different progressions these turnovers likely won’t happen.

In this category, there are also some of the turnovers that came from trying to pass the ball out of a full court press. Noah Locke and Ques Glover have particularly been challenged here as opponents have taken away Andrew Nembhard and dared the other perimeter players to handle the ball and make plays. Florida’s press break hasn’t looked good yet and their balance and spacing of the floor has been congested, not doing them any favors as they try to safely get the ball over half. This is definitely something that will come with practice. Getting Tre Mann healthy will also give an additional ball handling option on the floor and he could certainly help with their ability to handle full court pressure.

Ball Handling Errors (Fumbled Or Stripped): 21

This category encompasses a lot of turnovers as it includes every time a Gator had the ball stolen from them or they fumbled the ball allowing from an opponent takeaway. While some of these ball handling errors ended in the ball going out of bounds many of them were live ball turnovers that give the other team a chance to run in transition so these are some of the most damaging turnovers.

Of these turnovers, 7 of them were on players getting stripped underneath the basket. When you get the ball inside there is always a risk of defenses collapsing and getting their hands on the ball and turnovers are going to happen. Getting the ball inside is going to be an important aspect of Florida’s offense and the occasional time a double team gets to Blackshear and the ball gets stripped the Gators need to live with.

Some of the rougher ball handling errors came from freshmen Scottie Lewis and Ques Glover who were often too sped up and got themselves into trouble. Both have driven into the help defense their primary defender was hoping to send them into and it’s resulted in some ugly turnovers.

Another thing that has gotten Lewis in trouble is a habit he has of catching passes with one hand instead of two. This looks stylish and might give him an extra millisecond of time when he’s driving directly off the catch but on multiple occasions he hasn’t caught it cleanly and was trying to secure the ball when it slipped out and went into the hands of the opponent. As Lewis and the other younger players mature these tough turnovers where they get sped up or drive into help should go away but for the time being there are probably going to be some frustrating mistakes at times.

Travels: 14

I’ll also add that this category includes a carry and a double dribble, both by Noah Locke.

Ques Glover had a tough call from the ref against Xavier where he got pushed but the foul wasn’t called and Blackshear had a travel on the interior that often goes uncalled but overall a lot of these were obvious travel calls due to a lack of concentration or a result of driving the ball without a plan B once the defense arrived.

A few of these travels also occurred during times the Gators were trying to break presses, a result of the poor execution of the press break I talked about earlier.

There aren’t often travels where you say “I’ll live with that turnover” and I think each one of these were mistakes that need to be cleaned up. Once again, this could be a number that goes down as the season progresses and the offseason rust gets shaken off.

Offensive Fouls: 13

To break it down further, the Gators have had:

Five charges attacking the basket.

Four push-offs with the ball handler using his off arm to create space.

Four illegal screens or big men trying to carve out space on the inside.

In terms of the push-off fouls, they were pretty bogus and well-sold by the defender who fell backwards as if the force of the push was three times greater than what it really was.

The charge fouls committed by the Gators were definitely legit calls and the result of some ill-advised attempts at driving the ball when the defense was totally rotated over and set. Florida needs to be a team that can drive the ball and that means sometimes you’re going to commit offensive fouls. These were plays I think you can live with and I don’t see them as a problem. Some of the illegal screens were pretty lazy and were likely a product of an offensive set not being run properly and you’d love to see those cleaned but right now I don’t think it’s a cause for concern.

Which Turnovers Are Most Concerning?

The turnovers that absolutely need to be cleaned up are the entry passes and the travels. So many of Florida’s entry passes that went sour were difficult, low-percentage plays that shouldn’t have been attempted in the first place. Take all those off the board and the Gators would be looking a lot better in the turnover department and it would be an easy way for them to improve going forward.

Committing so many travels is a problem as well, and a lot of these travels occurred when players put themselves in positions where they aren’t comfortable, such as a non-ball handler getting the ball in press break or a non-driver putting the ball on the deck, getting frazzled, and lifting their pivot foot. If Florida can stay within the structure of their offense they will likely limit the number of travels committed as players will stay in proper positions to succeed.

Will The Turnover Problems Continue?

Film study and practice should limit a lot of these turnovers and moving forward there should be improvements. This is a particularly young team with a lot of the turnovers being committed by players who are just getting used to the pace, size, and length of high major basketball and they should only get better when it comes to ball security.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.