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What Auburn basketball's latest additions tell us about 2023-24 version of the Tigers

Richard Silva, Montgomery Advertiser
4–5 minutes

AUBURN — Auburn basketball may add another player to its roster for the 2023-24 season, but coach Bruce Pearl has already made his biggest splashes of the offseason.

With a number of players departing the Tigers since they lost to Houston in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March, Auburn has brought in Denver Jones (Florida International) and Chaney Johnson (Alabama-Huntsville) via the transfer portal, picked up Chad Baker-Mazara from junior college and is set to add five-star guard Aden Holloway out of Prolific Prep in Napa, California.

There's no telling whether the turnover will result in a better or worse season for Auburn, but it'll certainly be different. Here's what the four newcomers tell us about what Pearl and his staff prioritized this offseason, and what it could mean for the Tigers in 2023-24.

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Long-range shooting

Despite getting hot toward the end of the regular season, Auburn was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the SEC last season at 31.4%. The only two schools worse were Ole Miss (30.3%) and Mississippi State (26.6%). Of players who took at least 30 3-pointers, the Tigers had just three − Tre Donaldson (40.9%), Lior Berman (35.5%) and Jaylin Williams (35.4%) − shoot above 35%.

Those numbers should rise next season. Baker-Mazara shot 46.9% on nearly 4.5 attempts per game at Northwest Florida State College last season; Jones knocked down 37.1% of his triples at FIU; and Johnson, despite only make 28.9% of his threes last year, is a career 37.2% shooter.

Accurate stats are few and far between for high schoolers, but Holloway hit two of his four 3-pointers in the McDonald's All-American Game in March, including one from way beyond the arc to the end the first quarter.

Auburn's best shooters (Donaldson, Berman and Williams) are expected to be back. And although they brought value in different ways, the players Auburn lost − Allen Flanigan (33.3%), Wendell Green Jr. (29.5%) and Zep Jasper (28.4%) − weren't exactly marksmen from deep.

Adding some height

From Jared Harper to Green, Pearl has always leaned toward having a shorter player running his offense. That'll be different this year, as Holloway was measured at 6-foot-2 at the Nike Hoop Summit in April.

The 6-4 Jones, who is presumed to be the starting shooting guard, is taller than Jasper (6-1). Even Baker-Mazara at 6-7 has a one-inch advantage over Flanigan. The Tigers got notably taller this offseason, which should not only add another dimension to the offense, but also improve the rebounding numbers; Johni Broome and Flanigan were the only two members of the team to average at least five boards last season.

Playing through Johni Broome

Broome, who was Auburn's leading scorer last season, is currently in the NBA Draft process and has until May 31 to withdraw if he'd like to return to the Tigers for another season. Assuming he does, the new additions should allow the offense to be run through him often.

“There are some real statistics and real analytics out there that (say) when we get a paint touch before we take a three, or even two paint touches before we get a three, our percentages are way up," Pearl said last season. "So, inside-out 3-balls are the best 3-balls if you can get them.”

With the expected improvement from 3-point range, Broome should have more room to work in the post after he kicks it out for an open triple a few times and teams become weary of doubling him.

Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at rsilva@gannett.com or on Twitter @rich_silva18.

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