The Kentucky Wildcats have now played 8 games, which brings us through 25% of the regular season. They've played a variety of opponents from both small conferences and large and are coming off their biggest game against the toughest opponent they will face this season (at least until a road game at Florida anyway).
That makes this a good time to take an in-depth look at where the team is collectively on offensive and defensive and how the players are doing individually in those areas. In Part 1 we looked at how the returnees are progressing from last season. In Part 2 we'll look at how the freshman are starting off their college careers.
On Wednesday and Thursday we'll look at defense which will include composite DSS results.
One thing I need to clarify: if anyone has a subscription to KenPom you'll notice that his player stats are slightly different from what I have here. These numbers all come from Statsheet.com. The difference is due to offensive rebounds, somehow KP and SS get slightly different numbers and without getting into gory details, that difference trickles down into the calculations for possessions which in turn affects things like ORtg and TO%. I'm not sure why this is the case, but my hypothesis is that because Statsheet auto-updates within a few hours of games being completed, they are getting a box score that is not finalized. Since KP updates everything the next day, he is getting the finalized box score. The differences are noticeable and I wanted to clear up any potential confusion.
On to the freshman! Since we don't have previous seasons to use, in a couple cases I've included some lines for other players who are interesting comparisons for these players.
Marquis Teague of course gets compared to the other 2 great point guards UK has had under Coach Calipari. The comparison is not quite fair to Teague since these are the season numbers for John Wall and Brandon Knight, but they are still instructive. Teague has a ways to go before he is on the same level as these two, but we are coming up on the December period of no class and lots of practice and I think we can expect to see a lot of improvement during this period. He has already brought his turnovers down the last several games and his 3 point shooting is better than Wall and comparable to Knight. The assist rate is low compared to Wall, but pretty much in line with what Knight did last year and as Marquis continues to learn to play with the great players around him I expect we'll see that trend upward. Marquis hasn't needed to control the game to the extent the other two did and I think ultimately that will benefit him. This is a great team and Teague should get some credit for helping distribute the basketball even if it isn't showing up in his assists.
|DeAndre Liggins (Jr)||78.7||106.6||15.9||15.3||49.2||2.1||14.1||17.4||39.8||64.8||44.2||39.1|
The player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is compared to all the time is DeAndre Liggins and coming back into the UNC game after dislocating a shoulder isn't going to end those comparisons - that's the kind of thing Liggins would have done. MKG's offensive game still has room to grow - his shot mechanics have been mentioned by more than one person (his jump shot reminds me of Wayne Turner) but really there is a lot to like here. Even with the mechanics issue, he's shooting better from the line and the field than Liggins did as a junior and his offensive rebounding is terrific from this position. Liggins was better at passing the ball, but he was also nominally a point guard coming out of high school so that's not surprising and DeAndre also was very good at protecting the ball last year. Kidd-Gilchrist needs to learn to harness his style of play on the offensive end as a lot of his turnovers come from getting himself in trouble (charges and such). If he can cut down on the silly turnovers and hold back on jump shots early in a possession, he'll become a real offensive force.
I don't have a good comp for Anthony Davis (any ideas out there?). Really, there isn't anyone like him in the last 8 years. Ken Pomeroy's player comparison tool lists his closest freshman comps as Gorgui Deng (2011) at Louisville and Jarvis Varnado (2007) at Mississippi St but neither are close - the match is 809 for Deng and 790 for Varnado (900 or above is considered a "good" comparison). Davis really is unique. He needs to touch the ball a bit more on offense - shooting 70.9% on twos is outstanding and he does not turn the ball over. His free throw shooting needs some work, but you knew that already. He is getting to the line at a terrific rate though and even at 54.1% from the line he is generating points. Davis has the ability to be even better on the offensive boards, and you should check out this post by Josh Riddell at The Mikan Drill where he takes a closer look at how Davis can improve in that area.
I also couldn't think of an interesting comp for Kyle Wiltjer. Ken Pomeroy has Sam Young (2007) at Pittsburgh as his top comparison and interestingly Harrison Barnes shows up 5th on the list although none of them are strong comparisons (though at 872 and 851 respectively they are better than anyone who shows up for Anthony Davis). Wiltjer's offense is just fine for a freshman big. He shoots quite well from the line and inside the arc and his 3P% is low, but it's just on 15 shots: if he was 6-15 instead of 4-15 he'd be an outstanding 40% (small sample size!). Wiltjer has been good at the non-shooting areas too: his 9.1% Assist Rate is pretty good for a big guy, he doesn't turn the ball over, and his 8.7% Offensive rebound % is not bad for a player who spends a lot of time on the perimeter. He's not shy about taking shots either as you can see by his 26.2 SH% - that leads the team by a healthy margin. Wiltjer is the closest thing this team has to a ball hog!
Like all freshmen these guys have areas of their game where they need to work. But the early results are very encouraging and do nothing to dampen the sky-high expectations the fans have for the season. With classes coming to and end and more time available for practice this month, I think we will really start to see considerable improvement in these areas.
Thanks for reading!