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Defensive Scoresheet: Early Season Update

Kentucky has played 9 games now, almost a quarter of the season, and defense has emerged as a primary weakness. Let's look at how individual players have performed so far.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Game Charts

Team Numbers

To help put what follows into context, here are Kentucky's defensive numbers for the season along with where they rank as of Sunday.  I've also included the NCAA averages along with the best school in each category.  All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy's site.

Raw Efficiency is just the total points Kentucky has allowed compared to the number of possessions they've played on defense (multiplied by 100 to make it look nice).  Adjusted Efficiency is the same, but includes KenPom's adjustment for opponent strength and game location.

Raw Eff. Adj. Eff. eFG% TO% DRb% FTR
Kentucky 94.5 97.2 41.5 16.5 67.2 30.9
Rank 41 51 7 271 210 33
NCAA Average 103.5
49.5 18.5 68.1 41.5
NCAA Best 82.8 87.3 38.7 28.1 78.8 22.0

Ohio St Ohio St Clemson Louisville Princeton Furman

Not a lot to say except that after beating Michigan St, Kentucky's Defensive Rebound rate stood at 75.2% and it has fallen steadily since then.  Other than that Kentucky makes it hard to hit field goals and doesn't send teams to the line - hallmarks of a John Calipari defense.  They don't force turnovers much at all: also a hallmark of a John Calipari defense.

Individual Per Game

Here are some per game numbers for individual players, similar to what you might see in a box score.  I've only included results for the 9-man rotation we've seen thus far.

Per Game Defensive Stats
Willie Cauley-Stein 10.4 33.4 2.8 4.7 1.9
Julius Randle 6.4 35.6 1.4 7.6 1.1
James Young 6.7 53.8 1.7 2.4 1.4
Aaron Harrison 5.9 27.8 2.3 2.4 1.6
Andrew Harrison 8.7 52.5 3.0 1.6 1.2
Dominique Hawkins 3.6 39.6 0.9 0.8 0.7
Alex Poythress 4.8 33.8 2.4 3.7 0.8
Dakari Johnson 4.7 41.1 2.2 2.0 0.5
Marcus Lee 4.0 37.0 1.3 1.3 0.4

Willie Cauley-Stein gives up the most points on average, but as you'll see in a bit that's because he is also by far the most involved Cat defensively.  Andrew Harrison gives up the 2nd most points which probably doesn't come as a shock to anyone (if this does come as a shock then you haven't watched enough games this year).  I think Alex Poythress deserves some props for being 3rd on the team in defensive rebounding despite being 6th in minutes played.

Individual 4 Factors

Next we'll look at the 4 Factors to help put some of those numbers above in better context.

Defensive Four Factors
Name Opp eFG% Opp TO% DRb% FTR
Willie Cauley-Stein 37.1 16.6 16.7 24.7
Julius Randle 38.8 12.2 23.0 20.7
James Young 58.8 20.9 7.2 33.8
Aaron Harrison 31.6 21.6 7.7 35.4
Andrew Harrison 59.1 16.2 5.2 54.5
Dominique Hawkins 50.7 21.6 7.0 32.2
Alex Poythress 38.3 13.0 20.2 57.1
Dakari Johnson 44.0 10.6 18.7 57.4
Marcus Lee 39.7 8.9 13.9 27.4

Julius Randle started off the season grabbing every defensive board in sight (a DRB% north of 30% which is Kenneth Faried territory) but it's come down since.  If the Cats want to improve this element then he will have to be the guy who leads the way.  Randle doesn't really try to block shots, so there's no reason he can't up his average by a couple boards.  WCS does everything pretty well.  His rebound rate could be higher, but that's the tradeoff for the blocks.  If he and Randle can coordinate with each other better going forward they could be a special tandem.

James Young, Aaron Harrison, and Dominique Hawkins all do a good job forcing turnovers when they are able to get a hand on the ball. Andrew Harrison's fouling ways become even more pronounced when you compare the number of times he sends guys to the line to the number of shots he defends.  Poythress and Dakari Johnson are just as bad, but at least they have a sort-of excuse by playing around the basket where fouls aren't always the worst thing.

Individual Defensive Ratings

Lastly, here are some computed ratings.  I've performed a quick and dirty adjustment to the Defensive Rating to adjust it for competition.

Defensive Ratings
Name Stop% DPoss% Opp Eff DRtg AdjDRtg
Julius Randle 67.2 17.6 68.7 89.5 92.1
Alex Poythress 59.4 19.7 83.9 92.0 94.6
Aaron Harrison 61.4 14.0 82.1 92.3 95.0
Willie Cauley-Stein 58.4 25.8 88.8 92.7 95.3
James Young 51.2 12.0 100.8 94.8 97.5
Marcus Lee 52.3 28.2 97.7 95.0 97.7
Dakari Johnson 48.9 27.9 98.1 95.1 97.9
Dominique Hawkins 52.8 17.1 115.4 97.7 100.5
Andrew Harrison 42.0 14.9 121.1 98.0 100.8

As I mentioned above, WCS is the most involved player defensively with a 25.8% Defensive Possession Usage rate and he holds his man to an 88.8 efficiency.  Randle is good too of course, and Alex Poythress might be better than you thought (or maybe not).  Given the defensive problems the Cats have had, I think POY's defense is worth a few more minutes.

A2 and Young are holding their own.  I really like James in particular.  If you have time, watch a couple of previous games again and keep your eye on him as he chases guys around the floor.  He does a good job of getting through screens because he always has is arms out, feeling around to see if someone is coming up beside him.

Hawkins has a poor defensive rating, but I think that's mostly just bad luck.  His forced turnovers, rebounds, and fouls are all good for a guard, he's just had some tough shots made against him.  Going forward I think his rating will improve.