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Kentucky Basketball: Andrew Harrison and the Trouble at the Rim

Andrew Harrison's shooting percentage near the basket was a problem last season.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

John Gasaway, long a favorite of mine, opines about players who shouldn't touch the basketball so much next season if they return. #1 on his list happens to be Andrew Harrison. The articles is for "insiders" only, so I can't get all of his reasoning, but I don't really need to. Consider:

Assuming he declares for the draft -- no word there yet -- Harrison will present a fairly fascinating evaluative problem for NBA front offices. Can you really spend a first-round pick on one of just seven major-conference players who recorded 200 or more 2-point attempts yet failed to make 40 percent of those shots? We may be about to find out.

This is an excellent point. Andrew Harrison made only 49.1% of his shots at the rim this season, an exceedingly low number. For example, James Young made 62% of his shots at the rim, his brother Aaron 67%. Now, consider the number of shots he got there: 109 times, or 33% of his shots were taken at the rim. Of those, he made 54. (Stat source: Hoop-Math)

Worse still, Andrew made only 27% of his 2-point jump shots, and 35% of his 3-point jumpers. For a guy taking only 60 fewer shots than Julius Randle, those percentages, for lack of a better word, suck.

So what do these numbers mean? Well, you remember how Archie Goodwin used to drive to the basket a lot. Last season, Archie took 175 shots at the rim, but he made 61% of them (107). Ryan Harrow made 63% of his 95 shots taken at the rim (60). Even Marquis Teague, who also struggled to shoot close in, made 55.5% of his shots at the rim.

So you can see the problem here. Andrew made a very poor percentage of his shots taken by the basket, and that really hurt the team's shooting percentage. Part of this is because Andrew was the primary culprit in what I referred to as the Dribble Drive Fling, and Hope that Kentucky seemed to be running all too often this season. I don't blame Andrew for this as much as I do John Calipari, who seemed to insist that Kentucky try to take advantage of the new emphasis on impeding the man with the ball.

How that rule turned out in practice was that the more Kentucky attacked the rim, the more contact the officials allowed. At the end of the year, after the "tweak," the team was much more efficient offensively in no small part because Andrew was passing more, and flinging and hoping less. This is not to say that Andrew was the only one doing the DDFH, but he was the worst at it.

Many of Andrew's looks at the basket were extremely challenged shots off straight dribble drives into traffic, and it forced him into a lot of tough, guarded shots that nobody could expect to make a high percentage of. Most of the other players other than the taller, longer James Young got their rim looks off of drives initiated when the defense was off-balance or moving.

The bottom line is, if Andrew comes back next season, he has to shoot fewer shots, and Calipari has to let him. It's much more important to both the team's success, and to Andrew's success, that he become a distributor and a true point guard rather than a combo guard. I think part of that will be taken out of his hands by Tyer Ulis, who really gets the point guard mentality. Andrew cannot afford to look less efficient than his likely (but by no means certain) backup, if he does end up returning to Kentucky.