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Kentucky Basketball: A Closer Look at Wildcats’ Offense by Possession Length

A deeper dive on Kentucky’s late offense production.

NCAA Basketball: IUPU - Ft. Wayne at Kentucky
Green loves to push the pace, and that’s when Kentucky is at its best.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach John Calipari was upset with his Wildcats after a 79-70 win over Harvard. Cal is asking a lot of his players, but has primarily focused his ire on effort and defense lately.

Stops on defense usually lead to opportunities for easy baskets in the transition game, and Kentucky has taken full advantage on the offensive end in those situations. But what does Kentucky’s offensive efficiency look like once the Cats settle into their halfcourt offense (11 through 30 seconds into the shot clock)?

By hand, I charted each offensive possession through Kentucky’s first eight games. The Wildcats have been especially effective in early offense and transition, taking about 51 percent of their offensive possessions in the first ten seconds of the shot clock while managing 1.16 points per possession.

While Kentucky sees a dip in production in late offense overall (0.98 PPP), that number is not drastically different than the late offense numbers I hand charted last season in conference play (1.03 PPP in halfcourt offense).

Early offense is Kentucky’s best offense.

I was interested in the differences in the Kentucky offense depending on who manned the point guard position, so I charted each scenario separately. Kentucky’s offensive numbers are high regardless of when the Cats shoot the ball in the shot clock when either Quade Green or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go solo at the point guard position.

However, Calipari has juggled his lineup around to include both Gilgeous-Alexander and Green in the backcourt at the same time. With both in the game at the same time, Kentucky’s halfcourt offense struggled and its offensive efficiency numbers took a huge dip.

The Cats managed just 0.81 points per possession in late offense when both point guards play.

Kentucky struggles in the halfcourt when both Green and Gilgeous-Alexander are in at the same time.

Kentucky is actually grabbing offensive rebounds at a high rate late in the shot clock, giving the Wildcats additional opportunities to score.

Are there chemistry issues?

Interestingly, the Wildcats do not turn the ball over any more frequently later in the shot clock than they do at other times.

So, what is causing this dip in production?

I suspect that there is a simple yet logical explanation. When Green takes the reins of the offense, both Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox, Kentucky’s two best scorers, are out there with him. When Gilgeous-Alexander heads out to run the offense, he has Diallo and Knox by his sides making baskets.

But when Green and Gilgeous-Alexander take the floor together, either Diallo or Knox sits on the bench while the other plays out on the wing.

It certainly seems that the struggles we see with Kentucky’s halfcourt offense may have more to do with one of its two best scorers being on the bench than with any chemistry issues with Green and Gilgeous-Alexander sharing the court at the same time.

Both Diallo and Knox have emerged as the top two offensive options for the Cats, but when one of the stars take a seat and both of Kentucky’s point guards man the perimeter, the Wildcats are seeing diminishing returns. The Cats need to see a consistent third scoring option emerge when Diallo or Knox are out of the game.

Ironically, all signs point to one of Kentucky’s lead guards (Green and/or Gilgeous-Alexander) being the answer to this dilemma.