Two weeks ago, John Calipari said he met individually with each member of the Kentucky Wildcats to define their roles. This was in the midst of his only four game losing streak at Kentucky, and he wanted to be clear about what each player needed to do in order for the team to have success.
After Kentucky’s fourth consecutive victory following these role defining conversations, Calipari was asked about the content of those conversations.
“Well, what I did was defined how we would play as a team and then how each individual would play. And that who we would go through. In other words, we’re not just running offense to run offense, we’re playing through a player. And we’re going to play through this guy and this guy, if you have a problem with that, come and see me, I’ll just, you’re sitting the bench.
“And we will count on them to make plays for us. And occasionally we’re going to play through this guy, because he’s a beast. And if he gets it going, we’ll play through him. The rest of you, we’re not playing through you. And what happens is we score more, less turnovers, more assists, five guys in double figures.”
Upon hearing this, the first thing I did was trying to put together the puzzle of which guy was each “this guy” in his comment. While it may be clear to some who those players are, I wanted to look at see if the numbers matched my assumptions.
Obviously, he says the offense is running through two guys. The plays will be called for them and everyone else can feed off of their play-making. It is the perfect strategy to do what Calipari had hoped (limiting turnovers, increasing assists, etc.).
Considering that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the team’s best player, according to Calipari himself, it seems obvious that he is one of those two guys. He leads the team in minutes played (32.8) and assists per game (4.9), and is second in points (13).
There is only one other player averaging more than 27 minutes per game, and that happens to be the team’s leading scorer Kevin Knox. He is playing nearly as many minutes as SGA (32.4) and is putting 15.8 points on the board each game.
Obviously, these two guys are the first options that the offense will run through. But what about the third guy that the team will play through “if he gets going”? The statistics get very muddled after those first two guys.
Hamidou Diallo is averaging 10.7 points per game in 25.3 minutes, PJ Washington is getting 10.3 points in 26.8 minutes, and Quade Green is going for 10.2 points in 25.7 minutes. There is a significant drop-off in offensive production after Green.
So I guess it really comes down to which of those guys you consider a beast. Calipari may have called Green an “absolute killer” after Wednesdays game, and Hami is an athletic freak, but PJ is the only one in this group (and on the entire team, honestly) that could rightfully be called a beast.
We have seen Washington dominate games sporadically this season, most recently his season high of 22 points against Mississippi State and his double-double against Arkansas. It should be no surprise that Cal plans to feed him the ball when he gets in a came where nobody can stop him from getting to the basket.
So in the biggest shocker of the season, the three guys Calipari trusts the most with the ball are also the players that get the most minutes.
Regardless of how obvious his comments were, it is good to see the numbers line up with the plan moving forward. And at least for the four most recent games, that plan seems to working perfectly.