The plus/minus statistic is one of the most controversial in basketball. However, with a good sample size, it can show how much a player impacts the game by showing if the team is in a scoring surplus or deficit when they are on the court.
Four games in, the Kentucky Wildcats’ two leading players in plus/minus are Rob Dillingham (+84) and Reed Sheppard (+85). They have done so by playing the fifth and sixth-most minutes on the team.
Those numbers are impressive, but diving into the analytics shows just how impressive both have been, even on a national scale.
According to Evan Miyakawa of EvanMiya.com, who holds a Ph.D. in statistics and data science, there is an argument that Dillingham and Sheppard are two of the best five freshmen in the country at this point.
Using a performance rating that measures a player's impact on offense and defense, both are ranked in the top five nationally.
Yet, for different reasons. Looking at each side of the ball nationally, Dillingham is the most impactful freshman on offense, while Sheppard is the second-most impactful freshman on defense.
According to analytics, Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard are two of the best five freshmen in the country.— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) November 18, 2023
(Note: min. 50 possessions)
Most Impactful Freshman
4. Rob Dillingham
5. Reed Sheppard
Most Impactful Freshman on Offense
1. Rob Dillingham
When the two are on the floor together, they are analytically the best duo in the SEC. It should be noted that Sheppard and Justin Edwards are the third-best duo in the SEC. While Edwards’ offensive numbers haven’t been great, he has bee a good rebounder and defender.
Dillingham and Sheppard have certainly been a pleasant surprise early this season. When guys like Edwards and DJ Wagner find themselves and the big men return, Kentucky will have that many more weapons and be one of the most dangerous teams in the country.
Saying this, with what we’ve seen, should one or both of Sheppard/Dillingham be inserted into the starting lineup? It could certainly help Kentucky overcome these slow starts. They were down 6-2 to New Mexico State over the first 2:35 of game time, 21-8 to Texas A&M Commerce in the first 8:03, 11-3 to Kansas over the first 5:21, and 8-2 to Stonehill in the first 1:40.
Not terrible, but definitely a trend, one that could seemingly be aided if one of Sheppard/Dillingham was starting.
So, what say you, BBN? Let us know in the poll below and in the comments section!