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Wildcats spreading the wealth in early season

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Terrence Jones leads five UK players scoring in double figures with 15.0 points per game. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Terrence Jones leads five UK players scoring in double figures with 15.0 points per game. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
I wrote last week about how statistics are proving how balanced the Kentucky Wildcats are in 2011, relying mostly on traditional team and individual stats to make my case. l Well, I'm here to make the same point again, but this time I'm going to be using more advanced metrics.

You see, Ken Pomeroy released his individual player stats this weekend and it should come as no surprise that I've spent an inordinate amount of time breaking them down. My main conclusion: UK is an even more equal opportunity team than I thought.

Pomeroy uses two statistics to evaluate a player's usage rate: percentage of possessions used (%Poss) and percentage of shots taken (%Shots). The two numbers are fairly self-explanatory, but I'll break them down anyway. First, percentage of possessions used measures how frequently the ball ends up in a players' hands at the end of each possession when he is on the floor, whether by a shot attempted, a turnover committed or an assist. Percentage of shots taken measures how many of his team's shots a player attempts when he is on the floor.

Here is how UK's main rotation players stack up in these two areas, as well as percentage of total minutes played (%Min).

  %Poss %Shots %Min
Terrence Jones 22.0 22.8 76.6
Doron Lamb 18.6 21.0 75.9
Marquis Teague 21.2 19.6 75.3
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 21.7 19.3 73.4
Anthony Davis 19.5 17.3 68.6
Darius Miller 19.4 19.9 60.6
Kyle Wiltjer 22.5 26.2 35.9

So, UK's seven main contributors are all used roughly one-fifth of the time when they're on the floor. Last time I checked, basketball teams play five players at a time, so that means opportunities are being split almost exactly evenly. It's interesting to note that Kyle Wiltjer actually sees the most opportunities of any player on the team when he does play. Wiltjer, though, plays just over a third of the minutes, while the other six are playing at least 60 percent of the time.

By comparison, Jones and Brandon Knight got the lion's share of the offensive opportunities on last year's team. Both were used on at least 26 percent of the possessions they played and both had a percentage of shots taken of over 26. Two seasons ago, DeMarcus Cousins was used on over 30 percent of UK's possessions, while John Wall was used at a rate of 27.3 percent.

This all goes to prove two things, other than the overall balance of this year's time. First of all, it shows how different of a team this one is. Second, it proves how willing Calipari is to tweak his offensive style to fit his personnel. To further prove that second point, this is the first season Calipari hasn't had at least one player with a usage rate of at least 24.7 percent since Pomeroy began tracking individual statistics in 2005.

Here are a few other observations from Pomeroy's individual statistics:

  • UK has four guys who are playing at an incredibly high rate of offensive efficiency. Lamb, Davis, Miller and Jones all sport individual offensive ratings of over 117 (with 100 as a rough baseline), which places them all in the top 300 nationally. Lamb leads the way at 133.0, which is in the top 40 among all Division I players playing at least 40 percent of their teams minutes. He was very efficient a season ago at 121.2, but he has cut down on his turnovers, increased his assist rate and is getting to the foul line more often. Miller could potentially raise his efficiency to Lamb's level if he begins to shoot the ball as he's capable of doing. He has improved in nearly every offensive category (two-point percentage, assist rate and turnover rate), but is hitting just 26.1 percent of his 3-pointers after shooting 44.3 percent on 3's a year ago.
  • Calipari is definitely right about one thing: Terrence Jones is a better player. He may not be playing as many minutes or getting as many touches, but his offensive rating is up from 104.6 to 117.3 and he's shooting better from inside the arc, outside the arc and from the foul line.
  • The Cats are a much more dangerous defensive team than a year ago. DeAndre Liggins led last year's team with a steal percentage of 2.3, which didn't even rank him among the nation's best 500. This year, five players have a steal rate of at least 2.3 percent, with Teague and Kidd-Gilchrist leading the way at 3.2 percent and 3.1 percent. UK is also an improved shot blocking team with both Davis and Jones ranking in the top 90 nationally in block rate.


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