Kansas Basketball: Non Conference Player Grades

With the non-conference season over, it's time to briefly take a look at your 2012 Jayhawks and how they performed in the conference season. After the jump I graded each player's performance through the first 13 games of the season relative to the expectations I had for them coming into the year.

A longer explanation: these grades aren't on an absolute scale (which of course leaves more room to discuss them) but instead are based on my and Jayhawk nation's general expectations for them heading into the year. So in order for Thomas Robinson to get an A+ he would have had to be basically the player of the year, whereas Teahan just would need to knock down some big threes and play some sort of passable defense and otherwise all-around offense.

Tyshawn Taylor: A-

Tyshawn has struggled a bit with the turnovers, as we have come to expect from him, but his 26% turnover rate is lower than it was last year, when the turnovers really killed us. This year due to the lack of go to options on offense Tyshawn has been forced to play more recklessly and it has resulted in some more turnovers. He's actually taken care of the ball quite a bit better than he did last year, and has a higher assist rate, despite no Morris twins, to boot: His 31.7% turnover rate ranks 70th in the country.

Shooting wise Tyshawn has been quite a bit worse than last year: he's shooting only 41% from two, by far the worst mark of his career. Though he is shooting a percent or two worse than his career average from the line, he's getting there are a much better rate: he's drawing almost 7 fouls per 40 minutes and has the 70th best free throw rate in the country.

He's only shot 28 of them, but he's shooting 50% from three and is perhaps the team's best three point threat. He's also played very good perimeter defense (and on one knee), and has been exactly what the Jayhawks have asked of him. He could due to cut down on the turnovers and crazy shots a bit, but he probably wouldn't be the best fit for this team if he did.

Thomas Robinson: A+

Let's start with the bad: Defensively Robinson has looked lost at times, but it's most likely either an effort to conserve energy or stay out of foul trouble. He's committing nearly 4 fouls per 40 minutes on the season, but has done a lot better job with staying away from cheap fouls as of late.

He has been, as I expected, an elite defensive rebounder, with a 32.1% defensive rebounding rate which ranks 2nd in the nation. He also has a 4.2% block rate, which ranks second on the team.

Fun fact: when I first wrote this post it was pre-the Howard and UND games and I said "I doubt anything anyone could do would change my opinion of their performance that much." Then Robinson had a 30 and 20 game. I had him at an A-, but after that, and more so this tweet, I raised it to an A+. Who am I to disagree with The Godfather?

Elijah Johnson: B

Offensively Johnson has been a mixed bag: he is shooting 30.5% from three, but seems like he only has the ability to shoot 5-7 or 2-10 from behind the arc. He has raised his assist rate from 20.3% last year to 22.4% this year, and it has really come on strong in the past couple games. The most disappointing thing about Johnson offensively though has been his inability (or moreso his unwillingness) to attack the basket: he has drawn fewer than 2 fouls per 40 minutes, and has attempted only 11 free throws all season.

What saves his grade is his defense: after being one of the weakest guards in the entire conference last year, Johnson has improved steadily this season. He's not a defensive stopper, but has been both solid and opportunistic: his 2.7% steal rate is tied for the team lead amongst regulars.

Conner Teahan: C

I didn't expect much from Tehan, and despite my misgivings about him every time I watch him play, his statistical profile isn't too bad: his eFG is a very nice 59.6% and his turnover rate is only 15.8%, which is high for a guy who handles it as little as he does, but I think I am more influenced by how bad he looks. Given that I try to be Mr. Stats that's something that probably shouldn't happen, but he just looks so bad out there. He is shooting 40% from three, but went 2-5 against Kentucky, 1-5 against Georgetown, 0-1 against Duke, and 1-5 against Ohio State. Plus I'd wager (and I don't have a way of confirming this without spending way more time than I'm willing but I'd wager he made a lot of threes in the waning minutes of blowouts). Add in the admittedly valiant but decidedly awful defense and Teahan, even at just over 20 mpg, is getting more playing time than he should.

Travis Releford: B

Releford seems to rotate between struggling offensively and playing better than expected offensively. Releford is shooting 30% from three but has shown a good ability to get to the rim, shooting about 64% in limited shots. If he was a better free throw shooter he'd be even more of a weapon offensively, but having someone to attack the rim and play well in the open floor is nice nonetheless.

But where Releford excels is defensively. Just re-watch him play against William Buford to see how good he can be on defense. The true tests will come when he matches up against (presumably) Kim English and whichever lanky Baylor forward (I think they have roughly 10 million of them) Self throws him on.

Jeff Withey: A+

An A for Withey? Yes, an A for Withey. Coming into the year I expected him to basically stand there and hopefully rebound and block a few shots. Fast forward and Withey has a 57.1% eFG, has a 52.4 FT Rate which is 2nd best on the team, and is making 85% of his free throws. Even most impressively he has a 21.8% defensive rebounding rate and his block percentage of 14.3% is 8th best in the country. He's been a bit confused on defense at times, but him playing a lot is critical to Kansas winning an 8th straight Big 12 title.

Kevin Young: A

Admittedly these next few are going to be tough to do because of the lack of playing time, but Young has a 66.1% eFG, 16.7% and 21.6% rebounding rates, and has shown off tremendous athleticism. His defense is suspect at best but with our inability to score at times I'm not sure why he's not getting more minutes.

Justin Wesley: B-

Wesley has been a solid third big man, and rebounds on offense fairly well thanks to his motor, but doesn't really do too much other than that.

Naadir Tharpe: Incomplete

I almost gave him an F because I have to look up how to spell his name every time, but Tharpe's story will be written in the next three years. He has all the physical tools to be come a very good Big 12 point guard, but part of me wonders if Anrio Adams, Conner Frankamp and possibly a Keith Frazier or a yet unknown guard will eat into his minutes in the next couple years. He likely will get a year to run the team to try to establish himself as the guy however.

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