The Jayhawks have struggled on offense lately (the Oklahoma State game excepted), posting under a point per possession in three of their last six games. As a result, they've dropped to 18th in the Pomeroy Ratings, which is a bit of a danger zone: only two teams have won the title ranked outside the top 10 since 2003, and no one has been worse than 2011 UConn's 16th. It's a bit of arbitrary endpoint nonsense, but the fact remains that an elite offense is almost a necessity to win a championship.
Kansas has had a lot of problems offensively, but a big one has been the point guard play: Elijah Johnson does have a very nice 29% assist rate, but he's coupled that with a 28.2% turnover rate. Naadir Tharpe is at 26% and 20.9%, but as a result of taking (and missing) too many twos, his offensive rating is barely over 100. However, Johnson is playing about 31 minutes per game, while Tharpe is under 18.
For his part, Bill Self is saying that Johnson is his guy, and a healthy Johnson is probably the best idea. Him playing better is a huge part of Kansas's success, especially since he is the biggest part of the offense: His usage rate is a tick lower than McLemore's, but McLemore relies on assists for about half of his jumpers and over two thirds of his attempts at the rim, while Johnson's percentages are 13% and 55% respectively. Further, there is the issue that in the pick and roll, Johnson is the one running the play twice as much as McLemore is. Granted, a lot of those plays are designed to get McLemore an open shot, but with Johnson playing so poorly why not cut out the middle man and just have McLemore run the pick and roll so we don't have to worry about a Johnson turnover? Not so fast:
Why isn't Ben McLemore using more pick and roll or isolation possessions? He's generated just 48 points on those 62 possessions or .774 PPP.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 4, 2013
McLemore isn't a great ballhandler or creator yet, and so he's best served being used as a Rodney McGruder type, running off screens and getting open for threes or jumpers, or being isolated so he can drive one on one to the rim. If a player other than Johnson or Tharpe is going to be the one getting screened, it should probably be Releford: his assist rate is the third highest on the team, and he can shoot the three (44%), two point jumper (50%) and at the rim (77%).
At a later date, we'll look at the pace of the offense and whether or not the team is playing too fast (or too slow), but for now the lesson seems fairly clear: Elijah Johnson is really important to the 2013 Kansas Jayhawks, and could be the difference between another Final Four run or a second round flameout.