More than any year I can remember in recent history, there is quite a bit of uncertainty as to who is going to lead Kansas in scoring. Thankfully, it is because there are too many plausible candidates rather than too few. It’s just that Perry Ellis was the hands down favorite the last two years, Andrew Wiggins happened the year before that, Ben McLemore the year before that, Thomas Robinson, Marcus Morris, Sherron Collins, etc etc. Of those, only McLemore entered the year with any question whatsoever over who would be the leading scorer.
This year, however, there are four guys who could certainly lead the team in scoring without a surprise, and a couple darkhorse candidates.
Kansas loves to get the ball inside as much or more than any team in the country, and Lucas certainly stands to benefit from that this year. He improved tremendously on offense towards the end of last season, and finished shooting 74 percent at the rim, behind just Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene. Still, Lucas is more of a defender and rebounder, and probably won’t get the post touches to allow him to lead the team in scoring, but an uptick to 8ish points per game looks possible.
Svi has been the go to guy on all of the Ukrainian national teams he has played on (except when he made the World Championship team back in 2014), but that really isn’t his game. I see him as more of a versatile ball handler who can play the pick and roll incredibly well, be a good perimeter defender, and add some outside shooting. He should have a couple games where he goes nuts, but mostly he’s going to be a guy who fills in the gaps of what his teammates can’t do.
I will say more when I rank him, but I am starting the Vick bandwagon. He’s probably the best athlete on the team, looks like he can be a great on ball defender, and looks like he can be a versatile scorer. He was mostly a jump shooter in mop up time last year, but in the World University Games only 7 of his 31 field goal attempts were threes. Vick shot over 50 percent in both the WUG and last season, and although the sample size is incredibly small, it looks like Vick will at least be good enough to open up his driving ability. I don’t think he will lead the team in scoring this year, but he will have a chance next year.
Self loves Mason to the point of playing him late in blowouts, and Mason loves to shoot. Among returners, Mason took the most shots last season with 357. He could stand to be more efficient, shooting under 45 percent on twos in conference play, but he shot 38 percent from three for the season. You don’t necessarily need to be efficient to lead a team in scoring, but with the talent around him, I think (or hope) Mason will pass up some low percentage shots in order to get his guys better looks, which will make him a better player but not the leading scorer.
The last two highly touted wing players to come into KU set school records for scoring as a freshman, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Jackson could at least lead the team in scoring. However, whereas Ben McLemore had to compete with basically Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey for touches (how the hell was that team a 1 seed) and Andrew Wiggins competed with Naadir Tharpe, Joel Embiid, and a freshman Wayne Selden, Jackson will have a loaded offensive team to compete with for touches. Jackson also isn’t a great outside shooter, and I don’t think he will even match Andrew Wiggins’ 34 percent from three for the season, or his 36 percent in conference play. Self’s wings have to be able to shoot threes at least a little bit (see Henry, Releford, Wiggins, McLemore, Selden, etc), and it remains to be seen whether Jackson will get the amount of touches to lead the team in scoring.
Graham exploded onto the scene last season, leading the Big 12 in effective field goal percentage, shooting 53 percent on twos and 46 percent from deep. Graham was also the Big 12 tournament MVP, scoring 27 in the title game. Because of his ability to shoot from three and willingness to take deep ones, Graham will probably have more supernova games than anyone else on the roster. However, because of his defensive responsibilities, I think he will have too many games where he scores fewer than 10 points to lead the team in scoring.
The more I look at it, the more this is an obvious pick to me. For starters, Kansas gives more post touches, and elbow touches, to its 4 man than anyone in the country. Darrell Arthur took 100 more twos than anyone else on the 2008 team despite playing just 60 percent of the team’s minutes, and took more twos than anyone other than Julian Wright despite playing under 20 minutes per game. Marcus and Markeiff Morris led the team in shots in 2011, Thomas Robinson took a ton in 2012, Perry Ellis dominated the shots attempted the last two seasons, etc.
Secondly, Bragg is freaking good. Beyond looking great at Late Night, he shot 55 percent on twos and made 4 of his 7 threes last year. He obviously can shoot a jumper, but can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and showed some promising post up skills (which should improve over the course of the year). Bragg also showed a willingness to shoot the ball as the season went on, and he finished with similar shot attempt percentages to Perry Ellis (24.3 percent usage rate to 22.6 and 27.3 percent shots taken to 23.5). Normally I would say his incredibly poor defense last year would maybe keep him off the floor enough to not let him lead the team in scoring, but I expect that to improve and also don’t see Kansas having the type of depth that would allow him to sit anyway. With increased confidence and a bigger role in the offense, I think Bragg will lead the team in scoring.