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538, Bill Self, and 3s

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Let's get a few things straightened out around here.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, FiveThirtyEight.com, which went from probably the best political site around to a mediocre sports site in a nanosecond (featuring such gems as thinking Sudbury and Thunder Bay, Ontario were part of the same NHL market when they are a 12 hour drive away from each otherthinking a struggling Brazilian soccer team had a 45 percent chance to win the World Cup just because they were at home (You'll remember they were just edged out of the semis by Germany), and whether or not data can tell you whether a burrito is any good.)

Kansas fans will no doubt know the site for its claim that Andrew Wiggins is the next James Posey, nevermind the fact that Andrew Wiggins turned 21 yesterday and is already a legitimate NBA defender, is trapped with a horrible coach, and had a rookie season comparable to some guy named Kevin Durant.

Now 538 is back to talk about Bill Self and 3-pointers. Some of it is good, like the astute pointing out that 3 is greater than 2 (I jest but it is mathematically true that shooting a lot of 3s is beneficial for all sorts of reasons that I have been over before, but that's not the point of the article.)

I will skip the first part of the article, because it is mostly banal to Kansas fans stuff about how Self's offense is designed to get the ball as close to the hoop as possible, etc.

It's also true that Self's teams have been pretty steady in the number of threes they take, usually hovering a bit below 30 percent of their total field goal attempts.

The piece starts to go off the rails shortly thereafter. Right after running a quote that Bill Self doesn't adjust to his players, the piece notes that this year Kansas is attempting more threes than ever before. Sounds like Self has noticed that his team can shoot threes well and has adjusted to it. In truth, Kansas could probably attempt even more of them considering Perry Ellis is the team's only real threat down low, but that's a fight for another day.

Secondly, the piece accurately points out that the high low was a pretty damn good idea when Kansas had guys like the Morri, Cole Aldrich, Thomas Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Julian Wright, etc. When you have a stable of big men like that of course you're going to feed it to them as often as possible. Sounds like adjusting to his players to me.

Lastly on that point, I'd say Self does a good job at getting 3 point looks for his best shooters. Let's take a brief year by year look:

2004

The team didn't take many threes, but the only shooter they had was JR Giddens, who attempted 182 threes. Keith Langford, much more a slasher, took 102. I'm not sure anyone wanted to see Wayne Simien (sorry Wayne) or AaronMiles take a ton of threes.

2005

Again, Giddens was really the only shooter on the team, and he took 187 threes. Langford took 88, and Aaron Miles took 80. I guess you could argue he should have taken more given that he made half of them, but that's probably a sample size thing. The other players to get regular playing time were Wayne Simien, Christian Moody, Sasha Kaun, Russ Robinson, and Michael Lee. Other than Lee, not exactly a bunch of long range bombers.

2006

Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and Jeff Hawkins all took over 100 threes, and Hawkins did it despite playing under 20 minutes per game. He shot 41 percent, so clearly Self was OK with him shooting. The other players who got a lot of playing time were Robinson, Julian Wright, CJ Giles, and Sasha Kaun. Again, not really a bunch of shooters.

2007

Rush, Chalmers, and Sherron Collins all take over 100 threes, with Collins doing so as a freshman off the bench who played barely 20 minutes per game. Russell Robinson even took 78 threes. Collins and Chalmers each took over 42 percent of their shots from three. But clearly Kansas didn't let Darrell Arthur, Julian Wright, Sasha Kaun, and Darnell Jackson take enough threes.

2008

The best champion of the KenPom era can do whatever the hell it wants on offense.

2009

Sherron Collins became the first Jayhawk under Bill Self to shoot 200 threes, and both of the two headed Tyrel Reed-Brady Morningstar combo attempted over 100. Both of those two took more threes than twos, and Collins took about 40 percent of his shots from deep. The real culprit was Cole Aldrich taking 333 shots from two and 0 from three. Clearly a problem that sank the offense even though he shot 60 percent from two.

2010

I think we are getting the point by now, but Collins and Xavier Henry took over 100 threes, and Tyrel Reed put up 93 of them despite playing in just 39 percent of the team's minutes. I guess Bill Self should be criticized for playing Xavier Henry and the Morris twins over Morningstar and Reed, nevermind the fact Kansas finished the year ranked 2nd in offense.

2016

We'll skip ahead to this year since the pattern repeats itself: guys who shoot threes well take a bunch of them, guys who don't dont. This year Selden and Graham have attempted 100, Mason will get there, and the only thing keeping Svi and Greene from getting there is playing time. About the only possible criticism is Perry Ellis taking just 50 of them despite shooting 48 percent, but Kansas has done a better job lately of getting him the ball in spots where he can take an open three.

So while the overall numbers aren't great, Self has generally done a pretty good job of getting good looks for his good three point shooters. It's just that, duh, when you have all american big men you're going to throw the ball down low to your all american big men.

Here are the dumbest two paragraphs in the piece, though:

According to Synergy Sports, Kansas ranks fourth nationally with 1.25 points scored per possession on those that end with a 3-point attempt, the most ever for a Self team. The D-I leader, though, is Oklahoma (1.27), and therein lies the rub. Fans would like Kansas to resemble the Sooners, to lighten the rigidity of the offense and give the players more freedom. Buddy Hield is a delight to watch, a guard seemingly without conscience whose game, which includes his ability to shake free a defender to not only attempt but make threes, is Curry-esque. But picture Hield in a Jayhawk jersey (it could have happened) and there is no way the senior guard would have attempted 224 threes by late February. He would likely be a different type of player — still great, but not this transcendent from the perimeter.

Sure, Hield might not have gotten to attempt 224 threes and might not have made 48.7 percent of them, but part of that is who he would be getting to play with. I also doubt many fans would like Kansas to resemble the Sooners considering 1. Kansas has a better record and 2. Kansas is scoring 1.12 points per trip in league play compared to the 1.10 points per trip by Oklahoma.

In fact, Kansas usually outscores the guys who everyone thinks they should be like. Everyone wanted Bill Self to be like Fred Hoiberg a few years ago, but Kansas had a better in conference offense than ISU in 3 of Hoiberg's 5 years. Sure some of that comes down to Kansas having future NBA players on the roster year after year, but I would argue Self should get some credit for identifying who his best talent is and giving them the ball.

Lastly:

Players notice. Conner Frankamp was a talented shooter who, after playing one season at Kansas, abruptly chose to transfer to Wichita State. Mitchell Ballock, one of the best long-range marksmen in the 2017 class, recently spurned a Kansas offer and committed to Creighton, saying, "At the end of the day, I was looking for the best situation for me that would let me excel as a player. I just really believe Creighton gives me the best opportunity to do that."

First off, I don't really want to go after anyone's character but Conner Frankamp transferred because he wouldn't be promised playing time over guys who are better than him, had a nightmare of a dad, and also probably wouldn't have been on the team much longer after this. Frankamp is also barely playing for Wichita State and shooting 34 percent in the Missouri Valley, so I find any claims that he could get his shot off and in general play in the Big 12 dubious at best.

Which brings me to Ballock, who I am sure is a nice kid but also is a borderline power 5 athlete, so I don't blame him for wanting to go to Creighton and play against Big East competition and also in a place where he can get a bunch of shots up. I'm also going to second guess how much of a priority he was on the recruiting trail.

Sure there are games where Kansas should take more threes. Shooting open threes is better than driving into a mass of bodies and/or turning it over. But in general Kansas has had guys shoot threes when they've been good enough to shoot threes. You could argue maybe Kansas should recruit more shooters than big men, but if he does that then Bill Self isn't the best (or at least one of the best 2 or 3) defensive coach in basketball anymore either. I guess the final point is: Threes are good, but Bill Self is also good.