Last week, we took a look at the “bottom” 4 guys in the KU rotation (although with two McDonalds All-Americans can it really be called that?), and now we press on to the middle four. In this group we have the lone senior and a couple guys I originally had as high as 4 in this. A reminder of the methodology:
A quick reminder of my perhaps haphazard methodology: this is how I think all of the scholarship players rank against each other, not a ranking of how I think Bill Self ranks them. That said, playing time is obviously taken into account somewhat. If I think David McCormack (just for example’s sake) is the best player on the team this year, it doesn’t do me much good to rank him 1st if I think he’s going to play fewer than 10 minutes per game. Get it? If you have questions, comment or tweet @rockchalktalk or @moops.
Alright, let’s do it.
8. Lagerald Vick (6-5 senior guard)
I remarked on the summer basketball podcast that Vick is probably the perfect player for this roster. He’s terribly inconsistent (13 games with an offensive rating of 130 or higher, but 11 with an offensive rating under 90), but while his lows are quite low, at his peak he’s certainly Big 12 starter quality. With the Jayhawks’ depth, Bill Self can sit Vick when he doesn’t have it that night, but can give him 30 minutes (and even make him a focal point) when he does.
Vick comes into the year as the most proven shooter on the roster. He’s a 38 percent shooter from three for his career, which leads me to believe he might get more playing time than a lot of fans would think (or, given where I have him ranked, than I would think). He’s also probably the best athlete on the roster, but the problem is that hasn’t translated on the defensive end. Vick has poor off ball awareness, and his on ball work isn’t much better.
Kansas has better defensive options on the wing, and while the Jayhawks will need shooting, I think Vick’s lack of defense will keep him to a backup role this year.
7. Marcus Garrett (6-5 sophomore guard)
Garrett received plaudits last year for being KU’s +/- darling, appearing on the Jayhawks’ top four 3-man lineups. A big reason for that was his defense, as he led the team in steal rate. Still, I think there’s areas in which he can improve on that end.
He too often left his man open to go freelance and try to come up with steals, which is great when it works, but no so great when it leads to a wide open three. However, that could be attributable to one of two things: inexperience, or scheme. The inexperience is self explanatory, but scheme wise Kansas has long been a team that overhelped off their man on the perimeter in order to stop a driver from getting an easy lane to the basket. Given how much more often teams are attempting threes now, I hope that stops, but either way it’s probably tough to fault Garrett too much for it.
One area of his defense that I think is underrated is his rebounding. His defensive rebounding rate was 2nd among KU guards, but more importantly is his willingness to ensure his man doesn’t get the offensive rebound, such as in this clip from KU’s loss to Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse:
You can see he needs to add some strength, but added Marcus Garrett minutes should help KU improve from dead last in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding, and he should improve the defense overall.
Offensively, Garrett certainly does some good things. He was the backcourt’s best offensive rebounder, shot over 50 percent on twos, and didn’t turn it over as much as you’d expect a freshman to. But the overriding factor to all of this is his inability to shoot. He shot just 27 percent from three, and under 50 percent from the line (which is a big deal considering a lot of his attempts are close to the basket).
This hurts in a couple ways. Most notably, the fact that defenses plainly don’t have to respect him means it’s easier to sag into the lane or to double team. With Kansas likely taking fewer threes this year, that’s going to be an even bigger deal. Secondly, it means Garrett is a very risky play at the end of game when Kansas needs to make free throws to hold the lead.
That might limit his playing time but I do think that his defense combined with his versatility will make him a big part of the rotation, and if he can get his three point shooting up to even 33 percent or so, he will be a weapon offensively as well as defensively.
6. KJ Lawson (6-8 Sophomore guard)
The less heralded Lawson brother, KJ could step in and be the team’s best defender immediately. At 6-8 and with a 7+ feet wingspan, Lawson has the size to handle bigger offensive players, but the speed to stay with guards on the perimeter.
Offensively, Lawson didn’t have great numbers at Memphis, shooting 42 percent on twos and 33 percent from three as a sophomore. However, the offense was basically KJ and his brother Dedric, so with some more talent around him I expect KJ’s usage to go down and his efficiency to go up.
I’m also hesitant to put much stock into a late night scrimmage, but I have to admit I was impressed with how smooth and repeatable his jump shot looked in said scrimmage. I would not be surprised to see him shoot in the high 30 percent from three range.
5. Charlie Moore (5-11 sophomore guard)
Moore was the third best guard in the Pac 12 as a freshman, which is pretty good considering the top two were Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, the top 2 picks in the NBA draft. Moore shot just 40 percent from two, which obviously isn’t great, but he had to take a lot of tough shots for a bad Cal team. He shot a fair 35 percent from three, but what really has me excited is the 27.4 percent assist rate (and 31.5 percent in league play, good for 2nd in the Pac 12).
Although Moore took a ton of shots at Cal, I think his best role is as a pass first guard, which is something Kansas hasn’t had in awhile. (Although I will admit if you take a look at his highlights, he definitely looks like a guy who can score.) With all of the talent inside, a guy who can set up easy looks is going to be a huge boost for the offense.
Defense might be a bit of a problem for Moore just due to his size, but I am bullish on the fact that a redshirt year gave him a chance to work on his strength, and going against Devonte Graham day in and day out in practice hopefully taught him a thing or two about how to play defense.
Even if he struggles on defense, however, I think his ability to get guys like Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike the ball in good spots, and the importance of doing so, means he should be ranked this high.