We kick off (or tip off, I suppose) our list with a trip to Bill Self’s first season at the helm. Keith Langford’s junior season was truly his breakout year. As a freshman, he was a sparkplug off the bench for the 2002 Final Four team, and was a solid third banana behind Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich on the 2003 runner up team. But 2004 belonged to him and Wayne Simien.
Why he is this high
Langford’s offensive rating and 2-point percentage took a bit of a dip as a junior, but he took 30 more 3-pointers and got to the line a lot more that season. It was also interestingly maybe the most passing a KU wing has done under Bill Self, with Langford amassing a 21.9 percent assist rate. He ended up 6th in the Big 12 in points, 8th in free throw attempts, and 20th in steals as well as 10th in assists per game. Langford has turned himself into one of the best guards in Europe as both a scorer and passer, but the seeds for that were planted at Kansas. It’s ironic that Self’s first wing was maybe his best passing wing given Self has not opted to use his wings as a passer:
|Top KU Wing Assist Rates Under Bill Self|
For the above table I took everyone’s best passing season as a wing (a couple notes: Wayne Selden had a higher assist rate as a sophomore, but he was more of a two guard then. I also omitted Josh Jackson from the list because he played most of his minutes at the four spot). As you can see, Langford has two seasons as a better passer than any other KU wing. It is fair to say that in 2004 Langford functioned essentially as a two guard, he played a lot more wing in 2005. I also think it is impressive he was able to (relatively) rack up the assists playing next to Aaron Miles, who was 14th nationally in assist rate in 2004 and 13th in 2003. None of the other wings on this list played next to a passer ranked remotely that high.
Why he isn’t higher
Without spoiling anyone coming up, Langford very well could have switched spots with #29 on the list (I will be saying that quite often coming up), and in another era maybe he turns himself into a high volume 3-point shooter and adds some more value that way (he shot 35.8 percent from three as a junior, but remember that is with the shorter line). He also was a bit overrated as a defender, as long athletes tend to be. All of that is mostly nitpicking though, as one has to do when trying to find the best 30 seasons under Bill Self.