Imagine that Rick Pitino's plan to replace point guard Peyton Siva was to clone Russ Smith and put the clone in the backcourt with the one and only Russdiculous.
If Louisville incoming point guard Chris Jones is the same guy he was during his two years at Northwest Florida State College, that's what the Cardinals are getting. Jones averaged 21.8 points and got up 16.6 shots in only 23.2 minutes per game last season—a chucking rate that even makes Smith envious.
Terry Rozier, the other candidate to replace Siva, is also a shoot-first point guard.
Pitino already has a guard in Smith who has been given the freedom to mostly disregard shot selection. He doesn't need another. The challenge is to mold his new point guards more in the model of Siva.
Siva was as happy creating for his teammates as he was himself. He averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 assists last season.
Siva and Smith were at their best when they played the game down hill and attacked the paint. Siva shot 61 percent at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com, and below 31 percent everywhere else.
If there's reason to believe that Louisville's offense can improve with Jones and Rozier in the place of Siva, it's the fact that both guards are better outside shooters.
How Jones Can Improve Louisville's Offense
It's no secret that Siva always struggled from beyond the arc at Louisville. In his final three years, he shot below 30 percent all three seasons. Last year, he had his most attempts (132), but he still only shot 28.8 percent.
Jones was not incredibly accurate as a sophomore at Northwest Florida State, shooting 32.1 percent from deep, but the types of shots he was taking could have factored into the low percentage.
Obviously, Jones was the first option in the offense and had a great light. He attempted seven threes per game. That's not likely to continue at Louisville.
What the Cardinals need on the offensive end is to figure out a way to keep their efficiency up. Louisville has led the nation in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency the last two seasons, meaning Pitino has had the best defense in the country on a per possession basis. Enough of the core returns that it's a safe bet Louisville will continue to be a dominant team defensively.
The Cardinals went from a good team to a title-worthy team by fixing their offense. Louisville went from 103rd in adjusted offensive efficiency in 2011-12 to fifth in 2012-13.
How can Jones and Rozier keep those efficiency numbers up?
The threat of the two point guards from deep could actually help give Louisville's big men room to operate. The way to guard the Cardinals the last two years was to sag off Siva and Smith—hoping Smith didn't get hot.
Eventually, however, more threats emerged. For one, the Cardinals became harder to guard because of the shooting of Luke Hancock, an improvement over Kyle Kuric—who filled the role of the team's best three-point threat the year before.
Kuric made just 32.9 percent of his threes in 2011-12, and Hancock made 39.9 percent in 2012-13. It might be a leap to say that it helped Louisville's interior shooting, but it's plausible. The Cardinals improved by 3.6 percent inside the arc.
The other noticeable improvements were cutting down on turnovers and getting to the free throw line more often. Those were both areas where Smith improved, and Siva was able to cut down on his turnovers.
|Turnover %||FT Rate|
All advanced stats used in the chart come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
Getting to the free-throw line often was something that Jones did well in junior college. He attempted 9.1 free throws per game last season.
As for turnovers, that's an area where he could improve. He averaged 2.9 per game with 4.2 assists.
The major question mark going into the upcoming year will be how Jones and Rozier adapt as point guards looking to create for their teammates as much they look to create for themselves.
If Jones and Rozier as a duo can get their assist numbers up similar to Siva's, keep their turnovers down and be a threat from distance, Louisville's offense will be in good shape. That's a lot to ask of two new point guards, but that's what it will take for the Cardinals to be in contention to repeat.
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