Kentucky Basketball: How Coach Cal Can Maximize Julius Randle's Scoring Ability
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The recruiting efforts of John Calipari, particularly this year, should send a message to prospects: If you're a numbers chaser, go elsewhere.
When you consider that Kentucky has six McDonald's All-Americans coming in and two other NBA prospects already on campus, it's hard to envision that anyone is going to have a monster statistical season.
But the one guy who has a chance would be Julius Randle, who is the consensus No. 2 prospect in the class behind Andrew Wiggins. How much Randle blows up could be up to Calipari and Randle's own awareness of his best attributes.
Looking back at the last six seasons of Calipari teams—that's the time frame he's dominated recruiting and had top NBA prospects—he has built his offenses one of two ways.
In the first, Calipari encourages his team to spread the wealth, like in 2011-12 when no one averaged more than 15 points per game.
In the other system, Calipari rides two superior talents (Examples: Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones in 2010-11, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in his first season at UK and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose in 2007-08 at Memphis).
The best Calipari-coached player comparison for Randle would be Jones. Both are lefties who can handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter and prefer facing up and attacking. Jones also would be a good case study for Randle to figure out how to get the best results for his team and himself.
At first glance, Jones had a better individual season his freshman year than his sophomore season.
The big difference between the two years was opportunity. As a freshman, Jones and Knight shared the role of go-to scorer as Calipari built his offense around the two. Jones used a team-high 27.9 percent of UK's possessions as a freshman, compared to using only 22.5 percent of possessions as a sophomore.
At closer examination, Jones was more effective and efficient as a sophomore.
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Some of that had to do with the fact that defenses could not key on one player because Kentucky was so balanced. That balance turned into a national championship, a trade off Jones was surely fine with.
The other reason Jones was more efficient as a scorer was he got to the basket more and settled for fewer jumpers.
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This is often the curse of a player with such a diverse skill set like Jones and Randle. They want to show off everything they can do.
Randle should realize, as Jones surely did, that he can overpower most college players, and if that's the case he should take advantage.
That is what Calipari wants. His offense is structured toward a pro-style approach of exploiting mismatches.
The best way to do this for a player like Randle is to isolate him one-on-one with space to attack.
One reason Kentucky's offense was not as strong last season was Calipari did not have great offensive talents to ride. In the interior, his most skilled player was Kyle Wiltjer, who could shoot from the perimeter or drive but lacked the quickness of Randle or Jones.
Kentucky did have some of its best offensive stretches when Wiltjer was set up to score. In this clip, Calipari empties one side of the floor for Wiltjer with a simple pick-and-pop play.
Calipari's best offenses have had attacking guards like Rose or Wall, and their penetration often forces the defense to move and provides prime offensive-rebounding opportunities.
The other former player Randle would be well-served to study is Cousins.
Cousins had a larger role in UK's offense—he used 31.3 percent of the team's possessions—than any other post player coached by Calipari in recent memory.
Part of that was UK force-fed Cousins the ball on the blocks as much as possible, but Cousins also helped himself by dominating the offensive glass. He grabbed 19.6 percent of his team's misses, the second-best offensive-rebounding percentage that year in the country.
Randle, like Cousins, has the size, instincts and motor to also be a great offensive rebounder, and that's a good way to add even more value to UK's offense.
The end goal for Randle this season should be to win a national championship and put himself in position to be a high draft pick. These days, thanks to an emphasis on advanced statistics, scouts are looking more at how efficient players are rather than just their scoring numbers.
With so many weapons on the Wildcats, Randle is in an offense where he can put up great efficiency numbers. He simply has to be willing to hit the offensive glass hard and attack the rim. If he's doing those things, Calipari will make sure his guards give Randle the touches he deserves.
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
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