Kentucky Basketball: One Area of Improvement for Each Wildcats Star

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 04:  Archie Goodwin #10 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the game against the Samford Bulldogs at Rupp Arena on December 4, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 88-56.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky's struggles to start the season aren't necessarily surprising. When you separate this squad from last year's success and the program's storied past, you realize how young and inexperienced this group really is.

But don't expect the slow start to continue. This team has the talent to win games, even if it does lack the small things that make a good team great.

If improvements are going to happen, it rests on the shoulders of a few key players. Kentucky's stars are all playing well overall, but they can all make improvements that will better themselves and the team in general.

Let's break down one improvement that each Kentucky star can make in his game.

Nerlens Noel's Free-Throw Shooting

Noel isn't nearly as bad on offense as many made him out to be entering college, but he really struggles from the free-throw line.

He's 20-of-37 from the stripe on the season, good enough for 54 percent overall. Some of that can be expected from a young player, or a big man, and especially a younger big man, but it's still something he must work on as the year goes along.

Noel has done a great job of finding space for himself in the paint, but teams will start hacking him if they feel like he's a non-threat at the line. He has to get that percentage, at least, above 60 percent if he wants to make significant strides as an offensive talent this season.

Because of Noel's athleticism and better-than-expected feel for the game, I believe he can get better here. No one will ever mistake him for Jeff Hornacek, but he can make himself a better all-around player by upping his efficiency in this area.

Archie Goodwin's Turnovers

Goodwin is a combo guard who fits better as a shooting guard, but he's been forced to play at the point sometimes this season.

Unless he improves on his ball security, that's not a good idea for John Calipari moving forward.

Goodwin is averaging 33.1 minutes per game, and he's turning the ball over 3.2 times during that span. He's a young guard, who is being asked to do a lot, so it's not hard to understand, but he must work on this if he's going to continue bearing a lot of the team's responsibility.

He's always going to play with a score-first mentality, and that's what the team needs him to do right now, but that doesn't mean he needs to play with reckless abandon. He still has to facilitate to a point, and turnovers aren't helping that process along.

Goodwin has worlds of potential. This problem should go away as he gains experience, but it's an issue right now with SEC play approaching.

Alex Poythress' Consistency

This isn't even something that you can see in a box score, but Poythress tends to disappear at times.

If there's one player on this roster who screams NBA to me, it's this guy. He plays with an attitude, plays hard on both ends of the floor and possesses freaky amounts of athleticism. He must work on his jumper, but his upside is considerable.

When he wants too, there's nothing that he cannot do. But, he tends to check out of the game at times.

Poythress made a tremendous impression on me versus Duke earlier in the season:

He threw down a handful of thunderous dunks and played a great game overall. In other games though, I have found myself wondering where this guy is at times.

Because of this, he reminds me of Terrence Jones in every good and bad way. Until he finds consistency, a portion of his frightening ability will go to waste.

Either way though, he's definitely fun to watch.

Kyle Wiltjer's Ability to Create Space

Wiltjer has done a fine job as the team's sole semblance of veteran leadership, but he still struggles in one slightly predictable way.

He can't create his own shot. He works well off screens or when setting them himself, but his lack of athleticism makes it very difficult for him to shake a defender when he has the ball in his hands.

The Kentucky forward is averaging just over 10 points per game and shooting nearly 35 percent from three-point land, but he needs to do more. Duke's Ryan Kelly has a similar game, and a similar role, but he produces more because of his ability to shot fake and take a few space-clearing dribbles to his left or right.

This is what is holding Wiltjer back. He's never going to be Goodwin or Poythress in terms of athleticism, but he needs to develop a few basic moves to create space for himself. Without that, defenders can keep a hand in his face and alter his shot consistently.


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