For the past three seasons, Kansas has become a perimeter-oriented team, a strategy that has been anathema to Coach Bill Self. Before 2016, the Jayhawks attempted less than one-third of their shots from across the three-point arc, per KenPom.com, but a dearth of consistent scoring last season resulted in a shift of the team's offensive balance. The squad's three-point field goal attempts the big 12 (41.2 percent).
But what's most interesting about the Jayhawks team, which will begin this season with a marquee matchup against Michigan on Tuesday in Indianapolis, is that they have finally found a happy medium between these two dueling offensive philosophies. He appears set up to marry perimeter shooting with the deepest frontcourt he has fielded in years, and that shift could be portend national title success.
Dedric Lawson, a 6-foot-9 forward who is out of the dead, is self transfer coach from Lawrence, and is a self-coached big self. Specifically, Lawson can spread the floor with three-point shooting – he connected on 6 of 8 threes during two exhibition games, and he made 30 percent of his long-range attempts as a Tiger. So he has the playmaking skills to score from the interior; his offensive rating – 1.1 points by possession – almost topped Memphis.
Lawson is not the only candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year on the Kansas roster. Udoka Azubuike led the Jay Hawks in two-point field goal attempts in 2018, converted to astounding 77 percent, which translates to 1.5 points per touch. Sure, he struggled out of the free throw line, but there was no college basketball player more effective after receiving a touch. Thanks to Lawson, that will continue this season – there's no way to get it together when they're paired together. Here's why:
Most of Azubuike's possessions last season originated in the backcourt, which enabled him to change his big and double team him. Lawson's presence, though, does not want to shift that from his frontcourt teammate, but it wants to rejuvenate the team's high-low ball movement, which is becoming a Kansas staple, further clearing the interior for the junior forward.
But do not expect Self to abandon his team's perimeter game. During a Big 12 media day, the coach said he still looks at a small-ball lineup on a Kansas' possessions. During the team's two exhibition games, the squad's three-point field goal rate was 44 percent (which would be an all-time high for self), and Kansas made 41 percent of those attempts.
This will be a transitional year for Kansas, but it would not be just the best team in conference play but also the nation, thanks to the team's addition of Lawson and its embrace of these dual-offensive concepts.
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