Let's look at this objectively *and* abstractly/emotionally
Before I get into today’s program…. Yuh-oh! I will be … watching this … situation. Right now it seems to stand at “here are some more allegations about previous allegations, none of which are public yet.” This has gone on forever, and it’s time to finally get to the fireworks factory.
Boot camp is over. It’s not only possible, but more than likely that the basketball team can now touch basketballs without fear of retribution. We’re only a few weeks away from Late Night, the opening of fall practice. To paraphrase my favorite content partnership possibly of all time, Basketball Is Coming.
Given that timing, it’s definitely not too early to get into what we’re all thinking about: Udoka Azubuike’s 2019-2020 field goal percentage, and what that means, both objectively/statistically and cosmically/emotionally.
You don’t have to go to Doke’s Sports Reference page to know that he’s an preposterously efficient scorer. Even if you only watched on KU game, or one part of one half of one, you’d probably see a couple of catches near the bucket almost instantaneously converted into 2. It’s borderline uncanny, and it’s provided one of those absurdly upside-down stat lines that only the modern game provides: 70% from the field in 18-19 (74.5% for his career, L-O-L) and 34% from the free throw line. Doke is a paragon of offensive efficiency and also someone you can’t have anywhere near the floor late in a close game. You can’t stop him, but you can also stop him pretty easily. He occupies a weird spot in the imagination and in the optimized lineup schematic.
When it comes to field goal percentage, I have a couple rules of thumb, likely diffused over the years from many sources, none of which I can remember right now, conveniently. The platonic ideal of efficiency is the coveted 50/40/90 split, which is supremely rare air—only eight NBA players have gotten there, and only one WNBA player. I mean:
Absurd. EDD’s 3PT% is closer to 45 than it is 40, and there are no words for the FT% there.
Those numbers are pillars for another reason: they represent an ideal average, something to shoot for even if you’re on the high side of those numbers. If Doke is shooting 70% from the field, reason suggests that he should be shooting way more—that the benefit of him shooting more will heavily outweigh the downside of a lower FG%, say, 50%. If you have a three-point shooter shooting above 40%, that player should be shooting more threes. (That’s why the Nash/Curry/KD/EDD numbers are so remarkable; they served as high volume scorers who were probably not impeded from shooting more. And yet, they still yanked down those numbers.)
But does “more shots for Doke” translate into “better Jayhawks?” It’s hard to say, as this season’s team might represent the sort of style/analytics clash that we’ll be thinking about for a while. None of this is mutually exclusive—success playing one style of basketball will likely lead to more opportunity playing different styles or different lineups. The return of the healthy Doke is especially promising, especially when it comes to total offensive efficiency in 19-20. (KU backslid on offense last year after Doke’s injury).
But how far should they push it?
Last season, he averaged 8.7 attempts a game—let’s push that number up to 11 or 12. I’m envisioning something in the 60% range for Doke as an ideal. If he repeats his “low seventies” performance, it’ll either be the greatest big man season of all time or kind of a waste.
How the other bigs fit around this is purely speculative right now, but we’ve seen where Doke is most effective and know that there’s little reason to fiddle with that. How everything builds around him, though, will give us a better idea of how good this team can really be*
*assuming they will be legally allowed to compete in anything of circumstance