IT'S TWO-MAN TIME

De Sousa/Doke/McCormack is a stacked group. Which shooters will step up?

It's not offseason, it's grind season. #KUbball // #RockChalk
July 29, 2019

TIL there’s a whole universe of Jayhawks on Cameo. I’m on it. But in the meantime: BASKETBALL.

The modern game is all about space. Creating it, making the most of it, making a play within it. In recent years, Bill Self has embraced this, weaponizing small ball lineups (in particular, the Final Four group from 2018) and mixing guard-heavy lineups more than he might have when he arrived at Kansas from Illinois. While there were dashes of his once beloved two-man—the low high between Lawson and Azubuike, which showcased Lawson’s sublime passing touch, was short-lived, but hella efficient—there was plenty of room for the guards to eat as well. There were tons of good shots within that system. The fact that Kansas didn’t exactly light it up (35% from three as a team, haha, blork) betrayed the mostly well-designed nature of Bill Self’s 2018-19 offense.

With the rapid ascent of David McCormack and the return of both Silvio de Sousa (deeply wack suspension) and Udoka Azubuike (freak injury), Kansas is going to be as good as they’ve ever been on the glass. Doke looks skinny and nimble, while de Sousa’s got a whole season’s worth of developments yet to be unveiled. There’s been some light worrying about this group’s rim protection abilities, but I think it’s safe to expect improvement from the entire frontcourt. While it’s yet to be seen how many bigs Self is willing to play at one time—Mitch Lightfoot will also be in the rotation—they’re going to have size that no one in the Big 12 can come close to competing with.

Since Kansas fans are Kansas fans, this whole discussion quickly escalated into anxiety: will there be space enough for Devon Dotson, who now has the keys to the offense, to zig-zag around in the lane? Or will there be a bunch of dudes just kind of hanging under the glass, basically cutting off killer driving action before it even begins?

I’m not overly concerned about cloggage, tbh. While it should be interesting to see what wrinkles de Sousa has added in the past year, Self has always been creative with getting his big men touches and moving them around the blocks. It’s a point of strength that will create opportunity—SPACE—elsewhere on the floor. There’s gonna be some open jumpers out there.

But who’s going to hit them?

Looking at it one way—through the lens of open jumpers, and the promise of more open jumpers—was the most puzzling aspect of Quentin Grimes decision to transfer to Houston. The jumpers are out there, and let me be your Cigarette Smoking Man. Eventually, I learned that the basis of Grimes’ decision was that he wanted to be a lead guard somewhere and I was all like “Nope I’m good on that, good luck in Houston my dude!” But the concept stands. Who’s flipping it this season? Here’s my best guesses:

Ochai Agbaji Last year’s revelation had his shot break down late in the year. He’s apparently “fixed” his shot—he’s certainly looking at the rim more. If he gets a jumper this team is insanely dangerous all of the sudden.

Jalen Wilson Wilson is a 6’8’’ scorer who’s gonna have some opportunities to knock down shots. It’s not too difficult to envision a Agbaji/Wilson/de Sousa/Doke combination which is HugeBall. Wilson wearing these shades in a somewhat ill-conceived Instagram slideshow saved the entire concept.

Christian Braun Another long scorer who is best known as a shooter, it’s hard to get a read on how much Braun will play this year. If there was ever a year to shoot yourself onto the court, though…

Marcus Garrett There’s going to be more intense Marcus Garrett stanning from the newsletter down the line, and last year’s 3/4 from deep performance against Texas was the closest thing to a religious experience that last year’s wonky season could deliver. Can Garrett make the open ones?