Plus: Devonte' Graham?!!?!!
The Jalen Wilson injury sucks. It’s a big bummer. While Wilson wasn’t one of the freshman who stood out instantly—see: his one shot in the Duke game, after which he was immediately yanked, in a Chieck Diallo-esque sequence—his versatility and shooting seemed like a lock to add another dimension to KU’s offense at some point this season. He’ll likely redshirt now, and we’ll fill the shooting void with a smaller rotation of dudes. Get well soon, Jalen.
We’re a week into the regular season, two games deep, 1-1. An identity is beginning to form, little by little. We turned over the ball 28 times against Duke, and it took 21 minutes to get going against UNC-Greensboro. Devon Dotson, who might as well be a bellwether for the Jayhawks’ energy level at large, came out passive and erratic against Duke but dominated on Friday night. What’s the deal?
On paper, this team seemed poised to dominate down low. However, that hasn’t happened. A more balanced floor game is where the Jayhawks will likely succeed. A four-guard group—one that included Iowa graduate transfer Isaiah Moss—was the most successful unit on Friday, temporarily flattening the idea that KU will live or die with its bigs. We’ve seen two different sets of starters in two games, and that experimentation is only beginning. David McCormack did a “so-so” job of chasing Duke stretch-four prospect Matthew Hurt around at MSG, and it’s still not clear where Silvio de Sousa is supposed to operate on either side of the floor.
I’ve of two minds here. One, I like the idea of stabilized rotation, in theory, one that gives potential difference-makers enough time and space to make their case. On a team this deep, 40 minutes doesn’t go a long way. A misstep on defense, especially on a Bill Self team, can derail even the most potent offensive momentum. If Trae Young had ended up on Kansas, he’d still be here.
On the other hand, I’m excited about a more fluid and matchup-focused approach; this team has a diverse and deeply weird skillset for college basketball, and I think there’s a lot of tinkering that can (and will) be done.
Marcus Garrett at the 4? How ‘bout the 5?" Three point guards at once? Less post-ups for Doke, and more roll and runs to the basket? I think all of this is the right idea, even though there might not be One Cohesive Right Idea that holds for the duration of the season. Turnovers are correctable. Rotation management is correctable. To say “this team is going to be good” is to take a zoomed-out look at this; there might be three or four different killer groups of five on this team. Now we have to find out who those groups are.
Also: Isaiah Moss tho! If ever there were a year for a true catch-and-shoot gunner, this is it. I want more 3PTA for Moss than “Moss dribbles” this year. I think we’re right on schedule.
I mean, come on. While it’s cool that the NBA has embraced older college players and found stars outside of the prep-and-AAU starmaking system, Devonte’ Graham going this wild is silly.
There was little reason to expect this kind of explosion; as a rookie, Graham hardly played, and spent a good deal of time in the G League. While the Hornets didn’t resign Kemba Walker, they spent big money on another player at the same position, Terry Rozier. Rozier is shooting 38%, and Graham looks like a building block for the Hornets’ future, alongside fellow second-year player Miles Bridges and rookie P.J. Washington.
These off-the-dribble pullups…. c’mon!!!!
Graham’s net rating is still negative, though, but barely—he’s expending a lot of energy on offense and not stopping anyone on the other end. But now he’s getting reps against NBA starters, and improvement should come quickly.
Devonte’ had one of the best stories for a Jayhawk, ever. Now he’s one of the young season’s best basketball stories. It’s very fun.