X-Axis Floor Game Net Benefits, or a Great Highschool Trey Is Not Enough

  • As usual, @HighEliteMajor and @drgnslayr and really every one here forces this tired old coot to think more clearly and try to find a concept and fitting words to explain what Self says he just wants to be, like Garbo, left alone to do. 🙂

    Here goes.

    Agreed, @HighEliteMajor, that Brannen Greene has to adjust. This HEM said sagely in a recent post in another thread, when talking about Brannen having to adapt his game to Bill Self’s way or face paltry PT, or worse, the highway.

    Greene is listed 6-7 and 215; that is the same size he was listed at last season. This means he is probably 6-6 and 205. Guys who are in this size range have to have a whole lot of explosive athleticism, or they have to have cat-like anticipation and quickness, or they have to bulk up and become bruisers. Note that Wayne Selden is 6-5 and 230 with broad shoulders and a thick neck, and Travis Releford was very formidable also, and Brandon Rush was just a barrel chested stud by his senior season.

    Last season, Greene was kind of awkward. He played hard, but a bit out of control, and he had a bit of a wild hair. He also did not sink a high percentage of his treys. Like Conner Frankamp, he did not live up to his shooting reputation all season long.

    Now there are a lot of persons, including Self, talking about how shooters have to get comfortable and how you cannot expect guys to come in and make shots with the pressure of coming out if they miss one.

    I happen to agree that any good shooter gets better as he gets to shoot more FGAs.

    But I think there are a very few great shooters and a whole lot of good shooters, the latter of which get better with more FGAs. The former, those few great shooters can shoot about the same percentage, what ever role they are asked to play. I believe great shooters shoot better on fresh legs than on tired legs. I believe great shooters really don’t care much what coaches think. They don’t think much about pressure. They frankly don’t care if they miss, or not.

    I believe great shooters are like snipers. They are naturals that practice their skill. Snipers may get sharper as they shoot more, but they start out able to do the head shot on the first squeeze; that’s how they get to be snipers. Merely good snipers don’t live long. If you miss, and they see where you fired from, you are dead, because a whole bunch of persons open fire on your position and at least one finds the mark.

    Great snipers know where they are accurate and where they are not. They practice a lot, but so do merely good and so merely soon to be dead snipers. Great snipers are cold blooded about their job. This cold bloodedness, and the fact that he is still alive, too me is part of the definition of a great sniper and of a great shooter, too. The greater shooter is still in the game after the first shot. The good shooter is out of the game. The great shooter makes the first one. The good shooter often misses. The great shooter doesn’t feel the pressure. If he misses and gets pulled, he comes back and has about the same percentage probability of making it, because he IS a great shooter. The merely good shooter need lots of FGAs to show how good he is. Great shooters, like snipers, will take their shot without hesitation, no matter what, if those are their orders. So will good shooters, but they are tight on the first release.

    Based on my criteria, Conner and Brannen were revealed to be potentially good, not potentially great shooters last season.

    What I think Self is trying to find out by recruiting these alleged great shooters (and no one can be more than alleged coming into D1, so don’t think I am picking on Brannen and Conner), and then putting them in for a few minutes, when they are shaky in other parts of their games, is whether or not they really are great shooters at the next level, or just guys that need a lot of shots to be good shooters at the D1 level.

    What I think Self learns most times is that great high school shooters are NOT great D1 shooters, and this only makes probabilistic sense. The higher you rise, the fewer the persons can cut it at that level. Most are just good shooters that need a lot of minutes to be good shooters.

    So: Brannen (and Conner) need to learn this ASAP, because it means that Self can get “good” shooting out of most any of his perimeter recruits if he gives them plenty of minutes.

    The foremost question, then, becomes, which guy is the best all around player, not which guy is the best shooter in practice, or even in games. Most can give Self 35-37% if Self gives them a bunch of minutes, or he wouldn’t have recruited them in the first place. Some of them, if they really get strong and comfortable in their floor games, and learn to shoot only from their sweet spots, can get enough minutes and FGAs to become 40% plus trey shooters, as Travis Releford did, even with his funky form.

    You see, we fans are looking simplistically for which player can give 40% out of the box, and which player can be the best shooter, among those shooting less than 40%. It appears that Self figures there is more net benefit from a guy with a great floor game that shoots, say, 37%, than a guy that dings 39-41% with a weak floor game. I infer this because time and again this is how he decides on PT as the bench shortens over the season.

    To translate Bill Self, which do you want to be Conner, and Brannen, a great shooter with an average or weak floor game that means I can only leave you in when you are draining the trey, or do you want to be a complete player that can stay in all the time and so let me add your good shooting touch to your net benefit bottom line?

    That’s the essence of it.

    To we fans, this may seem a simple, logical calculus, almost a mastery of the obvious, once it is articulated as I just have. But to a player that has been a “shooter” from kiddy leagues to senior year of high school, being a shooter first is deeply engrained. Such a player is trying to get better in all facets of his game, but he doesn’t really know how, because he has never been forced with benching to become a better floor player than a shooter. Always before being with Self, the great school boy shooter getting burned on defense, or turning it over, could compensate with a trey on the other end and his coach loved him for it. But at the D1 level, where so many can shoot 37% and play a great floor game, a great high school shooter cannot distinguish himself by shooting perhaps even 40% with an undistinguished, or flawed floor game. And shooting 32-35% with a weak floor game, he may as well tell the coach he has Ebola and expect the coach to give him big minutes so he can shoot a better average.

    The guys shooting 37% with strong floor games are doing so many things all over the floor to enhance their cost benefit, i.e., their net benefit bottom line, that the great high school shooter needing big minutes just to shoot his 40% from trey cannot apparently off set his costs of from his weak floor game.

    Think about it. When Travis, or Brady, were on the floor, they were so good on ball and giving so much help that they were locking down their guy AND strangling off another good scorer by being able to lend help that channeled that other good scorer out of his sweet spots. Great floor players like Travis, or Brady, probably deny about 10-20 points per game just on defense, when they are not completely outmatched, as Travis was by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, especially when Trav had a bum ankle, or when Brady would run into an L&A that could overwhelm his short height and slight build (which in fact happened infrequently enough (not usually until the competition got super good after the first, or second round game in the Madness) to enable his teams to win 30 a season, or so.

    And remember, neither Travis, nor Brady, were nearly as able dominate in this way as Brandon Rush could do. Regardless, these were three players that sooner or later could play great floor games AND shoot 38-42%. What the hell chance, in rational net benefit analysis, would Conner, or Brannen, have against Travis, or Brady, or Brandon Rush, or any KU perimeter player with a good floor game and able to shoot above 37% from trey, until they too had a solid floor game?

    Self quantified it for us. Selden’s floor game is so valuable, that he can shoot 30% from trey and no one is going to beat him out. So: I suspect in Bill Self’s algorithm net benefit goes negative, even with a great floor game, when a perimeter player shoots less than 30% from trey.

    Self puts these guys with great high school treys to see if he can squeeze a quick trey out of them; that’s all they are good for until they can play a good floor game. He said it himself. Bring them in to stretch the D a little. If they miss, they are gone before their floor games can drive their net benefit acutely negative and cost the team a W.

    There is no question that playing most any once great high school shooter a bunch of minutes his freshman, or sophomore season, in D1 will increase his shooting percentage. The problem is: the things that go into a good floor game apparently take a lot of time and a lot of work in practices and in weight rooms to develop. Lots of PT in a single season doesn’t produce good floor games. And there in lies the point that a lot of folks have missed.

    Good floor games area kind of paradoxical. Most KU recruits can be “coached up” into having good floor games. But if you don’t come with one from high school, it is going to take a couple of years of work and drilling and practicing before you can do it.

    Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp could have played every minute of every game last season and their floor games would probably still have had huge holes in them. The reason I infer this is because even after an off season of working on the problems, and after a freshman season of being given repeated shots at showing that their floor games had developed, their floor games are still being questioned by their coach.

    It was the same with Travis and Elijah early. Fabulous impact players and reputed good to very good high school shooters. Such fabulous impact players and potentially good shooters that board rats wrote again and again that the only reason they weren’t playing was because Self loved Tyrel and Brady too much; that he loved experience and was phobic of young players. But now we have another group of players ahead of Conner and Brannen and the same thing is going on. Self has won 80% of his games, so he can’t be stupid about this. It is the net benefit calculus and the kind of schemes he believes in running and the kinds of players in the numbers he can attract that makes him do it. He favors the trade of good floor game and slightly lesser shooting percentage, or slightly lesser athleticism, or both, versus high trey percentage and high athleticism and weak floor game.

    There are a few great athletes that have developed their floor games, so they can step in and play D1 and not hurt Self’s teams. Wigs could and so he played even though his trey was very weak. Brandon could, and he had the team put on his back because he could while also dinging the trey from the beginning, where as Wigs could not not and there was a better option in the paint in Embiid for carrying the team.

    And if these kinds of great high school shooters, happen to be OAD types, and play for a coach like Calipari that schemes to emphasize outscoring opponents and intimidating them with length and athleticism, and isolating on them offensively, rather than emphasizing team defense, and team offense, then a larger number of young OAD types can flourish, that is, produce net benefit, and so play D1 out of the box for Calipari.

    But if your coach schemes toward team defense making use of a lot of skills beyond length and athleticism, because he cannot, or does not want to, sign only large numbers of OADs, then you have got to have good floor game to be a net benefit.

    Should Self switch over to Cal’s solution? Only if Self has reason to believe he can sign more and better OADs than Cal. If not, then it makes sense for him to stick with his current approach, even though it takes more time to develop floor games and team schemes.

    And it apparently takes a couple of seasons to develop a good floor game for team defense and team offense schemes that do not rely mostly on length and athleticism.

    To borrow from Slayr, if you want to play and win on the X-axis, you better bring a helluva good floor game out of the box, rather than just length, athleticism, and/or a great high school trey.

    This is why I think Slayr talks about adding some isolation game, while at the same time retaining great X-Axis play and team schemes. Slayr and Self are trying to iterate into a mix of slightly more isolation and slightly less rigid team schemes, in order to fit in more OADs, but still not entire teams of them. Why? Because realistically speaking, Cal is gathering his OADs from a Nike feeder system that is probably several times larger in numbers of players than exists in Self’s adidas feeder system. So: Self cannot really hope to recruit more total and more better OADs than Cal, if Nike were to put its full feeder system behind Cal, and adidas were to put its full feeder system behind Self.

    The plan appears to be to find a blend of isolation and team play that produces a greater net benefit every few seasons than playing all OADs would given the two feeder systems.

    Or so I hypothesize and speculate.

    Rock Chalk!

  • I was blessed to play for some fabulous coaches. Coaches that understood the game and the athlete playing.

    I bet I heard this a thousand times… “bend your knees!”

    It was my intro into x-axis. Get down low and play the game at the lowest center of gravity where you can be effective. Getting down low gives you more control on lateral movement. Getting down low gives you control of your body and movements.

    Brannen Greene (last year) was not an effective player. He played too upright. Guys could easily blow by him, and he really couldn’t blow by players. He wasn’t involved enough in the game. It’s a different game when you come down closer to the floor and focus on lateral play.

    I know about this because all of my youth I played too upright. I had the same problems Brannen has now. And it took me believing in a coach to break out of that. It took a lot of effort to strengthen my body right so I could play lower, cut better, and just be in more control.

    I know John Lucas gets it. I watched how he helped TT with his game. Most people thought he was just working with TTs long ball. What become apparent to me was Lucas helping TT finish at the rack. And after TT’s coaching from Lucas, he became effective with his finishes. He “played small” and he slowed down his drives and picked his spots when and where to finish in the paint. TT got a dose of x-axis and he lifted his game considerably… enough to bring KU to the championship game.

    I’d love to build a 5-foot ceiling and put it over the court in AFH. Make the guys play under that ceiling. Guard and penetrate under that ceiling. Pass and open their vision… under that ceiling. Realize what you can do when you “play small.”

    There is a time to play like a tree… skying for rebounds and blocked shots and slam dunks. Those are all moments setup after playing effective “small ball.” The guys that really know how to drive, bend their knees and get small until they know where to come up for air… then they go up and slam dunk… they go up and block shots… they go up and snatch rebounds.

    Brannen has some flaws in his game. I hope he works out his bugs because he has incredible potential. He’s got a great basketball body, superior shooting range and he has great instinct for the game. But if he doesn’t get parts of his game in order, he’s going no where.

    Maybe it would be better to put some football pads on him and send him over for a practice session with the football team. He’d get clocked instantly being so upright.

    I believe the guy that gets what I’m talking about is Wayne Selden. If he can stay healthy this year he’s going to explode with some big numbers! Wayne should probably be a football player. He definitely bends his knees.

    Frank needs to play as low to the ground as he can get. If he plays right, he can shred the twins at Kentucky.

  • @drgnslayr

    PHOF! to the whole post.

    “I’d love to build a 5-foot ceiling and put it over the court in AFH. Make the guys play under that ceiling.” --slayr

    Easily one of the ten greatest lines about basketball I ever read.

    Gosh it sucks me laboring to try to get one of these posts out of my craw and then someone saying it so much better!!!

    But that’s what so great about connectivity and community. One board rat’s fumbling and stumbling can precipitate another’s eloquence worth recalling.

    Thank you so much.

  • @drgnslayr

    What makes all these players so mouth watering as recruits is what they COULD become if they learn to play the game as you describe. What you describe captures the evolution and then near transmogrification of Travis Releford that last season.

    Travis Releford could have even limboed under a three foot high ceiling and still have locked players down, made the easy plays, slid, helped and exploded out of his position when necessary he came so far as a player.

    When players discover what you describe and what Self puts them beyond their comfort levels in order to coax/force them to discover it is one of the most magnificient transformations one can observe. It is literally a kind of metamorphosis.

    Rock Chalk!

  • @drgnslayr

    “Bend your knees” is one of those phrases that every player hears and thinks it only means something literal, which it does, but it is actually one of those directions pointing a player toward a deep transformation from person to player. Bend your knees is a road sign to basketball salvation, not just to playing better defense. It is almost like one of those sayings that exist in the martial arts intended not only to teach the would be samurai how to stand and be ready to react to blows, but also how to conceptualize ones point of view and existence also.

    I’m pumped. I’m juiced. Damn, I thought I was too old for it to cohere more deeply, but it just did.


  • @jaybate-1.0

    If I could go back to my youth right now, taking what I know now, I’d make two fundamental changes:

    1. Learn to play “small ball”, x-axis, “bend my knees” basketball from Day 1.

    2. Get onto modern sports nutrition from Day 1. No Gatorade… all the right real nature juicing… wheat/barley grass, microgreens, sprouts, watermelon juice… the list goes on. These nutrients bolster performance and help you stay healthy.

    “Eventually, someone has to dribble!”

    That was part of the explanation of what dribbling is and does. The ball makes repetitive contact with the ground. GROUND ZERO! The lowest possible point. Mole territory.

    Guys that learn how to play low are always good at disrupting and stealing dribbles. It is almost impossible to stop them from succeeding. And the best opponents to target are guys who aren’t bent down enough or all tall players because the ball has a long travel from hand to floor and back. If I was playing against Kansas, I would target players like Brannen.

    I look at players like Frank and see insane possibilities. Frank is quick and he has the absolute perfect mole build.

    We should be excited to play a team like Kentucky. All that height! They shouldn’t be able to put the ball on the floor once without being disrupted and thrown out of their flow.

  • @drgnslayr did you know the mole has an extra thumb?


  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Nice… and check out those claws! That guy could disrupt a few dribbles!

  • @drgnslayr

    don’t call it "small ball, "call it “low ball”! 😄

    And it is very zen that the lower you play the more ready you are to explode into a jump, once you develop the muscles for jumping the no step jump from bent knees?

    Once I learned to play both ends and in transition with bent knees, I taught myself to turn my toes inward right before I jumped. Pigeon toed and bent knees gave me the most lift without having to straighten up and take a step and jump. Give me a team of basketball players that can slide and explode straight up out of bent knees, without straightening and stepping to go up, and I will rule the basketball season.

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