Back to Basket Scoring/Bragg & Diallo

  • A couple of topics heading into our first exhibition:

    1. A recent quote from Bill Self that has flown a bit under the radar, but may be the most important thing Self has said in recent months – when asked about his concerns, Self said, “Still low-post scoring offensively with our back to the basket." Pretty concerning. That was of course the root of our downfall offensively last season. Our post players simply could not score consistently on the block, which is a must in Self’s system. Our close to rim scoring was woefully inefficient. Ellis, for example, struggled against players his height or taller, or with long arms. Lucas and Traylor just don’t have that reliable skill set. And Cliff just struggled to get on the floor consistently. Leading up to this season, we have discussed Diallo and why he wouldn’t solve that problem. He’s not a ready-made, skilled post scorer. The reality is – unless our players have improved significant – Self needs to make tweaks to his system to create the opportunities for Kansas to be successful. The static wing entry was not successful last season, and there’s a big risk that it won’t be this season. Back in the early summer, I made mention that Self knows this is coming. He is fully aware that our back to the basket scoring failed last season. And he is fully aware that the same issue could arise this season. Therefore, heading in, Self needs to address that – either by tweaks to his system, or by a different approach. We know that different schemes can hide this deficiencies. We’ll see what Self has done to address it.

    2. The solutions to the back to the basket scoring issues may come from two players – Carlton Bragg and Hunter Mickelson. If this pair is the real deal, Self might not need as many tweaks. I do apologize that I’ve been on this Carton Bragg bandwagon since last fall, but I love his game. In seeing him play, and his widely diverse skill set, this guy can and should be able to improve Kansas immediately from where we were last season. He’s going to be our biggest surprise on the floor this season. This may be a touch irrational, but I think by the end of the season there could be a reasonable debate as to who is better on the floor, Bragg or Ellis. Bragg is a guy that can impact the game in many different ways. All he needs is Self to put him to use. He can handle the ball, he can shoot from the outside, he’s got a nice post game, he’s mobile, and he’s active. Like all freshman, he’ll have a learning curve, and he will struggle, but Bragg seems like he’s a big answer this season. His diverse skill set can take some pressure off of the need for Kansas to score regularly on the block. Further, Bragg is competent enough in the post to help out in that regard. The next answer is Hunter Mickelson. We witnessed a player at the WUGs that deserves PT. But more importantly, he’s a guy that brings attributes to the table that our other post players don’t. He’s long. He can change shots. He can protect the rim. He has an ability to score down low. Adding Hunter Mickelson as a transfer looked like a wasted scholarship last season. Now, our national title hopes could ride on the pasty redhead. Would there be anything more satisfying that to see Mickelson bust out this season, win a starting job, and be a big contributor?

    Here’s some of what Fran Fraschilla said after attending KU’s practice yesterday:

    “Coaching raving about Cheick Diallo’s attitude/work ethic but very raw offensively. Bragg more ready now.”

    “Hunter Mickelson picking up where he left off at the World Univ. Games. Can score inside.”

    With our stellar perimeter rotation likely set and our clear strength, with questions in the post bleeding over from last season, and with Diallo’s saga, our season could rest squarely on the shoulders of Bragg and Mickelson.

  • @HighEliteMajor We saw what these guys were capable of in Korea when Self let them play fast without calling a bunch of set plays for them and it was really effective. We all saw what happened in the Germay game though when Self reverted back to the high-low and nearly cost KU the game. We all know that just like last year, this is a team who’s built pretty much the opposite way of how Self prefers to play so if he can resist the urge to run a lot of sets and let his guys play a free flowing up tempo game and take advantage of their superior athleticism, KU’s going to be a really good team capable of running a lot of teams out of the gym.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I just think we need to be more creative on offense. Even if we had solid offensive low post scorers.

    Between Hunter, Landen and Jamari… it appears Hunter is our best bet at low post, back to the basket, scoring.

    Jamari has proven he can score if he catches the ball in the right spot and while in motion. If he has some space, he can then finish a small drive and kiss off the backboard. But he can’t do the traditional, back to the basket, stuff.

    Landen just doesn’t seem to possess enough strength. He seems to get owned in the paint.

    Hunter is still sort of a question mark, but he definitely showed some really nice scoring at WUG.

    But what about Wayne Selden? Let’s say Wayne performs this season at the 3 like he showed us at WUG. That should mean he can penetrate into the post area, and he should be learning how to draw over the defense and then get the assist to our 4 or 5. Sometimes that could also mean taking a back-to-the-basket opportunity off a Selden drive.

    Actually… Frank and Devonte both can penetrate into the post area and feed our bigs.

    We have players like BG and others who can bomb the 3… helping open the post area.

    It seems that we have everything we need except a dominant low post scorer. Surely whoever we use in there can score under perfect conditions.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 To be fair to Germany, they did a really good job of stopping the break and slowing the tempo, especially in the 2nd half. In basketball, it’s always easier to slow things down than to get them sped up. That said, we really will need to develop some viable half court options beyond trying to get the ball to Perry every play. Luckily, with more ball handling in the back court, I think we’ll get more of that free flow in half court sets as well.

    @drgnslayr Lucas’ lack of strength has been the single most frustrating thing out of all our post players. Ellis not having a turnaround J is number two. We know Traylor just hasn’t and isn’t going to develop BBIQ at this point. Ellis isn’t ever going to be a true 4. But Lucas could at any time bulk up his upper body and use his talent for rebounding to become a Rico Gathers type player. Why, with Hudy at his disposal, has Self not pushed in that direction? I cannot fathom it, myself.

    @HighEliteMajor If Diallo clears, I still think he’ll be an asset in the half court. He’s likely the best rebounder on the team on both ends, and he’ll add value pushing the tempo and cleaning up missed shots. Bragg is definitely the better option in half court sets, though. The one concerning thing I saw from him in the WUG was too much willingness to settle for the 15-18ft J. If he becomes aggressive getting to the rim, and meets Self’s standards for D (which wasn’t a really strong point for him in HS), then I think you’re spot on about the affect he can have on our offense.

  • Nice discussion.

    I think it starts with passing, if we are going to be a better post scoring team. I don’t know the stat but we had an absurd number of shots blocked last year. You can point your finger at anyone but if this team is a better passing team it can make a big difference. When the H/L is working to its best, our guards maximize angles & make passes that make it easier for the post player to execute. Luckily it looks like Graham & Svi will be joining the rotation with another year under their belt who can help out tremendously in that fact.

    I agree that if the issue continues into this year, Self should gameplan to find easier ways than just post ISO’s. We have way too much firepower on the wings to focus our offensive on post scoring. That’s not what’s going to win us a championship, we have the best collection of wing talent in the country. That’s the strength of this team.

  • @BeddieKU23 no sticky hands. Quick ball movement. Don’t let it stuck in one place. Don’t over dribble don’t hesitate.

    Make a play. When you move the ball quickly you open up passing lanes and can find open guys.

  • @HighEliteMajor Yah, if Bragg and Mick can play like they did in July or even better, we’ll be golden. Cant wait!!

    I wonder if I’ll be able to see the pre season warm up games way over here in VT?

  • @HighEliteMajor Great topic. To my eye, based on what I saw in the WUG, Bragg is simply more versatile than Cliff Alexander was. Totally agree with your assessment.

    Tongue-in-cheek, I do think Self ought to take a page from Roy, regarding this particular KU team and its lack of Self-style post presence: Let em run!

  • Further info – from Fran Fraschilla. I asked him a question on twitter about Bragg – Do you see Bragg as a big contributor? Diverse skills?

    Fraschilla replied, “Yes. Korea was head start. Toughness & skill.”

    Short bursts of info from twitter, of course.

    But Fran tossing in “toughness” caught my eye. That brings an element perhaps many of us weren’t contemplating was a part of the package he brings to this team.

  • @HighEliteMajor Thats really cool to hear from Ole Franny about Bragg. I kind of thought that Bragg had some inherent toughness to begin with. I mean, the kid played ball in July with a broken nose. Thats toughness.

  • @konkeyDong

    We need the boards bad.

    🙏 Diallo clears.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I’ve been scratching my head a lot about how to play without b2b scorers in the paint, because I am among those that saw this coming even when we did not know there was a clearance issue with Diallo.

    Yes, Bragg and Mickelson could score b2b, and could form a very interesting committee at the 5, but I am not sure either is ready to overpower any big studs in the paint yet.

    And this brings me to culling my memory banks for a team to use as a model for such an eventuality as no b2b scoring in the paint.

    You may have mentioned this last season, but I recall Lute Olson’s Arizona team with Mike Bibby, and those two other great wing men shooting UA into a ring, while their four big skinnies in rotation guarded and rebounded well, even though none of them really were offensive threats b2b, or outside.

    Frankly, Mason, Graham and Selden have quite a lot in common with that threesome of UA’s that won the ring.

    If we could come at teams with a five big law firm of Ellis, Lucas, Mickelson, Bragg, Diallo and Associates, we might be able to make this dog hunt without b2b–just with defense, and board crashing on both ends.

    And without Bad Ball.

    But with a lot of treys.

    Just a thought.

  • @jaybate-1.0 not sure KU has the shooters that Golden Stste had last year but could KU go to more of a spread and jump shooting team?

    I know nothing in the recent history shows that’s an option but without solid on the block play perhaps the spread offense could become a set play.

    Open up the lane for slashers and let the post players come in for the dish. Of play pop a shot from three.

    I know. I know it won’t happen. Just thoughts and opinions.

  • @JRyman

    Good idea. I am going to have study Golden State. Like many, I watched and marveled at Curry, but didn’t study how they did what they did as a team.

    Is it beyond Self to do what you suggest?

    A few years back? Yes.

    But Self in short order has shown tremendous willingness to adapt: Bad Ball the second half of last Season; then Good Ball in Korea.

    I believe the recruiting asymmetries encumbering him are triggering the new adaptability.

    I bet he has studied Golden State some.

    It caught a lot persons’ attention. I should have remembered. Thanks for the assist in remembering.

    Hope you are managing with your health issues and glad to have you here another season!!

  • @JRyman

    Your right, we know it won’t happen but we may at times see a more free flowing offense. If he took anything from the Summer, it was that he can trust these guys to make plays without all these restrictions. KU thrived in Korea on the up-temp play with little play structure. It really allowed Selden have his “beast mode” moment.

    I don’t believe we will see Self abandon much from what he always does. Maybe some new wrinkles, maybe some new sets but we will have to wait and see. I do hope the dribble weave has been abandoned, deaded, put to sleep, had a funeral for it. I can’t believe that was a staple of our offense over the past few years.

  • B2b scoring isnt a prerequisite, its like people have forgotten that the high-low is about decision-making for the high post, and sealing off by the low post to either creating a passing angle to receive BStar’s pass OR seal off a defender (a screen) to give some teammate an easy path to bucket.

    Y’all saw 2008 win it all without a dominant low post scorer: not DJax, not Shady (altho he came closest, had some moves), not Kaun, and not frosh Cole, & Kleinmann didnt play.

    2009 was Cole who was D, rbds, and the right type of 12-16pts, many from the FT line. And frosh Marcus, who was a soft, face-up player w/shooting range on arrival. Bounced by MSU.

    2010 Cole again, but with bronchitis (I’ll avoid the “plateaued” word), a better Marcus, and glimmers from Kieff. TRob not much. Hello, UNI…

    2011 was Marcus blossoming into versatile, tough, stretch 4, but not a true b2b scorer. He played like an NBA draft pick, but recall the special chem with his brother in the post. Thats hard to duplicate. Markieff hit 3s too, so there was quite a dynamic to opening up the lane by pulling opposing post presence out the lane. Cleaning up Tyshawns misses added to our post prod. But no one besides McM & Tyshawn showed up vs VCU, some going so far as to say Self even phoned it in in that one, thinking his veterans could figure it out on their own…instead making sooo many uncharacteristic errors, that we werent a Self team in that game.

    2012 was the dominance of KU’s strongest power4 since Collison in Sir Thomas Robinson, coupled with the utterly nasty defensive presence of Withey, with 185# K.Young giving all he could. Withey not b2b. TRob decent, but not overpowering b2b scorer. TRob slashed, TRob dunked off lobs (there’s Self’s offense at work again, freeing up TRob/Withey/KYo off screens, etc). But against KY, no bench. Coulda used Kieff & healthy Selby…

    2013 Withey & KYo & frosh Ellis. Ellis has moves, but not comfortable or tough enough. A finesse big, and a 3,4 tweener in mentality & body. MichiganTrey’d.

    1. Embiid proves that true length + true aggressiveness + that innate “knack” in the paint on O and D…is rarer than hens teeth. He literally had everything. All i can say is I hate the OAD rule…

    Moral: this system is expressly designed to make bigs produce in a variety of ways. Throwing it into a Simien (another true b2b guy) in the post & praying for a bucket is too simplistic. Our bigs do best when the run the damn offense & play complementary basketball, and fight for position for Rbds, another Selfism in the war of extra possessions.

  • @ralster post more often. I enjoy your insight that doesn’t include stats! See royals.

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