Inside the Stats: Part III - Kickout, Kickout

Daniel Novinson's three-part series concludes with a suggestion for drastic Stanford offensive overhaul. His plan centers around the Cardinal's tallest players. Read on to hear his ideas for improvement.

Again, this series leans heavily on KenPom.com, whose college basketball statistics are unrivaled. The $20 subscription fee is well worth it for serious, statistically-driven college basketball fans. All stats are heading into the Oregon game. See here for Part I. See here for Part II.

Height Player 3P attempts 3P %
6'10" John Gage 52 48%
6'10" Dwight Powell 21 38%
6'7" Andy Brown 26 35%
6'7" Josh Huestis 44 32%
6'1" Chasson Randle 90 28%
5'11" Aaron Bright 64 23%

A really funny thing happens when you list Stanford's players by their three-point percentages. (I chose the Cardinal's starters plus Gage, the team's most frequent shooter off the bench and best shooter on the roster.) Without exception, the taller the Stanford basketball player, the more accurate three-pointer shooter he is. This is the exact opposite what you would expect (and do in fact see on the majority of teams), by far the most notable statistical trend I see after analyzing the Stanford roster, and something the Cardinal can and must exploit.

This is Stanford's comparative advantage. Build the offense around the outside shooting ability of big men.

I'll let coaches and those with high-level basketball experience draw up the Xs and Os and fundamentals of such an offense, but here are some principles I'd love to see Stanford adapt for the back half of the Pac-12 schedule and postseason play.

Guards:

Pass first. On a team with no true point guard, all guards must account for that void by trying to think like a point guard and looking first to pass. Of course, passing is not the only way to create and may not be the guards' game, so…

Drive, drive, drive. Either get to the rack with a high-percentage shot, or kick it out to an open big for a three, or draw a foul. Stanford's guards are pretty good at drawing fouls, and the Cardinal is No. 1 in the conference in free throw accuracy. The team doesn't turn it over that much, so put it on the floor and create.

No more jumpers. Stanford can revisit this point when they put all these other principles into motion and the offense starts unclogging, because then the looks will be better. But for now, if you're thinking about your followthrough, it better be on the free throw line.

Posts:

Demand the ball. You are bigger than the guards, and you are shooting it better. Whether via physical intimidation, mean looks, a thoughtful analysis of the stat sheet, turning to Madsen for some help – whatever it takes, everyone over 6-foot-6 needs double-digit shots every night.

Get out of the paint. Your game is not muscling through contact for five-footers. Stanford tried that the first two months of the season and accumulated enough bricks to build a small elementary school. Instead…

Think threes and let it fly. I checked, and three-pointers are still worth more than twos, and the numbers show that Stanford players are more likely to make a three-pointer than a shot inside the paint. (Plus, the Cardinal are more likely to grab an O board off a missed three – the rebounds are longer and more random.)

Coaches:

Stress the fast break. Stanford's guards aren't great rebounders anyway, Bright especially, so getting them running doesn't give up too many offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, getting out and running is a way to get guards easier looks (and, heck, also get the big guys open threes on the secondary break).

Define roles. The staff must stress that offense runs through the posts. Guards' jobs are to facilitate that and create off fast breaks and dribble-drive penetration. Bigs' jobs are to light up the bucket, shoot threes and fill up the stat sheet.

Euro style. Big men to the corners. (Which also opens up driving lanes for guards, helping them get to the line. It all comes together.) Think: kickout, kickout, kickout.

The defense is there. The opportunity for an NCAA Tournament berth is still there. That, to the man, Stanford's bigs are the team's best shooters suggests that the Cardinal can run a Euro-style offense with a high degree of success and establish an identity that meshes with the club's strengths. Now is the time!


Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!


The Bootleg Top Stories