University of Kansas

KU Jayhawks Q&A: Quentin Grimes, starting QBs and where Devon Dotson can improve

Bill Self on KU’s future and how Auburn ran away with NCAA Tournament win

Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self looked ahead to next season and explained KU's breakdowns in an 89-75 loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 23, 2019 in Salt Lake City.
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Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self looked ahead to next season and explained KU's breakdowns in an 89-75 loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 23, 2019 in Salt Lake City.

We’re back for another Kansas Jayhawks Q&A.

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There have many KU fans that have asked me about Grimes’ future since I posted Tuesday’s minutes continuity article, so let’s address it here.

Grimes is interesting because he came to KU as a projected one-and-done before a poor statistical season with the Jayhawks. Then again, the reason for that likely depends on one’s perspective.

I mentioned this in my feature on Grimes from two weeks ago, but he has always been a point guard growing up. He also thrived in that role under coach Bill Self in the summer, winning MVP honors at the FIBA America U18 Championships.

Things changed, though, once KU’s season started. With Devon Dotson taking over at point guard, Grimes was shifted to the wing, which put him in a more unfamiliar role. He seemed to improve his understanding of what KU’s coaches wanted from him toward the end of the season — KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend pointed that out in the feature above — but it still leaves Grimes in a bit of a tricky spot.

If he believes he needs to be showcased as a point guard, that’s not likely to happen with KU. Dotson was one of KU’s best players last year and has obviously earned the minutes he’ll receive next season.

Grimes could come back and develop himself more as a wing player, but is that worth it if that’s not his future position in the pros? There can be debate about that, but if he hears from NBA personnel that he’s a point guard at the next level, another year off the ball could be seen as something that’s not in his best interest.

That all would leave going pro as a definite option. Though he’s listed at 79th on ESPN’s current draft board, one would think Grimes could potentially improve that standing in workouts.

And essentially, his decision could depend on how he views the path Wayne Selden took to the NBA.

Much like Grimes, Selden was considered a potential top-10 pick before a difficult freshman year at KU. He decided to stay in Lawrence two more years, then declared for the pros and went undrafted.

So was this positive or negative for Selden? Not getting taken in the NBA Draft is obviously not ideal, but Selden did well for himself after that, earning nearly $5 million in the NBA over the past three seasons.

The bottom line with this: There are reasons for Grimes to consider going pro, and though it’s not a sure thing, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t at least declare to get more information before making a decision.

K.J. Lawson will graduate from KU this year, which gives him plenty of options for next season.

As a potential graduate transfer, he could go elsewhere and play right away with two years of eligibility remaining. Not only would that be attractive to him, but it also should help his stock if he wanted to go elsewhere, with coaches getting the benefit of having someone who could play right away and help for more than a single season.

K.J.’s decision is interesting on a few levels. He’s a fascinating person, a deep thinker who admits he’s matured as a man since arriving in Lawrence two years ago. He credits KU for changing his perspective on life, as he said this place helped him see there was a world for him outside of Memphis. He also is engaged to a woman he met at KU this past year.

Will that be enough to have him stick around at KU, especially with his brother Dedric most likely going pro? It’s tough to know, especially because he’s in a situation where he could pick his next college destination without penalty.

Remember also that the Lawson brothers have a long history with Penny Hardaway, who now is the coach at Memphis. K.J. returning to play there has to be considered a possibility.

For quarterback, signs point to Thomas MacVittie. He was one of the top recruits new coach Les Miles brought in with his first recruiting class, and teams typically don’t take juco quarterbacks with two years of eligibility remaining unless they plan on playing them.

From going to early practices, it seems clear that both MacVittie and incumbent Carter Stanley are the top two on the depth chart. Both have alternated taking the first reps at times in the spring, though it’s best to not read too much into small details like that some five months before the season starts.

As far as record ... 3-9? Perhaps Miles and his staff have higher expectations than that, but no matter which coach led the Jayhawks this year, this was going to be a transition season because of the production KU lost.

One needs only look to Bill Connelly’s numbers for proof. A year after the Jayhawks were second nationally in returning production — a stat that usually indicates team improvement is coming — they’re back down to 112th this season while needing to basically rebuild the entire front seven defensively.

The schedule is somewhat favorable, with KU getting home games against (FCS opponent) Indiana State and Coastal Carolina the first two weeks. The Jayhawks winning those then stealing a Big 12 game somewhere along the line seems like a plausible scenario.

This is a good question (brought on I’m sure by the KU “growing pains” blog earlier this week) and best left to be answered by work from the guru himself.

Ken Pomeroy has researched this topic extensively, and this is the first article to help answer your question, as Pomeroy found that minutes continuity correlated with both offensive and defensive success — with a greater relationship on the offensive side.

To further drill down, Pomeroy wrote earlier this year about the difference in shooting percentages between freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. His findings, in general, were that “players make steady statistical progress as they advance through their college years,” with that statement backed up by the numbers.

Across all college basketball, his data showed freshmen, on average, shoot 67% from the line, 48% from two-point range and 34% from three-point range. Those numbers all increase in sophomores (69%, 50%, 36%) and go even higher when players become seniors (72%, 52%, 36%).

There could be lots of reason for this. Players could become more comfortable with the speed of the game, or perhaps improve their shooting form with additional offseasons. They also could potentially benefit from better shot selection as they gain more experience.

In the end, though, we can expect box-score stats to improve for players the longer they remain in college. The numbers here confirm what most of us believe to be reality.

That certainly would be an ideal scenario for Self and staff, right?

Dotson, as mentioned above, had a spectacular freshman season. He was especially stood out on the defensive end — shutting down many of the talented point guards he faced — while also showing impressive speed and a strong knack for getting to the rim and finishing.

Now comes the next huge step he can take, which perhaps is shown best by looking at this graph comparing KU’s primary point guards over the past six seasons.

SeasonKU PGAssist %
2013-14Frank Mason22.4
2014-15Frank Mason24.7
2015-16Frank Mason23.4
2016-17Frank Mason26.1
2017-18Devonte’ Graham31.4
2018-19Devon Dotson19.6

Before we go further, a quick definition on assist percentage: It’s what percentage of a team’s assists a player contributes while he’s on the floor.

Mason improved at this skill over time, while Graham was phenomenal with it as a senior. For Dotson, there appears to be more room for improvement when it comes to court vision and creating easy shots for his teammates.

Kansas coach Bill Self has been impressed with freshman Devon Dotson, who is averaging 11 points per game this season. The coach still wants to see more "easy assists" from him, though, which should come with more experience.

Some of this can be seen in the advanced numbers as well. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s logs, KU ranked in the 87th percentile in “pick-and-roll, ballhandler” and the 98th percentile in “pick-and-roll, roll man” situations in 2017-18 with Graham. Those numbers dropped to the 57th and 49th percentiles, respectively, this past season.

Perhaps the best way to show the difference is a comparison of this same KU play, a few years apart. Notice how an inexperienced Dotson doesn’t see the open Mitch Lightfoot, instead settling for a contested jumper. Mason, meanwhile, sees Landen Lucas come open, throwing the lob where only he can get it to give KU a dunk.

When these reads and plays become more natural for Dotson, his offensive numbers — and KU’s as a whole — should only get better.

While I fully promote and embrace this idea, there is one major sticking point: My hometown has no Denny’s restaurant.

Which means ... it’s time for IHOP to step up to the plate on this.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.
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