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Kentucky Wildcats
This edition of Hoops Insight is a bit fun and different. Instead of previewing UK's next game, I wanted to turn my attention to an interesting question posed on Twitter to me by a subscriber, Jon Levin. Jon asked:

"Is there a way to break down how Keldon Johnson hitting a 3 accelerates or unlocks his scoring? Seems that he ALWAYS gets going by nailing a 3"

I thought this was a cool idea to investigate, and I happen to have rows and rows of UK play by play data I can use to answer it. So, that's the focus of today's newsletter...does Keldon Johnson get hot after hitting a 3, more so than other UK players?

For my analysis, I settled on measuring what players do in the 5 possessions following a made or missed shot. I also decided to focus just on UK's top 3 scorers: PJ Washington, tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson. The primary reason is that they all score about the same number of points per game (between 13.5-15) and play about the same amount of time (30-32 minutes per game). They all have roughly the same likelihood of scoring on any given possession, since they score a similar amount and play a similar number of possessions. I looked at four different "triggering" events:
  • Missed 2 pointer
  • Made 2 pointer
  • Missed 3 pointer
  • Made 3 pointer
First, I looked at how often each player scored in the 5 possessions immediately following each action. Here's what I found:
As hypothesized by Jon, Keldon Johnson is indeed much more likely to score after making a 3 pointer than his Wildcat teammates. In fact, that's the only one of our 4 scenarios where Keldon Johnson is more likely to score afterwards than his teammates. The graphs above also show that Johnson is much more likely to score after a 3 point make (34%) than after a miss (15%); this seems to indicate that he needs the confidence from a made 3 pointer to boost his scoring.

Interestingly enough, Tyler Herro seems to behave similarly with 2 pointers. He only scores 15% of the time within 5 possessions after missing a 2 pointer, but 36% of the time after making one. 47% of Herro's shots are 2 point jumpers, more than any other Wildcat; it may be that he feels confident shooting them after hitting, but he decides (or is told by the coaching staff) to stop taking them if he misses?

I'm not exactly certain why every UK player in this analysis is most likely to score within 5 possessions of a made 2 pointer, to be honest. This analysis just includes field goals, so it's not affected by free throws made in an "and-1" situation. This does appear to indicate that players in general get more aggressive when they're scoring, although the effect is more muted for PJ Washington.

These charts show the likelihood that a player scores at least 1 basket after a make or miss. I also looked at the average number of points a player scored, to see if Keldon Johnson in particular was prone to individual spurts after making a three:

As you can see in this chart, Keldon Johnson's scoring jumps substantially in the 5 possessions after a make, compared to a miss. He averages more points than Herro or Washington in the 5 possessions following a 3 point make, but trails Washington following 2 point makes or misses and 3 point misses. He also trails Herro following a 3 point miss, further indicating that Johnson gets a significant confidence boost when he makes a 3 pointer.

PJ Washington is remarkably consistent by this metric. He seems largely unaffected by whether he makes or misses a shot, and is likely to produce points immediately following a shot attempt. This chart also furthers illustrates how much Herro needs to see 2 pointers drop, as he scores more than twice as many points following a 2point make compared to a miss.

These metrics shows how often players score, but this could be caused by them being willing to shoot more often once they've taken (or made) a shot. I also looked at each player's effective field goal percentage in the 5 possessions following makes or misses:

This really drives home how much confidence Keldon Johnson derives from hitting a 3, and really proves Jon's hypothesis that Keldon is ignited by hitting threes. Hit effective FG% jumps to 68% after he's made a 3 pointer, compared to just 39% if he's missed one. Keldon after missing a 3 is the worst shooting option among these three players, but after making a three he's the best shooting option!

This chart also shows that Herro sees a significant jump in marksmanship when hitting a 2 pointer, providing additional context to what we saw in earlier charts. He's not just shooting more after he makes one, but he actually shoots better.

Again, PJ Washington is the picture of consistency here. Whether he makes or misses a shot, his effective FG% stays in a pretty tight range. 

What does this mean for UK? If the Wildcats are in a close game against a tough opponent, this can help to inform how they distribute shots to their key scorers. I see three takeaways here:

1) When Keldon hits a three, UK should try to run a couple plays for him to build on the confidence and marksmanship he seems to absorb from seeing a three go through the net

2) UK should look to get Tyler Herro some good 2 point looks early in games, as he is a more frequent and accurate scorer after making 2 pointer. Since he takes more 2 point jumpers than anyone else, it's probably important to instill this confidence early.

3) PJ Washington is clearly UK's most consistent scoring option, and his ability to score doesn't waver based on the outcome of his shots. If he misses an easy shot or two, UK should keep feeding him since he's unlikely to be frustrated by the misses.


Again, thanks to Jon Levin for the question that ignited this analysis. If anyone else has any interesting questions about UK, please don't hesitate to reach out and I'll see if there's anything I can do to answer the question.
I want to thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. At Hoops Insight, I hope to use data to find insights that reveal things you didn't realize about the Kentucky Wildcats. I'm using play-by-play data to track what's happening, who's doing it, and who is in the game, in order to show you things the box score can't. Check out my past newsletters in the Hoops Insight Archive, and read about the stats I like to use in my stats glossary.

If you have any questions about things I'm saying, the data behind it, or if you just want to debate a point, feel free to contact me on Twitter at @hoopsinsights or email at sean@hoopsinsight.com. I'd love your feedback on the newsletter and how I can improve. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy my work.
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