January 23, 2013
Trailing at Alabama with less than four minutes to play, Kentucky ran its offense through Kyle Wiltjer.
On four consecutive possessions, the play called for Wiltjer to post up.
Surprising? Not lately. For one, Wiltjer was having a good game. He had scored 11 first-half points, and, although he was having a quiet second half, he'd had success.
Two, Wiltjer's been showing much more of an interior game than we're accustomed to seeing. His freshman year, exactly half his shots were two-pointers. Through nonconference play this season, that number was 37.2 percent. In five SEC games, he's at 57.5 percent.
Let's look at the four plays and what they resulted in.
PLAY 1 (depicted in the following three screencaps):
Wiltjer sets a screen for Harrow on the side, then pops out -- if his man hadn't recovered in time, he could have had an open look -- before moving inside the arc to post up. Harrow gets it to him. Wiltjer will back in, spin, shoot a right-handed jump hook, and miss. But: the weakside is left open, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin both have open lanes for a putback, and UK gets two points.
PLAY 2(depicted in the following two screenshots):
It's the same setup as the previous play: Harrow and Wiltjer run a screen on the side. Wiltjer pops out, doesn't get the look, and moves inside the arc. Same action, same attempted result: Wiltjer receives the entry pass, backs his man down, and gets fouled (just) before going into a left-handed hook in the lane. He was fouled on the floor, so no points, but it was shaping up effectively.
PLAY 3(depicted in the following two screenshots):
I promise, this isn't a repeat screenshot. Wiltjer posts up again, just inside the arc on the sideline. This time, he will back down, try a move toward the middle, spin back toward the baseline, spin back toward the middle, and toss up an off-balance left-handed shot. It bounces around and goes in.
PLAY 4(depicted in the following two screenshots):
There's a slight variation here, as Wiltjer moves to the opposite side of the court. But it's still the same thing, just in reverse -- he and Harrow run screen action on the side, while Noel hangs out on the weakside of the paint and Goodwin and Julius Mays stay on the perimeter. Wiltjer will fight for position and eventually get fouled, sending him to the line. He misses the front end of a one-and-one, but -- while the result didn't turn out to be a positive -- the play's setup was.
So: Four possessions, two made baskets, two drawn fouls. Pretty efficient.
I wouldn't have guessed UK would be using Wiltjer in the paint as their need-a-basket offense in SEC play. But in the last three games, he's shown an improved sense of how to work inside the arc. With the Cats searching for an offensive identity, Wiltjer could continue to see vital touches if he maintains his production in the paint.