November 06, 2013
Maybe it was because we saw Anthony Davis two years ago and became spoiled.
Whatever the case, Kentucky's failure throwing lobs -- the Wildcats committed four of their 16 turnovers on alley-oop attempts -- in its second exhibition game was somewhat strange to see.
"(Some of) them hit the shot clock," John Calipari said, "like, what in the world?"
There was plenty else of note from that game. Julius Randle's continued comfort on the perimeter, yet his ease at scoring from the paint in crunch time; Willie Cauley-Stein's quiet first half and his torrid start to the second half; Alex Poythress' improvements; the overall defense.
But the magnitude of all those are tempered, at least right now, by the fact that it's an exhibition and Kentucky is playing without its point guard. So instead, let's look at the lobs, which have been an issue for the Wildcats in preseason. (Marcus Lee, the team's best lob-catcher but someone whose minutes are unclear right now, said "we've thrown some bad lobs" at Media Day.)
Play One: Cauley-Stein to Randle
The first one came on Kentucky's first play, meaning it was probably designed. Cauley-Stein gets the ball at the top; Julius Randle darts toward the basket on a down screen by Aaron Harrison. It's great, in concept. You draw the opposing center (and logical best rim-protector) out as far from the basket as possible; Julius Randle has the quickness to beat his man and the size to finish.
But on this one play, the pass is poorly timed, and Harrison's man does a good job of getting a body on Randle and disrupting his path as he rushes toward the basket. Result: turnover.
Play Two: Polson to Cauley-Stein
This is the most ambitious try of the four. It's a fast break, and Jarrod Polson decided, around half court, to toss up a lob for Cauley-Stein, racing toward to the basket from the other wing. This was a really, really difficult try, as Cauley-Stein is moving at full speed; that allows for much less room for error than one in which the receiver can set and essentially time his jump.
As it turns out, Polson's throws was just a bit high and in front of Cauley-Stein, who got a fully extended hand on the ball but couldn't come close to corralling it enough to throw it down. Result: turnover.
Play Three: Hood to Cauley-Stein
This one comes from a half court set, as well. Jon Hood takes a hand-off in the right corner and slashes toward the middle of the floor. His drive draws the attention of Cauley-Stein's man, enough to make Cauley-Stein raise his hand, indicating the opening for a lob. But Hood's toss hovers for too long, and Cauley-Stein reaches the apex of his jump before the ball reach him. Result: turnover.
Play Four: Cauley-Stein to Young
This was the second lob attempt on a fast break. Instead of the point guard running things, though, it's the center (how freakish is that?). Cauley-Stein grabbed a rebound and took off for the other end; also around half court, he saw James Young streaking down the opposite wing. He tossed up the lob around the 3-point line, but this one, too, just wasn't timed well enough. Result: turnover.
Ultimately,this isn't too much of a concern. Lobs are based on timing, and that will improve through repetition, practice and developing chemistry.
But there is some merit, I think, to the notion of successfully converting lobs being part innate. So much of it is instincts -- having a feel for the other person involved, their spacing on the court, the timing of your part and their part working in sync, the angles, etc. I don't remember that 2012 team ever struggling with lobs, and while Anthony Davis certainly reeled in his fair share of passes that had no business going through the rim, it still came pretty natural for that whole team.
This team will develop it, though. It's obviously important enough for them to if Calipari is calling the first play to have at least the option of a lob, and we see even through these four just how many chances UK will get (I mean, its center was on the passing end twice and on the receiving end twice).
It didn't happen Monday, but Rupp Arena will be rocking from converted lob dunks plenty of times this year.