Is it Kam Jones Time?

I’ve spent a majority of my time this summer researching (and subsequently Tweeting on) why I’m so bullish on what I believe to be Marquette’s core of Tyler Kolek, Oso Ighodaro and OMax Prosper. I even penciled in Stevie Mitchell jumping into the top-4 of the rotation in terms of minutes.  

After just 24 minutes of one public scrimmage, viewed only through the lens of 17 Twitter clips, I’m ready to say I was too bearish on Kam Jones and have to revise my expectations upwards.

Let’s break down my line of thinking and what has altered it.

2022 Offense

Kam’s freshman campaign had a bit of Jekyll and Hyde element to it. We heard great things about Kam all summer and Shaka was publicly noting Kam would play more than a spot role on the strength of his offense. When Greg Elliott was suspended and missed the first 4 games, Kam had a golden opportunity to carve out rotation time. And he did, scoring in double figures against Mississippi and then again against West Virginia. 

When the starting lineup hit a rut in late November, it was Kam that got the nod, starting 6 straight before missing a game against Creighton and being one of the first off the bench the rest of the way. Overall, a 105.5 ORtg on 39% 3pt shooting in 44.5% of available minutes makes his season nothing short of a rousing success, particularly when you account for the fact that he wasn’t a top-150 recruit.

But digging past the top line, there’s even more to be impressed about. Kam finished in the 96th% of all spot up shooters in D1 and was the 3rd best spot-up shooter in the league (minimum 50 attempts), scoring 1.254PPP on an eFG% of 62.7%. All of this is to say, he was an elite knock down shooter and is actually the best returning spot-up sniper in the conference.

Again, these are facts that would lead most to believe he would play an enormous role on a team losing its top-2 scorers.

2022 Defense

Of course, there’s another end of the court involved and on this end, Kam proved to be one of the least effective players Marquette deployed. Against top-200 teams, Marquette was 13.5 points worse defensively with Kam on the court than when he was off (per 100 possessions adjusted for opponent quality), which was the 2nd worst number on the team, only behind David Joplin. If we focus just on Big East play, that number was more respectable at -7.4, but still a net negative and 2nd worst once more.

Using this data, I assumed while there would be some progression over the summer on his part, Stevie Mitchell would also see progression offensively, and seeing as he had the 2nd best On/Off splits defensively at +9.1 during Big East play, he would see a big jump in his role, probably at the expense of Kam’s potential leap.

I’m still very high on Stevie, but doing some additional digging on Kam’s defensive splits after seeing his offensive burst in the scrimmage put a tad more context on that negativity.      

Using Hoop-Explorer’s stats, we can see that MU had an AdjD rating of 100.6 when Kam was on the floor against top-100 opponents in a total of 623 possessions. That 100.6 rating isn’t terrible, but would rank 131st in the country. However, about 40% of those possessions were spent sharing a backcourt with Greg Elliott. In the 381 possessions where Kam was on the floor without Greg, that AdjD rating was 96.4, which would have ranked 61st in the country.

That is to say, while Kam is not going to be a defensive maven any time soon and is clearly worse than Stevie at that end, he was only a defensive liability when he was paired up with Greg. With that pairing no longer possible, a year of experience and a summer of improvement, I feel much more comfortable in saying that Marquette’s defense won’t get significantly worse when Kam is out there, compared to the other available options.

Projecting 2023 Output

Which bring us back to that video at the top. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the scrimmage in person, or haven’t watched all 17 clips Twitter user and hero to all out-of-towners @JoshLepk uploaded, seeing a few nice clips won’t necessarily be enough to move the needle. But his activity with the ball, not just the silky shot, really stands out as something we haven’t seen much from him.

From Ryan’s scrimmage recap:     

“The thing that impressed the most however was his increased ability to penetrate and finish at the hoop. He had a couple of crafty finishes through traffic using skills that weren’t in his arsenal last season. He also demonstrated some increased energy on defense.”

Sure enough, Shaka himself mentioned that Kam didn’t want to be a 1-dimensional player and worked hard at shedding that label this summer. The spot-up shot still plays (and will be the weapon of choice playing along Kolek and Oso) but he needs to be able to get to the rim off the bounce to evolve as a scorer.

Listen to this stat, which Alan Bykowski noted this summer and Shaka “mocked” after the scrimmage. Kam Jones had a Free Throw Rate of 0.0 in conference play despite playing 40% of minutes in 18 games. He did not attempt 1 free throw in Big East games. Not 1.

Since 2008, 1,177 players have notched at least 40% of minutes in Big East play and Kam Jones was the one and only to not put up at least 1 free throw in that time. That’s almost unfathomable and something he probably couldn’t replicate if he tried. Only 4 high major players (since ’08) can say that.

Without Darryl and Justin forcing the action, there is a glaring need for someone to take those possessions and get to the hoop, draw a foul, make something happen. Seeing his aggressiveness and hearing the reports from Ryan and others, I think Kam has as good a shot as any to be that guy.

Kam has the range. He has the green light.

By his nature, he will take quite a few ill-advised shots and draw our ire, but at the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say his role should increase, not plateau as I had initially envisioned for this season.

In other words, it’s Kam Jones time.

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Categories: Analysis


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