Boasting a grand total of five starts and 1,380 career minutes between them, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are the two most battle-tested players returning to the Wisconsin frontcourt. Despite the modest tally of actual game experience, expectations are running high for the duo. The rosy outlook can be attributed primarily to the exciting offensive potential Dekker and Kaminsky bring to the table.
Everyone realizes they cannot overcome the loss of three senior starters all by themselves. But each one brings significant strengths to the Badger attack. Kaminsky and Dekker are another year older and wiser, both expected to step into leadership roles.
Saturday, the Badgers will take part in the annual Red/White Scrimmage, so it is time to dig in.
Because we love tempo-free statistics, I used Ken Pomeroy data to compare Wisconsin's returning contributors to other returning players around the Big Ten. At the forward positions, that narrowed things down to Dekker and Kaminsky. No other Badger forward was a statistically significant contributor (ie: played at least 10 percent of available minutes) last season.
First, the ground rules. For each player, I've identified two strengths based on my own observations that hold up in Pomeroy's data model. I then found another returning Big Ten player who put up similar numbers in that category last year -- preferably someone who is a similar height and played a similar amount of minutes. With strengths also come weaknesses, therefore I found appropriate comparisons for an area of improvement, as well.
So, without further adieu...
Sam Dekker, So. (6'7, 220 pounds)
Stat O'Strength: 57.9 Effective Field Goal Pct.
Effective field goal percentage weighs 3-pointers more heavily to more accurately calculate a players' shooting performance. On the strength of his 39 percent 3-point shooting, Dekker would have placed in the Top 100 nationwide for eFG% if he had played enough minutes to qualify. A high-caliber eFG% is often more fitting for a big man or the most automatic of 3-point shooters. At times, Dekker did seem automatic from deep -- until his 4-for-24 skid in the postseason.
Comparison: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
57.8 eFG%, 64.1 percent of available minutes
The 6'10 Payne shot nearly 57 percent on 2-point shots for the Spartans last year and when you factor in his capable 3-point shooting stroke (38 percent), his effective field goal percentage remains just as high. The senior finally developed into a beast for Tom Izzo. Payne's eFG% ranked him 94th in the country last year, third among returning Big Ten players. It's encouraging for Dekker to be at Payne's level already in terms of success near the rim.
A bonus comparison? When you look at true shooting percentage, Ohio State's budding star LaQuinton Ross (57.5 TS%) is a more apt comparison for the Badger sophomore. Dekker had a TS% of 59.7. Payne trumped both guys in TS% due to his lights-out free throw shooting. All three are forces to be reckoned with.
Stat O'Strength: 116.7 Offensive Rating
A great eFG% is only part of the overall equation that validates how effective Dekker was on offensive as a freshman. He posted the highest offensive rating among Badgers who played at least 40 percent of the available minutes.
The formula to produce ORtg also takes into account free throws, turnovers, assists and offensive rebounds. Dekker fares well in those categories almost simply by virtue of playing in the Wisconsin system that values the ball so much. He also posted these strong offensive numbers while using 21.8 percent of the team's possessions when he was on the floor, making Dekker UW's second-highest usage player as a freshman behind Ryan Evans.
Comparison: Will Sheehey, Indiana
116.3 ORtg, 20.6 percent of possessions used
Whattaya know ... the guy who swiped last year's Sixth Man award from Dekker was nearly as efficient. Sheehey had a few advantages, however: he was a junior on a loaded, No. 1-ranked Hoosier squad. Dekker got stronger during the conference season, whereas Sheehey did not. But maybe that is to be expected. With all the expectations being heaped on Dekker this season, sometimes I have to remind myself that he was a true freshman last year putting up these numbers.
Weakness: 28.7 Free Throw Rate
When Bo Ryan mentioned Dekker was the guy drawing the most contact and shooting the most free throws during early practices last year, I think most assumed that would carry over into the season. Given Dekker's skill set, maybe it's just a matter of time. He has already added more muscle weight heading into his second season. This could allow him to be more adventuresome near the rim instead of settling for 3-pointers. (Closely related, I was surprised Dekker didn't have a higher assist rate, either.) It's worth noting that in his hey-day, Alando Tucker was drawing twice as many fouls per 40 minutes than Dekker did as a freshman (3.7). There's room to grow.
Comparison: LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
28.5 FTR, 3.8 Fouls Drawn per 40 min
Despite his statistical similarities to Gary Harris, Dekker can't escape comparisons to the aforementioned Ross -- which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your opinion of Deshaun Thomas' heir apparent. Ross has shown a lot of promise offensively, but mostly by jacking up tons of shots instead of passing. He played slightly fewer minutes than Dekker and isn't exactly known for his toughness. We'll see which player becomes more aggressive now that each one has inherited the big stage for their respective squads.
Frank Kaminsky, Jr. (7'0, 234 pounds)
Stat O'Strength: 8.4 Turnover Rate
We all know Frank can shoot. Like Dekker, Kaminsky had a stellar offensive rating last season, however he didn't sustain it over a lot of minutes. He faces a similar challenge with keeping his turnovers low as he starts to play major minutes this year.
The facts show, though, that Kaminsky committed turnovers at a lower rate than any other contributor last year. Not just among Badgers -- the lowest rate among any Big Ten player in Pomeroy's database. So he's off to a great start continuing Bo Ryan's tradition of valuing the ball. History says he can even improve in this area, although sustaining last year's rate would put him among the nation's elite as is. Jared Berggren had an impressive TO% (11.0) as a senior after improving each year, so it is not unprecedented for a Badger big man. For reference, both Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer posted a 8.4 TO% during their respective junior campaigns.
Comparison: Travis Carroll, Purdue
10.7 TO%, 20.1 percent of available minutes
It was hard to find a good comparison from a big man in conference, for the reasons stated above. Despite handling the ball less than top guards, big men usually make enough mistakes to inflate this rate. And even in Carroll's case, he is still much more of a role player for the Boilers than Kaminsky (23.2 percent of available minutes) was even a year ago. Maybe it's Kaminsky's background as a guard, but he's quite impressive in this area.
Stat O'Strength: 43.9 Free Throw Rate
Kaminsky's sophomore season was a certified success from the free throw line. His free throw rate of 43.9 was the highest on the team besides the lesser used Zak Showalter, meaning he attempted nearly one free throw for every two field goal attempts. And once he got to the charity stripe, Kaminsky converted. His 76.7 percent free throw shooting led the Badgers.
For a program that has steadily produced perimeter-oriented teams of late, Wisconsin absolutely needs guys that can find a way to the free throw line. And in that regard, the stats show Kaminsky has a sneaky aggressive streak to his game, evidenced by his crazy 12-for-14 parade to the line in 23 minutes against Illinois in February.
Comparison: Gabe Olaseni, Iowa & Oto Osenieks, Minnesota
50.7 FTR, 25.8 percent of possessions used | 39.2 FTR, 20.7 percent of possessions used
A more flattering comparison would have been Victor Oladipo and Rodney Williams, who posted similar FT Rates before moving on to the NBA. Though we're not here to flatter anyone, those are thought-provoking comparisons. However, Kaminsky's numbers here fit in perfectly with his fellow junior big men with European names. The ones that can keep this up with a larger sample size are worth talking about.
Weakness: 12.5 Defensive Rebounding Pct.
Wisconsin lost three good rebounders to graduation -- two excellent defensive rebounders in Berggren and Ryan Evans. I discussed the need for Kaminsky to improve his board work this summer when previewing the Canadian tour. Of course ultimately, all that matters is that someone on UW collects an opponent's missed shot.
Comparison: Nnanna Egwu, Illinois
13.0 DR%, 63.2 percent of available minutes
Lots of comparisons here, but the most interesting one was with Egwu. If you'll recall, Egwu was heavily recruited out of the Chicago area prior to chosing the Illini. The Badgers moved on to courting Kaminsky right afterward. Egwu played about three times the minutes that Big Frank did, but his overall rebounding profile was nearly identical (also 9.5 OR% to Kaminsky's 7.3). As one of the few true 7-footers in the conference, Kaminsky has to rebound better than swingmen like Sam Thompson and Will Sheehey.
The other two Wisconsin returnees up front who did not see much action were Zach Bohannon and center Evan Anderson. Both figure to see an increase in minutes, along with Duje Dukan, who took a redshirt last season. Let's take a quick look at some selected tempo-free statistics from 2012-13 for the first two, despite their extremely low usage, since Pomeroy doesn't show us that data.
Zach Bohannon, Sr. (6'6, 206 pounds)
Bohannon might be the best natural rebounder on the team. It's not very pretty, but the guy has a good basketball IQ.
Evan Anderson, Jr. (6'10, 245 pounds)
Even the stuff that big men should naturally be better at (rebounding, blocking shots) than smaller players, Anderson struggles with. But to be fair, the sample size is minuscule. Good at assisting!
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