Josh Selby is scheduled to debut for the Kansas Jayhawks tomorrow against Southern California. Without Selby in the lineup Kansas is ranked third in both major polls, second by Ken Pomeroy and sixth by Jeff Sagarin. The Jayhawks haven’t looked invincible the whole way, but they’ve won their first nine. The season is highlighted by a dominant win over the Memphis Tigers on a neutral court. Statistically speaking Kansas is one of three "elite" teams, sporting gaudy adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies (the other two teams fitting the bill are Duke and Ohio State, both of whom rank in the top six in both statistics).
To give you an idea of how offensively dominant this team is: so far they’re shooting a stunning 61.8% from two, and a very solid 40.5% from three. I had to check that two point number because I couldn’t believe it. I mean, when any star player shoots well, we normally say 55% from two (really in between 50-60% depending on the position) and 40% from three are optimal numbers. Kansas’ entire team shoots that well.
The scary part is Josh Selby could be the best player on the team. He’s certainly got the most upside (though Marcus Morris is the most polished Jayhawk player). But we’re not talking about the NBA draft. The real question is how Selby will fit into this year’s team.
Selby is a 6’2 (he’s listed everywhere from 6’1 to 6’3) combo guard who can flat out score. He’s super athletic and, at 180 pounds, has a decent frame to absorb contact at the college level. The biggest question surrounding Selby are his leadership abilities. He’s been described a selfish, and most talent evaluators seem to see him excelling in an off the ball role rather than at the helm. Based on watching videos from a couple of his games from high school and the McDonalds’ All American game (where he won the dunk contest), I’d have to agree.
More after the jump.
I don’t think he makes the best decisions, and he looks for his own shot too much to seamlessly integrate into being the point guard for an elite college team. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but I think Selby is far more dangerous slashing on the wing (especially since his height won’t be a factor at all in the college game).
If you watch these YouTube clips, Selby’s athleticism is evident. He is a ferocious once he’s to the rim, though I’m still not sure how well he’ll respond to college front lines. He’s an elite scorer, so I know he’ll find a way to get his shot, but I’m not sure how many high flying dunks we’ll see. When he’s playing his best, he’s also great at finding his teammates for open looks, but I doubt this will be a huge part of his games.
The biggest strength Selby brings to the Jayhawks is his big time scoring ability to paraphrase Scout.com. I think the one area the Jayhawks could improve in the backcourt is in a real playmaker. Marcus Morris is a great scorer (and Kansas’ best offensive player) but he’s shown the ability to disappear, and college interior players have trouble controlling a game because they need someone to get them the ball. Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed are both great players, but I don’t see either of them as guys who will take over a game at will. Truthfully, this confidence may also be Selby’s biggest weakness. But I think he’s going to bring a swagger to the Jayhawks that will really help them in tough spots. Selby should bring that "get out of my way" mentality that’s necessary in close games on the road.
I see Selby eventually taking over Brady Morningstar’s spot in the lineup with Tyshawn Taylor at point. Right now Taylor, Morningstar and Tyrel Reed all play about two thirds of a game. I think Morningstar’s minutes will take a significant hit, and Reed’s to also drop a little. Based on how well Taylor has played at the point so far this season, I don’t think there’s much call to drop his minutes or play Selby at point.
Regardless of Selby’s talent, we should expect Kansas’ hot shooting to decline a little bit. With conference play looming those stats will come back to earth, even with the Jayhawks as one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. And whether Selby is logging 30 minutes or 15 minutes, I still expect Kansas to have phenomenal guard play. The questions the Jayhawks need to answer are: (1) can they beat teams with strong post presences, and (2) can they close out close games. Selby might not be the answer for the first question, but he sure looks like the answer to the latter.