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What Kobe King Can Bring to Nebraska Basketball

March 31, 2020

Nebraska has continued to add talent through the transfer market as the coaching staff added a pair of Kobes to the backcourt for next season.

On Monday, Hail Varsity broke down what Western Illinois grad transfer point guard Kobe Webster can bring to the Huskers through the lens of his Synergy Sports Technology statistical profile. Today, it’s Wisconsin transfer guard Kobe King’s turn.

King left the Badgers midseason and chose Lincoln as his next stop. The former Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin suffered a season-ending knee injury 10 games into his freshman year, then he averaged 19 minutes per game off the bench as a redshirt freshman. This year, he started all 19 games he played in before leaving the program and entering the transfer portal.

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 10.0 points per game but didn’t contribute a whole lot in areas other than scoring and he shot just 25% from 3 and 67.3% from the free-throw line. At first glance, he doesn’t seem like a great fit for Fred Hoiberg’s system. But the coaches believed in his skill set enough to go after him hard, and Nebraska will seek to get him a waiver for immediate eligibility next season.

Because of the limited sample size of possessions for King, I looked at his numbers for the last two years to get a better feel for what he is as a player.

Overall, King scored 0.942 points per possession (PPP) on 154 possessions as a redshirt freshman. That’s in the 68th percentile and rated “very good.” In a larger role with more responsibility as a sophomore, he scored 0.873 PPP (52nd percentile, “good”).

He was used most often as a spot-up player. That play type made up nearly 40% of his possessions as a freshman while he was playing off of Ethan Happ. Despite being a poor 3-point shooter, he scored 1.016 PPP (71st percentile, “very good”). Of his 61 spot up possessions, 38 ended in no dribble jump shots which led to 1.132 PPP. He shot 15-of-38 and 13 of those makes were 3-pointers (he only made 15 3s all year). He was not very good at all when he tried to attack the basket out of spot-up situations (3-of-11 with two trips to the charity stripe).

With Happ gone this season, King had the ball in his hands a lot more often. Spot up was still his most common play type, but it only made up 21.6% of his possessions, though he was similarly effective. He scored 1.043 PPP (81st percentile, “very good”). His shot profile was very different, however, as he mixed it up and spread his shot attempts between no-dribble jumpers, pull-ups and rim attacks almost equally.

He only shot 5-of-15 on the catch-and-shoot looks with four of those makes from 3-point range (.0933 PPP, 39th percentile, “average”). He shot 8-of-13 on jumpers off the dribble (1.385 PPP, 96th percentile, “excellent”). He was a little better at the rim too (4-of-7 with three shooing fouls and here turnovers, 1.0 PPP, 52nd percentile, “good”).

Beyond spot-up possessions, King’s offensive profile was pretty balanced between isolation (16%), post up (15%), pick-and-roll ball handler (11.7%) and transition (10.8%).

Let’s start with isolation, where he was just “average.” King scored 0.765 PPP on 34 possessions (50th percentile). He shot 11-of-27 with five turnovers. Twelve of his ISOs ended at the rim (4-of-8 shooting, three shooting fouls) and 11 ended with pull-up jumpers (4-of-11 shooting). He was much better as a freshman, though it was just 10 possessions. He shot 5-of-8  from the field for 10 points.

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, King has a strong frame for an off-guard and was pretty effective as a post player this season. He scored 10 points on six drop-step possessions, nine points on nine possessions going to the rim and eight points on eight post up jump shot possessions, showcasing his versatility on the block. He scored 10 points on 13 post-up possessions as a freshman, shooting 4-of-11 compared to 12-of-25 this year.

King isn’t a great playmaker, but he’s shown a bit of pick-and-roll acumen. He scored 22 points on 25 possessions this year (0.88 PPP, 80th percentile, “very good”). He wasn’t very good at attacking the basket (2-of-7 at the rim and 0-of-1 on runners), but he was effective as a pull-up shooter (8-of-11 from the field for 16 points). He shot 7-of-13 for 16 points on 20 pick-and-roll possessions as a freshman. Between the two seasons, he had 10 turnovers on 45 possessions, which is not a great number. 

One area in which King shows promise in a  very small sample size is as an off-ball cutter. In the last two seasons, he’s scored 35 points on 23 possessions (1.522 PPP), shooting 13-of-18 with seven trips to the free-throw stripe. Thorir Thorbjarnarson showed how effective a smart cutter can be in Hoiberg’s offense, and perhaps that’s an area of King’s game that Nebraska will be able to unlock.

In addition to his 3-point struggles, King also didn’t show much in the way of open court ability at Wisconsin. The Badgers are typically one of the slower teams in the country, so he didn’t exactly have a ton of transition opportunities, but he also didn’t do much with the opportunities he did have. King shot 6-of-17 with two turnovers and four shooting fouls in transition this season, scoring just 16 points on 23 possessions (0.696, eight percentile, “poor”. He wasn’t much better in 2018-19, scoring 13 points on 17 possessions (0.765 PPP, 14th percentile, “poor”) while shooting 5-of-14 with a pair of turnovers. 

King wasn’t much of a playmaker for others at Wisconsin (as his 30 assists and 29 turnovers this season suggest). 

When looking at his shooting numbers overall, it’s clear that his pull-up mid-range jumper and his post scoring are his strengths. He shot 50% on pull-up jumpers and scored 1.045 PPP (91st percentile, “excellent”). On medium jump shots (17 feet out to the 3-point line), he shot 10-of-16 (62.5%) for an “excellent” PPP of 1.25 (99th percentile). On shorter jumpers, he was 12-of-27 for 24 points (0.889 PPP, 70th percentile, “very good”).

King shot just 25% from 3, however, and he was better on post ups (48% shooting, 0.96 PPP, 54th percentile, “good)) than other shots around the rim (47.8% shooting, 1.0 PPP, 29th percentile, “below average”). He was just an “average” catch-and-shoot player at 0.875 PPP on  16 possessions, shooting 5-of-16 for 14 points.

Oddly enough, however, he was “very good” around the rim as a freshman (62.2% shooting, 1.297 PPP), and he was a better catch-snd-shoot player as well (1.024 PPP, “good”) mostly because he shot 10-of-20 on unguarded looks for 28 points (1.4 PPP, “excellent”). So the ability is in there, somewhere.

King clearly has his flaws, and he’s got some work to do to adjust to Hoiberg’s style of play after three years in the Wisconsin program, but there are some useful skills in there as well. Hoiberg and his staff are clearly hoping the change in scenery will serve King well.

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