What Dalano Banton Can Bring to Nebraska Basketball
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What Matej Kavas Can Bring to Nebraska Basketball

May 20, 2019

Now that the dust has settled, it appears Fred Hoiberg is bringing in 11 new players for his first season as Nebraska’s head coach.

Five of those players have already played at the Division I level, giving us a better idea of what they’re going to bring to the program as opposed to the players coming out of high school or junior college (or out of France, in Yvan Ouedraogo’s case). With that in mind, Hail Varsity is going to take a look at each of those newcomers through the prism of their statistical profile courtesy of SynergySports Technology.

On Sunday, we broke down Shamiel Stevenson’s offensive strengths and weaknesses from his freshman year at Pittsburgh. Today, we’re looking at Seattle grad transfer Matej Kavas.

Kavas is a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward who spent the past four years at Seattle University in the Western Athletic Conference. Granted, he wasn’t playing against elite competition, but after diving into the numbers I feel justified in calling him one of the best shooters in college basketball.

The Slovenian sharp-shooter was terrific in 2017-18, averaging 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 46.4 percent form 3 on nearly six attempts per game and 48.5 percent inside the arc in 31.5 minutes per game. Injuries hit last season as he was limited to just 24 games and 23.1 minutes per game, but he still put up a good season with 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooting 45.8 percent both inside the arc and from deep. For his career, Kavas has shot 44.7 percent from 3 on nearly 400 attempts.

Overall last season, Kavas used 220 possessions and scored 239 points. His 1.086 points per possessions (PPP) was in the 93rd percentile, considered “excellent.” He was even better when you look at his halfcourt possessions only — 196 possessions, 218 points, 1.112 PPP, 96th percentile, “excellent.”

Kavas’ most common play type was Spot-Up. He scored 95 points on 81 possessions, a PPP of 1.173 which is in the 96th percentile and rated as “excellent” (the NCAA average is 0.941 PPP). He shot 33-of-73 on spot-up opportunities (including primarily catch-and-shoot opportunities or attacking closeouts but not any play where a player used a screen to get open) with four turnovers and two shooting fouls.

On 53 catch-and-shoot spot-up opportunities, Kavas scored 68 points (1.283 PPP, 84th percentile, “excellent”). He shot 22-of-52 (42.3 percent) and drew one foul with the vast majority of those shots coming from the 3-point line. He's not just a catch-and-shoot threat, however. He shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) on pull-up jumpers, scoring 17 points on 16 possessions. It’s a small sample size, but his 1.062 PPP is in the 78th percentile and is “very good.” He’s not much of a threat to get all the way to the rim, however, as he did so on just seven possessions, shooting 4-of-6 with a turnover. It’s worth noting that he goes left almost exclusively when putting the ball on the deck as he drove right on just two of 28 possessions (and he pulled up for a jumper on both of those possessions).

Kavas’ second-most common play type is Pick-and-Roll Roll Man. However, that is a bit of a misnomer as he actually never caught the ball on a roll to the rim. All of his possessions — 26 of them — were of the pick-and-pop variety and they produced 31 points (1.192 PPP, 76th percentile, “very good”). The NCAA average (including both pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops) is 0.987 PPP.

He slipped a screen once and knocked down a 3-pointer on that play. The other 25 possessions were solid screens with a pop. Of those 25 possessions, 14 of them resulted in catch-and-shoot opportunities which Kavas converted into 21 points (that’s seven 3-pointers if you don’t like math). After the catch, he put the ball on the deck eight times — four pull-up jumpers (2-of-5 for five points) and four shots at the rim (1-of-4 for two points). He also turned it over three times.

The only other play type with 20 or more possessions for Kavas last season was Hand-Off. He scored 28 points on 21 hand-off possessions (1.333 PPP, 95th percentile, “excellent”). He shot 10-of-19 (52.6) from the field while drawing two shooting fouls. The NCAA average for hand-offs is 0.883 PPP.

The sample size for everything else was pretty small. He scored 16 points on 16 possessions as a cutter (1.0 PPP, NCAA average is 1.121), eight points on 13 Isolation possessions (0.615 PPP, NCAA average is 0.787), 11 points on nine Off Screen possessions (1.222 PPP, NCAA average is 0.883), 11 points on seven Put-Back possessions (1.571 PPP, NCAA average is 1.084), seven points on six possessions as the Pick-and-Roll Ball-Handler (1.167 PPP, NCAA average is 0.768) and two points on five Post-Up possessions (0.4 PPP, NCAA average is 0.814).

Kavas’ shot profile is an interesting study. Synergy has 161 halfcourt shooting possessions logged for him last season, 123 of which were jumpers. He scored 154 points on those possessions for a PPP of 1.252 (96th percentile, excellent). He shot 57-of-123 (46.3 percent) and again, most of those were from 3-point range. He took four runners and shot 2-of-4 on them. He got to the rim 29 times, shooting 14-of-29 with one foul drawn.

So Kavas is certainly better letting it fly than attacking the rim, and his catch-and-shoot numbers are absurd. He scored 104 points on 76 possessions (1.368, 95th percentile, “excellent”), shooting 35-of-76 (46.1 percent). Of those 76 possessions, 54 were considered guarded and he scored 68 points on them (1.259 PPP, 90th percentile, “excellent”), shooting 23-of-54 (42.6 percent). The other 22 possessions were considered unguarded and were deadly for the opposition as he converted them into 36 points (1.636 PPP, 95th percentile, “excellent”), shooting 12-of-22 (54.5 percent).

He’s pretty darn good shooting off the bounce as well. Kavas attempted a pull-up jumper on 46 possessions, scoring 48 points (1.043 PPP, 88th percentile, “excellent”) while shooting 21-of-46 (45.7 percent).

One area in which Kavas has struggled is in the open floor. He only had 31 transition possessions and scored just 31 points not he, (1.0 PPP, 43rd percentile, “average”). He shot 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) and drew seven shooting fouls but also turned the ball over eight times. As the guy leading the break, he shot 3-of-5 with five fouls drawn and four turnovers. 

Kavas has been one of the best shooters in college basketball the last few years, and he showed last year that he’s not just a spot-up catch-and-shoot threat. His skill set will fit perfectly in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a stretch four, spacing the floor for the likes of Cam Mack and Jervay Green to get to the rim as well as serving as a deadly pick-and-pop option. He can shoot off the catch and off the dribble; just don’t ask him to go right or to get all the way to the rim too often.

The biggest question that remains is how well will what Kavas did at Seattle translate to the Big Ten? For his career, Kavas has 10 games against Pac-12, ACC and AAC opponents. In those games, he averaged 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.8 turnovers while shooting 39.1 percent form the field, 36.4 percent from 3 and 82.6 percent from the foul line — decent but not quite the elite level he’s been at against lesser competition. However, Kavas is likely to be fourth or fifth on the scouting report at Nebraska rather than first or second and he didn’t have any guards who can do what Mack and Green are expected to provide for the Huskers.

For a one-year rental to help establish his style of play, Kavas is a heck of a pick-up for Hoiberg.

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