Not just one go-to guy, but 5, for UK offense

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams had just seen UK beat his team, not by one superhuman performance, but by a collective effort.

First, it was Terrence Jones. Then it was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, then Doron Lamb, then Darius Miller.

“What’s your poison?” Williams said.

UK’s balanced effort wasn’t an anomaly. It’s been typical, in fact. And it’s kind of insane just how evenly split the numbers fall.

The five starters all have possession percentages, which measures the amount of possessions that end with a certain player while he is on the floor, between 18 and 22 percent. Using shot percentage, which is the amount of a team’s shots a player takes when he is on the floor, each of the starters fall between 17.3 and 22.8 percent.

Essentially, each of UK’s five starters occupies about one-fifth of the offense.

And there’s no drop-off when the sixth man, Darius Miller, enters. He has a 19.4 possession percentage and takes 19.9 percent of all shots when he’s on the floor.

Again, about one-fifth.

This team has figured to be more balanced than most from the start (see sidebar for a comparison to past UK teams and this year’s Top 5). None of the starters has to hide on offense, as head coach John Calipari has said. They can all contribute.

The benefits of having this relative equality: Defenses can’t key in on anybody. Double Jones? Fine. That opens up the perimeter. Stick with Davis to prevent lobs? Great. That opens up the lane for drives.

“It’s difficult to play a team that’s got five guys who can score,” Williams said.

It also creates some interesting byproducts. There’s no clear-cut choice for who gets the ball in the clutch, when UK absolutely has to have a basket. But I would argue this is a good thing; frequently enough, the go-to choice can be shut down. It was DeAndre Liggins who took the 3-pointer at the end of the game in last year’s Final Four, not Brandon Knight. If you have five guys who can all legitimately be the target of the last play, that’s a good thing.

For the players, it creates a challenge in staying in the flow of the game.

“Confidence is everything, especially when you can go for so long without touching the ball and there’s so many skilled players playing,” Jones said after a win against Radford. “You can really get lost out there.”

So far, he’s found his way. He leads the team in scoring. He leads the starters in possession and shot percentage.

But he could be going for so much more. After passing up the NBA to come back and work for a top-three selection, the temptation to make sure he gets his certainly exists.

“If you’re him, aren’t you trying to shoot every ball?” Calipari said last week. “He’s not. It shows the kind of person he is.”

Neither is anyone else. Look at the shot distribution in UK’s two big games.

Kansas: Jones (11), Kidd-Gilchrist (9), Teague (9), Davis (8), Lamb (8), Miller (5).

North Carolina: Jones (14), Lamb (12), Teague (11), Kidd-Gilchrist (10), Miller (8), Davis (6).

Most teams that operate like this have five equally good players. UK has five equally good stars.

And they’re all an even part of the offense.

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