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Kyle Wiltjer Mid-Season Report Card

Kyle has struggled as the team went through early season growing pains. Now that the guards seem to have found their footing, look for Wiltjer to become less of a focal point for opposing defenses and his offensive efficiency to improve.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Wiltjer: B+

Does anyone miss Pangos, Bell, Wesley and Karnowski more than Kyle Wiltjer? All four of those guys could go for 20+ points on any given night so opposing defenses had to stay honest.  Kyle got to play one-on-one in the post, he could get to the perimeter without activating an Amber Alert.  Pangos fed him, Karnowski sometimes took his defender away. When he threw an entry pass, his target was a 7’1", 290 lb behemoth who seemingly caught everything within 3 feet of his outstretched arms. Pangos was the guy opposing coaches didn’t want to beat them, who was hounded everywhere he went on the court. Welcome to the 2015-16 season Mr. Wiltjer.

Kyle returned for a 5th year of college to raise his stock in the NBA draft and expectations couldn't have been higher.  Sadly, comparatively speaking, his offensive efficiency numbers are down from last year's.  Wiltjer is still the incredible offensive juggernaut he was last year, it’s just the circumstances that changed. The lack of another credible three point threat allowed opposing defenses to pack the key like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Instead of being able to showcase the superb post game he’d developed during his redshirt season, Kyle was now being double-teamed and subject to being stripped of the ball by an opposing guard. If he tried to pass out of the double-team or to feed the post from the top of the key, his passes were sometimes weak resulting in turnovers. His deep set shot is still a thing of beauty but Kyle prefers to catch and shoot.  If he has to dribble or pump fake after a catch, he'll usually look to pass.  Opponents found they could safely leave the guards alone to ensure Wiltjer got few open looks and would quickly close whenever he got the ball.  The increased attention didn't stop Kyle, but it definitely made his offensive game less efficient and forced him to make mistakes.  Last year he shot .540 from the field, this year .454, three point percentage is .405 down from .466, PER is 25.6 vs. 30.7 and assist to turnover ratio is .71 vs. 1.68. Speaking of turnovers, he had 6 against WSU, 4 against A&M and 3 on three other occasions.

Kyle’s troubles with the increased defensive attention manifest themselves most prominently in the 2nd half of games. He’s had some incredible first halves, including scoring 20 points in 10 minutes against WSU, 20 against Arizona and 20 again against LMU.  The problem is he’s yet to score more points in the 2nd half then he did in the 1st in any game this year. Why the disparity? Fatigue and halftime adjustments.  Kyle was averaging about 29 minutes per game in the first five games of the season.  When Shem went down, that number jumped to 38 over the next four games.  Few is starting to use Edwards more and Kyle's minutes played have returned to under 30.  As far as halftime adjustments, I think opposing coaches underestimated how much damage Wiltjer could do and overestimated the damage the guards could do. As mentioned above, they left GU's guards alone to ensure Wiltjer wouldn't beat them.  Sometimes the guards met the challenge, sometimes not. 

OPP

Total pts

2nd half

N Ari

23

10

MSM

12

6

UW

24

11

A&M

18

5

Uconn

17

7

WSU

22

2 (FT)

ARI

33

13

Montana

16

8

UCLA

20

7

TENN

24

12

PEPP

9

4 (FT)

Offensive efficiency numbers aside, Kyle is still the team’s leading scorer (20.2), leads the team in blocks (11) and is second in rebounding (7.5). While he's a finesse player on offense, Wiltjer is a very solid rebounder who’s very good at getting position and boxing out. He’s never going to be accused of being a shut-down defender, his defensive rating is 1 point better (93.3) than last year’s (94.3, the lower the better) and his Defensive Box Plus/Minus is at 1.2 above the average of 0.0.  Even when he isn't scoring, he's drawing the lion's share of the opposing defense's attention to give opportunities to others.

So, can Wiltjer still lead the nation in scoring, attain Player of the Year and become a first team All-American? No, maybe and yes. Adam Morrison took 18.7 shots per game when he lead the nation in scoring, Kyle took only 11.8 last year and is currently shooting 15.1. The backcourt has looked very good the last three games, with EMac, Perkins and Alberts all in contention to be the third scoring option and Melson and Dranginis looking much better. Mark Few loves a balanced offense and if the backcourt keeps producing I don’t see Kyle getting enough shots to to increase his scoring output 8 or so points per game. On the plus side, the additional scorers will free space in the middle and allow Kyle more open looks from the perimeter. Look for his shooting percentages and the offensive efficiency numbers to go up. Player of the Year, possible; if his efficiency continues to improve, Karnowski returns, GU doesn’t lose another game in the regular season and they make the Final Four. I said possible, not probable. First team All-American is probably the most likely. He’s going to benefit from a more balanced team, 17 more games against WCC opponents and Karnowski’s return would improve the overall offense. Kyle is just too damn good and he’s going to feast on WCC competition.  He may be a B+ now, but I’m looking for an A come March.