Turnovers, 3-point shooting and Mason Miller's potential

Turnovers, 3-point shooting and Mason Miller’s potential

Sights and sounds from the first day of Creighton basketball practice



Creighton beat writer Joel X. Lorenzi is back with biweekly mailbag. Email questions anytime to jlorenzi@owh.com or message him at @jxlorenzi on Twitter.

You can ask about anything. Personal stuff, music opinions, NBA things. Anything. For the questions that didn’t make the cut, Joel has either already answered them or is saving them for a future mailbag.

Now, for the ones that did.

Q: Do you think all 5 men’s starters average 10-plus points a game, if no, who is under? — @jonskin01929102

This question sends me down a rabbit hole of research to find all the college teams that have had five players average double figures. Thanks for that.

I failed to find a set list — you’d think the world wide web would be good for something like that — so my research was inconclusive. It’s a relatively rare feat. Some of the better teams of the past decade have been able to pull it off. Much more teams have had four double-digit scorers, which is still impressive.

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The 2020-21 Creighton team finished with five. The 2015-16 and 2018-19 rosters did too. It seems formulaic for Greg McDermott to find a way to distribute offense so evenly.

So when it comes to this team, why not? The Bluejays’ starting lineup will feature four players more than capable of getting themselves a bucket.

Junior Ryan Kalkbrenner obviously isn’t an on-ball creator, but he stands to average at least 10 points simply off just being in the right place. Running in transition. Slipping when a team hedges. Doing the same when they send a high double-team. Being a lob threat. Kalkbrenner will be fed buckets this year.

So, in the off-chance that someone does average less than double tricks, I think it’ll be sophomore Ryan Nembhard. Not because he’s the least talented scorer of the bunch. That isn’t the case. But there seems to be a real emphasis on him fully embracing his playmaking chops and trying to run the offense.

You’ll see some high-scoring outputs from him. But it might be inconsistent based on what he’s tasked with on a nightly basis.

Q: Last redshirt freshman the Jays had with Mason’s recruiting profile was Justin Patton, who was a BEAST freshman of the year. What is Mason’s ceiling this year? — @charliellsworth

It’s unfair to hold Mason Miller to those expectations. Recruiting profiles are unique, and outside of the top 50, rankings can be incredibly far off. A player’s room for development and their desire to improve are unpredictable.

Josh Hart was ranked No. 92 in ESPN’s Top 100 back in 2013. Two years later, Oregon committed Kendall Small held that spot.

Hart is a legitimately solid rotational player in the NBA today. Small finished his collegiate career with a great season at Division II Chaminade. See how vastly different their journeys were, though linked by the same ranking just a couple of years apart?

No two journeys are identical. The amount of progression Patton enjoyed during his redshirt year, both in frame and in skill, is a tough act to follow. He also had a unique situation in which he was unrivaled at his position in terms of talent as soon as he stepped onto the floor.

In Miller’s case, he has put on some weight. He has honed his skills, though probably not to the point where launches himself into NBA lottery contention like Patton. And of course, sophomore Arthur Kaluma and senior Baylor Scheierman will line the starting forward spots. Hard break.

I don’t think he’ll contend for freshman of the year so long as Villanova’s Cam Whitmore is standing. Whitmore is talented enough to likely put himself into the Big East Player of the Year conversation. He’s just one of many talented freshmen in the league.

Miller’s ceiling, especially on a team like this, should be to play well enough to be the most or second most impactful player off the pine. While the backcourt reserves are seemingly still being decided, Miller’s role is set. He must be a solid, reliable forward off the bench at any given time.

Q: Which player do you think will take the biggest leap and why? — @Kyle_Brayman

Amid all the talk of his first-round projections in NBA mock drafts, I think many people are forgetting that Kaluma hasn’t fully backed those projections yet. Many of them depend on his long-range shooting and on-ball creation coming around.

We saw incredible flashes of both during his summer with Uganda, but that similar level of skill that scouts are looking for hasn’t happened for him in a Creighton uniform yet.

Scouts aren’t dumb. It’s been interesting to see Kaluma’s wide range of projections that all spell out that they believe he’s an NBA player. I’m in the camp that believes he’s a first rounder. Therefore, I think you’ll see the biggest leap from him.

He’ll be a problem if he’s able to replicate even half the show he put on for Uganda.

Q: Will the turnover problem from last season be totally gone? — @easton_debolt

I’d lean toward no. It’ll start out better than the past year, and it’ll improve. This team feels like it can either be too selfless or too selfish at any given time. Against a team that plays passing lanes well, being too selfless will get you into turnover trouble.

It’ll be easier on Nembhard with him having more creators around. He won’t have to force things as often. None of them will, really, which should shave down turnovers itself.

Q: Now that the Jays are perceived natty contenders, any chance our fans decide that being undefeated against traffic isn’t as fun as staying at the buzzer to watch a good team? I’m ready to throw shoes at anyone who heads to the exits in a single digit game. I’ll hang up and listen. — @TheJPScott

Going to take a wild guess and say that this team will keep people in the building. From what I’ve heard, I think more courtside seats will be available this season, which would keep even more people in the building.

Keep your shoes on, my guy.

Q: How do you see the bench looking? Greg usually goes six/seven deep. Will he go nine players? — @MillerSampson2

There’s no way in hell that McDermott plays just six players every night. He’s talked about how it’s certainly his deepest team, and with all the names that’ve been lobbed into discussion, you’re bound to see eight to nine players in the rotation on any given night.

Q: Between Shereef (Mitchell), Mason Miller and Ben Shtolzberg who do you envision having the most and least impact this year? — @CreightonWired

Interesting question. I’ve talked about Shtolzberg quite a bit already. I’m a fan of his game, and it seems others are even higher on him. I mentioned in the last mailbag that I just don’t know how much of an opportunity he’ll get to show off his potential inside the crowded bench backcourt.

Mitchell enters his junior season, and senior Francisco Farabello has played in plenty of high-level college basketball games. Still, above all else, Mitchell offers perimeter defense — something Creighton is going to take as much as it can get. He stands to see the most minutes of the three out the gate.

In my story the other day, I posed the question of whether Mitchell will offer more than what he’s previously shown. I’m not sure he’ll make a huge jump, which is still fine. Hard to envision the staff being anything but happy if Mitchell shot 36.4% from 3 and defended the way he did in his last full season.

Between Mitchell and Miller, it’s close for me. Obviously the disparity in defense and how much Miller closes that gap will determine their comparative impacts, too.

Miller just feels pluggable with so many lineups with his size and shooting touch. I think of the three, he lands in the middle in terms of potential opportunities out of the gate, and in my opinion, has the potential to make use of the time to be the most impactful of the three.

Q: Rank these three factors from most to least important in terms of determining success this season: turnover rate, 3 point FG%, bench scoring. — @Marghareti72

It’s 3-point percentage, bench scoring and turnover rate. I think this team can still be pretty successful without working out the turnover stuff right away. I don’t think it’ll be as prominent as last season, and I think it’ll be easier to work around this season.

Overall bench impact will be more significant than bench scoring. You’ll see something like three of CU’s starters on the floor at any given time, which will put less pressure on bench scoring. But when one or more starters are off, a couple of 3s from Farabello will be huge. Or a big shot from Mitchell. Or Miller finding himself in the right place at the right time. Or a big slam from Fred King.

Bench buckets will certainly come into play more than some think. But the way Creighton shoots from deep trumps all.

The Jays have an identity to maintain. Last season was uncharacteristic. But if this team wants to reach its ceiling as an offensive juggernaut, it will need to not just surpass its mark of 30.8% from a year ago. It’ll have to shoot the ball at a respectable rate.

Q: What’s the planned parade route for when Creighton wins it all in (sport)? — @__sindelar

Right down Don’t Be So Hasty Lane.

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