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Considering Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky: The Badgers’ star is dangerous and unique

Wisconsin has made it to the Final Four largely on the back of 7-footer Frank Kaminski (back, both arms raised). Wisconsin plays Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday. (Photo by David Stluka, courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics)

Wisconsin has made it to the Final Four largely on the back of 7-footer Frank Kaminsky (back, both arms raised). Wisconsin plays Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday. (Photo by David Stluka, courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics)


ARLINGTON, Texas — Much noise has been made about Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, and it’s deserved. The breakout junior, not even a starter last season for the Badgers, is currently No. 8 in KenPom.com’s Player of the Year standings. His offensive skill set is unique because of how multiple he is, a college player rare for his equal ability to score in the post and to stretch his game out effortlessly to the three-point line.
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A deeper look inside his tendencies may reveal how Kentucky will approach defending him. John Calipari said Willie Cauley-Stein would be the perfect candidate to defend Kaminsky — they match up in size and Cauley-Stein’s athleticism would challenge Kaminsky, who is more crafty than athletic — but Calipari has stayed on message that Cauley-Stein was doubtful. Cauley-Stein was seen Tuesday at Kentucky’s practice facility on crutches.


Kaminsky is dangerous because of the balance with which his shot selection varies. He takes 36 percent of his shots at the rim (four feet out or closer), 37.1 percent of his shots are two-point jumpers (shots between four feet and the three-point line), and 26.9 percent of his shots are three-point attempts.


For comparison’s sake, a comparable balance on Kentucky’s roster is Andrew Harrison. His rim-two-three ratio is 34.2-37.1-28.7.


Of course, Harrison is a point guard. Kaminsky is a 7-foot center.


It stands that Cauley-Stein would have been a perfect defensive answer for Kaminsky. Cauley-Stein’s ability to step out and guard the perimeter has been much lauded this season. He doesn’t get flustered when switched on to guards at the top of the key, and his reputation is so strong that guards don’t even try to drive past him at this point the way they would if, say, Dakari Johnson were the one at the top of the key. Against Johnson, a drive to the hoop would be automatic. Against Cauley-Stein, a guard would be asking to have his shot blocked.


Kaminsky is not a speedy type who lives much on drives to the lane, so that helps Kentucky’s cause in trying to contain him. Much of his offense in the paint comes on post moves. Nearly one in six of his shots at the rims are within four seconds of an offensive rebound — 14.7 of his at-rim makes are in that span, which is a lower ratio than Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee.


So even though Kaminsky is a skilled offensive rebounder — his 9.8 offensive rebounding percentage is 317th among all players in the country, he doesn’t live on the boards like Kentucky’s big men do.


Kaminsky is also a skilled ball handler, committing turnovers on just 9.5 percent of personal possessions, which is best on Wisconsin and 49th in the country (and better, by a wide margin, than any Kentucky player). He also is not much of a transition threat. He only attempted 28 field goals this season in the first 10 seconds of possessions, which is the same number that Poythress has in much fewer minutes.


So what is the Wildcats’ best plan of attack to defend a 7-foot rangy player that doesn’t live on the boards, doesn’t turn the ball over and lives mostly in the half-court?


It likely is to mix things up. Without Cauley-Stein, Calipari doesn’t have one player that makes total sense to defend him. At times, it may be best to keep Randle on him. At times, it may make more sense to have Johnson on him in the post. If Lee plays as much as he did against Michigan — 15 minutes — it would make sense to put Lee on Kaminsky and force him to somehow get around a player that seems, considering his athletic and physical attributes, impossible to get around.


“He’s going to be a handful,” Calipari said of Kaminsky.


His best answer to a handful of a player may be a handful of players.

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