'13-'14 YEAR IN REVIEW: Kendall Stephens

'13-'14 YEAR IN REVIEW: Kendall Stephens

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Note: This is the sixth, and last, of the Year In Review series. Click that shiny link to see them all. They will recap their 2013-2014 season, show their “GIF of the Year”, state my favorite nicknames, and give a best/worst case scenario for the 2014-2015 season. Warning: stuff got real weird for my best/worst case scenarios.

2013-2014 season recap

With sincere apologies towards the garbage-time lineup of Neal Beshears, Anfernee Brown, Stephen Toyra, and the clone Jon McKeemans, I finally present the last player recap/preview post, just in time for the season opener this Friday. And here’s a Hot Aneesh Take to start it off: Kendall Stephens will enter the NBA draft after his junior year.

It really does blow my mind…how are people not talking about this more? How is The Kid’s potential breakout being overlooked by virtually every single outlet? How did BT Powerhouse, SB Nation’s dedicated Big Ten blog, completely ignore Stephens in their apparently-“comprehensive” season preview? No outlet, national or fan-based, has even mentioned Stephens as an impact-player on this Purdue team, and it’s really boggled my mind.

In a 6’6” 200lb frame, The Kid is a prototypical gunner who possesses all the tools (physical, mental, and genetic) to dominate in the toughest conference in the country. Let’s first look at the offensive end, where Stephens made his largest impact as a freshman.

Kendall Stephens

If you’ve been reading my past previews, Stephens’ chart might stun you. He is, by far, the most versatile weapon returning to Keady Court. He shot 37% from three, which qualifies him as a certifiably ‘solid’ shooter…until you remember, every single coaching staff knew that Stephens was Purdue’s only truly dangerous sniper and often overloaded their help defense towards Stephens and Hammons. If you watch the tape, that scenario is exactly what allowed the Johnson brothers to get so many open looks. Daring Ronnie to shoot often resulted in good things for opponents, while Terone could (and did) get hot.

This year, the ability to put more court-spacing weapons on the floor will give Kendall room to breathe. And, if you look at those blistering percentages from above the right break (48% and 66% from both of those locations, with a cumulative shot volume of ~20%), you might be able to see the potential that I’m expecting. Most of the shots from the right wing were as Stephens wove through a maze-like pattern of screens set by teammates, giving him open looks that he often drained. (This is where I drool over his future and ludicrously compare The Kid to Reggie Miller, the greatest basketball player to ever live.)

Where he stands out in comparison to his returning teammates, however, is his shot distribution inside the arc. The Kid had Coach Painter's unreserved green light to shoot. Last year, 23% of his shot attempts were inside the arc, where he usually got driving looks off of patented Ryne Smith pump fakes. Even though he only made 30% of those attempts (worst on the team from inside the arc), everyone must remember that defenses overhelped on Stephens. That type of defensive concentration with the newly-added and recently-developed weapons in Dakota Mathias, Jon Octeus, Vince Edwards, and Ray Davis will create some matchup headaches. Additionally, despite the defensive attention Stephens would receive, he does have that beautiful bank-shot runner from the mid-post (those two clusters of red along either side of the lane). Stephens wasn’t much of a threat at the basket last year, but with the increased spacing options we could see some growth there as well.

Defensively, Stephens was pretty close to average. He never would shut an opponent down, but usually did a great job bothering people with his length and smarts. Stephens’ footwork on the defensive end needs a lot of work, but that’s what a summer of development after his freshman year is for. I’m really not worried at all about his defense, especially when he’ll often share the court with very good defenders in Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman, Davis, and Edwards on the wings, and behemoths Hammons and Haas protecting the rim.

Lazy analysis (read: basically everyone on the internet) has Stephens only pegged as a borderline-reckless gunner, with no skills elsewhere on the court. Well, sucks to be wrong, because this was from Purdue’s first preseason game against California University of Pennsylvania:

OH FUUUU THE KID’S GOT SOME BALLHANDLING AND DISTRIBUTION SKILLS. SHUT IT DOWN, LET’S GO HOME.

Long story short, The Kid has serious breakout potential this year, and if he does (15-18ppg on close to 40% shooting from the field) he could vault Purdue into spots that would surprise people who get paid to write about college basketball. With more weapons on the court, defenses can’t zone-in on Stephens, giving him a few more precious feet of space to splash wet jumpers. And when Stephens breaks out, and becomes a national name next year, and is drafted in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft, remember where you heard it first: ANEESHSTRADAMUS.

(But…if he doesn’t…just forget I’m even here.)

 

GIF of the year

LOOK. AT. THAT. SOAKING. WET. JUMPER.

 

Nickname: The Kid/Kid Stephens. (PSA: Boiled Sports coined this nickname, and Boiled Sports shall forever claim this nickname as their own. Continue to pester any unattributed uses of this nickname until they agree to acknowledge Bdowd’s unsurpassed handsomeness.)

 

Unsolicited BS Advice for 2014-2015

Use the increased space on the court to up that 30% 2pt field goal percentage, while maintaining a 37-40% clip from beyond the arc. Though shots haven’t been falling in the preseason, don’t become afraid to shoot, because if shot attempts stop it completely neutralizes this team’s most dangerous weapon.

Develop enough ball-handling confidence to take an off-balance defender inside the arc off a pump-fake, and don’t be afraid to use that giant glass board when opponents leave a little bit of driving daylight. And, don’t be afraid to trust teammates…this year, the system will pay off if everyone buys in.

Defensively, just go hard against Vince and Dakota in practice, and make sure practice shots are made with Basil defending. There’s no dearth of talent on this team, and if everyone leans on each other to make individual gains, the team will jump to levels no “expert” saw coming.

Oh, and by the way: K E E P  S H O O T I N G.

 

BEST/WORST: Remember, this is the top and bottom of the spectrum. The most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. (Worst case scenarios come with a complimentary side of ACL tears.)

Best case: Kid Stephens turns into a better version of his pops Everette (basically E’Twaun Moore 2.0), and continues to break every three point shooting record in the Purdue record books. Though he’s not the superior athlete that Basil Smotherman is, his length and basketball IQ allow him to become an All-Big Ten level perimeter defender. The Kid develops an off-the-dribble game to go along with his deadly three point shooting, and spaces the floor for whoever is operating in the paint (read: the twin towers Hammons and Haas). The younger Stephens becomes Purdue’s primary offensive weapon for his final three years, surpasses 2,000 points for his collegiate career, and gets drafted into the NBA as a do-it-all wing.

Worst case: Never develops an offensive weapon other than his three point stroke. He becomes Matt Painter’s only viable offensive weapon, but is truly over-his-head in that role on his own (similar to last year). That increased volume of shots turns him into a streaky shooter, and the large offensive load saps away all of his energy on defense. Has a career that more closely resembles DJ Byrd (not bad by any means, but well below The Kid’s sky-high potential). Stephens plays in Spain after his Purdue career ends, falls in love with a passionate Spanish artist, and devotes the rest of his life to making life-sized clay sculptures of medieval war generals. Never touches a basketball again.

(Feature image: http://www.purdueexponent.org/gallery/sports/collection_ccac43a6-85ff-11e3-8f5a-001a4bcf6878.html)

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