Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
Six-foot-10 Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson told the Journal-World on Thursday he will be transferring to play for Kansas. The big man will have two years of eligibility for KU starting with the 2014-15 season.
Here'a a look at Mickelson's statistical profile from his two years at Arkansas (stats from KenPom.com).
• Shot-blocking: Mickelson — with a body type much like former KU center Jeff Withey — also is a talented shot-blocker. Though he played in less than half of Arkansas' minutes during his two seasons there, he rejected 8.2 percent of opponents' two-point attempts last year (66th nationally) and was fifth nationally in block percentage during his freshman year (13.5 percent block percentage).
Though Mickelson does not avoid fouls as well as Withey, he's not a hacker, either. He committed 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes his freshman year, then lowered that number to 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes last year. To compare, Withey was at 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes his junior season before dropping that number to 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes last year.
• Defensive rebounding: In limited time, Mickelson had Arkansas' second-best defensive rebounding percentage in 2012-13, grabbing 16.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds (464th nationally). The power forward also was decent in this stat his freshman year, as he posted a 15.4-percent defensive rebounding percentage.
If you're wondering about offensive rebounding ... Mickelson's offensive rebounding percentage dropped from 8.9 percent his freshman year (483rd nationally) to 7.2 percent this year.
• Finishing at the rim: Hoop-Math.com's shot logs indicate that if Mickelson is an especially effective scorer around the rim.
The big man made 74 percent of his dunks/layups/tipins a year ago, and his offensive profile at the rim is similar to that of Withey did this past season.
Essentially, Mickelson isn't great at creating his own shot at the rim, but he's exceptional at finishing passes from teammates when they get it to him in close.
• Jump-shooting: The big reason Mickelson wasn't even close to Withey's offensive production in 2012-13 (Withey was at 1.137 points per possession ended, while Mickelson was at 0.97) was two-point jump-shooting.
Let's compare the two players' numbers from last year.
While Withey was well above the NCAA average of 35 percent on two-point jumpers (40 percent), Mickelson struggled on those same shots, making just 23 percent of his attempts.
The good news for KU is that Mickelson has shown some signs of being a good jump-shooter. He made 36 percent of his two-point jumpers his freshman year, and in a small sample size, he improved his free-throw shooting from 52 percent his freshman year to 80 percent his sophomore year.
• Getting to the free-throw line: Mickelson is not an aggressive offensive player, as he had just 20 free throws last season compared to 166 field-goal attempts. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 12.0 would have ranked last on KU's roster last year, lower than even seldom-fouled players like Elijah Johnson (24.2) and Naadir Tharpe (17.4). Mickelson averaged just 2.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes a year ago, and since KenPom began keeping the stat in 2005, Self has never had a rotation big man with a fouls-per-40 number that low.
In Mickelson, KU gets a player with tremendous upside defensively as evidenced by his high block percentages. Mickelson's biggest weakness is his two-point jump shooting, though other statistics indicate that he should have the skill set to improve in that area. Based on his free throw and fouls-drawn numbers, Mickelson also appears to be a guy that might need to develop toughness — a trait that quite a few players (including Withey) acquired under Self. A year sitting out could help in this area as well, as it will give the 245-pound Mickelson a year in Andrea Hudy's weight program.
For Self and KU, adding Mickelson provides some insurance in the frontcount in case Joel Embiid emerges to becomes a one-and-done player (ESPN's Chad Ford listed Embiid as a potential top-five pick next year if he continues to develop [subscription required]). This also seems to indicate a preference for Self to continue to recruit tall shot-blockers in a college basketball age where many teams have elected to play small.
Going back to 2008-09, KU has had one high-level shot-blocker in the starting lineup (Cole Aldrich, Withey) for four of the last five seasons. With Embiid and Mickelson signed on, the Jayhawks have the potential to be covered at that position for at least three more seasons.
Studies have shown the best shot-blockers have more defensive value than the best defensive guards because of their ability to bring down two-point shooting percentages, and Self seems to have found a comfort zone with these types of players. Though Mickelson still has plenty to work on offensively, he seems to be in a good location if he hopes to improve his toughness while thriving in a defensive system that will allow him play to his shot-blocking strengths.