The case for Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett to keep shooting
There’s been a lot of chatter in the past 48 hours — and, really, all season — from people who think Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett should not shoot the ball from the outside the rest of the way.
One problem: He has to.
Beyond the fact that Garrett CAN actually make the shot — even if it’s not his biggest strength, it’s reasonable to expect a major Division I college basketball player to be able to hit open jumpers — Garrett has to keep shooting when he’s left open because the defense wins if he doesn’t.
Now, if it’s not there and Garrett can’t find his shot, as was the case on Saturday night in Lexington, Ky., where he went 1-for-9 from the floor, he should stop. But deciding not to even try fails the Kansas offense in two ways.
First, it plays right into the hands of the defense. If defenders believe Garrett will not pull the trigger, they can lay off of him and instead crowd the paint around Dedric Lawson. Not good for Lawson or the KU offense.
Second, anyone remember the Texas game at Allen Fieldhouse a couple of weeks ago? The Longhorns defended Garrett exactly the way Kentucky did but encountered one small problem. The outside shots that Garrett took — many of them early in the game — actually went in and the 6-foot-5 sophomore combo guard went on to enjoy a career night, which sparked his offensive resurgence and sent his confidence soaring.
Did you know that the 9 attempts Garrett had against the Wildcats at Rupp Arena over the weekend marked the fewest he had attempted in four games? You didn’t hear quite as much talk about Garrett shooting too much during that stretch, did you?
The reason was simple. Most of Garrett’s attempts during his recent 3-game streak of reaching double figures in scoring came in the paint. But he did still shoot six 3-pointers during that stretch, knocking in three of them, and those shots at the rim were only possible because defenders had to respect his shots from distance.
In many ways, Garrett is the poster child for the old saying KU coach Bill Self likes to use about a good shot and a bad shot — It’s a good shot or a bad shot when it leaves your hand. Whether it goes in or not has nothing to do with it.
As long as Garrett continues to take good shots — read: he’s open, in rhythm and is aware of time, score and situation — he should be encouraged to keep shooting.
Because for every couple of nights like Kentucky, there likely will be another night like Texas. The Jayhawks would not have held off the Longhorns two weeks ago had Garrett not stepped into his jumper like he knew he was going to make it.
Not only did his 20-point outing allow Kansas to capitalize on a night when Garrett’s shot actually was falling, but it also forced the UT defense to come out and guard him, which, in turn, opened up two options — Garrett driving by defenders after close-outs and Lawson having more room to work down by the basket.
Garrett is shooting just 40.7 percent from the floor this season and 23.3 percent from 3-point range, numbers that clearly leave a little to be desired.
However, during the 4-game stretch leading up to his rough night against Kentucky's length, Garrett's numbers improved to 62.1 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers came against Big 12 competition and over an average of 33 minutes per game. So it can be done.
Garrett has talked a lot this season about his coaches and teammates telling him to stay aggressive. This Kansas offense desperately needs that right now. And Garrett’s a smart enough player to know that.
In many ways, that really is what this whole conundrum comes down to — trusting Garrett to make the right plays.
A season ago, as a true freshman on a team loaded with shooters and scorers, Garrett did plenty of that, making the extra passes, dishing assists and doing whatever he had to do to get his teammates open or steal extra possessions so the likes of Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman could get another crack at putting points on the board.
Garrett’s 2017-18 season-high of 8 field goal attempts came during his fourth college game. He made four of them. After that, the Dallas native attempted 6 or 7 shots just four more times in the team’s final 35 games.
So it’s not as if this guy does not know when to shoot and when not to.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Garrett’s jumpers during recent weeks, it’s that they may be a little lazy. Maybe that’s just the way he shoots them or maybe it just looks that way from my seat.
But it looks like a lot of arms and wrist and very little legs.
I’m no shooting guru, and, as we all know, it’s rarely a good idea for a guy to try to change his shot in the middle of the season.
Garrett doesn’t need to do that. But he does need to keep shooting.