Both Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have played meaningful minutes this season for the #1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks, but with the postseason on the horizon, look for Bill Self to shorten his rotation, which, as a result, may leave one of these two on the outside looking in.
The case for Brannen Greene
When Brannen Greene isn’t spending time in Bill Self’s doghouse, he has contributed to this Jayhawk team at an incredible level on the offensive end of the floor. Now, in terms of per-game numbers, Greene’s stats may not appear all that impressive. However, looking at his numbers per 40 minutes (in order to provide a baseline for production) alters that narrative quite drastically, as Greene appears to be KU’s second-most prolific offensive player behind Perry Ellis. Per 40 minutes, Greene is scoring 18.9 points and grabbing 6.9 rebounds: both tops amongst KU guards.
Not only does Greene produce while he is on the floor, he does so while shooting at an incredibly efficient rate. His current effective field goal percentage sits at 78%, a ridiculous rate for a player who takes three quarters of his shots from behind the arc. Though it is safe to say that number would likely regress if Greene were given a more consistent role, he is still far and away the best shooter on this Kansas team, as well as one of the best in the entire country.
The drawback of playing Brannen Greene more has always been due to his perceived deficiencies on the defensive end of the floor, an area that he has drastically improved upon this season. Greene possesses a defensive rating (points KU allows per 100 possessions of that player being on the floor) of 98.2, which is a nice improvement from his 2015 (101.0) and 2014 (104.1) ratings. Though not as prolific as his offensive numbers, his current defensive rating ranks eighth on the team, which by no means should make him unplayable.
Through all of the ups and downs of Brannen Greene’s time in a Kansas uniform, there is no denying his ability to shoot the basketball. Moving forward, having a player that can spread a defense and knock down big shots could provide a much needed boost to KU’s offense, should Bill Self go that route.
The case for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Mykhailiuk, more affectionately known by KU fans as “Svi,” has been a fan favorite since he arrived in Lawrence by way of Ukraine. Mykhailiuk enrolled at Kansas at the age of 17, making him the youngest player in Big 12 history. Though very young for the collegiate game, Mykhailiuk possessed what many scouts believed to be significant NBA potential, causing his expectations to be incredibly high and perhaps unrealistic. Though it’s taken Mykhailiuk almost two full seasons to appear fully comfortable as a regular contributor on Bill Self’s squad, it seems that the wait may pay dividends for the Jayhawks and KU fans.
Still the youngest player in a Kansas uniform, Mykhailiuk has shown flashes of brilliance this season, providing a major spark off the bench in KU’s Big 12-clinching win at home over Texas Tech, as well as changing the complexion of the game in both wins over in-state rival Kansas State. Mykhailiuk’s biggest improvement throughout this season has been his perimeter shooting. In Big 12 play, Mykhailiuk is shooting 43% from behind the arc, a much higher clip than his season rate of 36%. What this shows is that as the year has progressed and as the games have gotten more important, Mykhailiuk has risen to the occasion and provided KU with impressive shooting off the bench.
Mykhailiuk has also shown that he is a terrific passer, ranking fourth on the team in assist rate, a number that has also risen above season average during Big 12 play. While his ability to shoot helps spread the floor, his ability to use that space in order to free up his teammates has been equally impressive and important.
The progression of Mykhailiuk has been a fun storyline to follow the last few weeks as the 18-year-old appears to begin to mesh his immense talent with an increased level of comfort for the collegiate game and for Bill Self’s expectations. Should he continue this steady progression, Mykhailiuk could play a major role off the bench for the Jayhawks as they gear up for the postseason.
The solution to a good problem: make room for both
It would be surprising if Bill Self eliminated one or the other from the postseason rotation, as both players bring different things to the floor. Greene may be used more against zone-heavy teams for his ability to knock down open threes at a prolific rate, where Mykhailiuk may be used more against man-to-man defenses, as he is more effective off the dribble and in pick-and-roll scenarios. In modern basketball, three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and Bill Self is fortunate to have both of these guys to call upon. Plenty of tournament bound head coaches around the country wish they had a similar problem.