What Landing Kerry Blackshear Could Mean For Florida

With one scholarship remaining and most of their plan B, C, and D targets already committing elsewhere it’s looking like it’s Kerry Blackshear or bust for Florida basketball.

Those hoping for Blackshear to come back to his home state to play for the Gators in his final collegiate season as an instantly-eligible graduate transfer got some good news in the past week with him not receiving and invitation to the NBA or G League combines, suggesting his chances of getting drafted or signing a guaranteed contract should he go pro are not positive. That suggests he could be coming back to college and if so the Gators are looking like one of the favorites to land him.

If the Gators were to get the Virginia Tech big man what could we expect? How big of an impact would he have? With the Gators looking like one of the leaders for his services I thought I’d take a look and lay out all the aspects of Blackshear’s game.

Jack-Of-All Trades

Versatility is a buzzword in modern basketball that’s admittedly overused but when it comes to Blackshear it’s entirely accurate.

KenPom highlights the categories a player is considered particularly strong in by pointing out when they’re in the top 500 players in a particular stat (there were 2189 players in the country that played enough minutes to qualify).

Blackshear’s profile is lit up like a Christmas tree with all the categories he’s considered to be top-tier in.

Offensive Rating
Percentage Of Possessions Used
Percentage Of Team’s Shots Taken
Effective Field Goal Percentage
True Shooting Percentage
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
Defensive Rebounding Percentage
Turnover Rate
Block Percentage
Fouls Drawn/40 Minutes
Free Throw Rate

Whether it be the offensive or defensive side of the floor he contributes in positive ways and there isn’t an area of the game he doesn’t influence. He grades out well as a finisher, a passer, and a rebounder, and those are three areas the Gators could use help in. There’s a reason he’s one of the most sought-after players in the country and he’ll be able to change the way a team plays on both ends of the floor.

Interior Offense

Blackshear brings a lot to the offensive end but where he’s really special is down low on the block where he can go to work one on one with the best of them. He was one of the best post up players in the country last year at 1.111 points per possession (PPP) shooting 52.1% from the floor and getting fouled on 23.3% of his attempts. His go-to move is one that’s simple but unstoppable, the hook shot. Shooting 51.3% on hook shots it’s an incredibly efficient look for him and it’s something he could get off against both smaller and larger opponents. That astounding percentage he’s shooting and the amount he gets fouled is also impressive given the volume of post ups he took.

As a team, Florida had 134 post ups last season.

Kerry Blackshear had 163.

That’s a big sample size and the fact he was so effective on so many attempts proves he’s legit down there and if the Gators landed him the post play he would bring would completely change the way Florida attacks.

Currently the Gators don’t have a post up threat on the roster. Dontay Bassett was 0.7 PPP on those shots and Stokes struggled even more at 0.628 PPP. Gorjok Gak took only 6 post up attempts in 2017-18. That means if Florida lands Blackshear they go from being a team without a threat on the low block to a team that’s as dangerous as any in the country from there. What makes Blackshear even better posting up is the fact that he isn’t a black hole that you throw the ball into and it never comes back, he’s an extremely willing and capable passer that can recognize when a double team is coming and whip the ball out to a shooter.

As I mentioned before he his PPP on post ups was 1.111, but when he passes it out to a shooter that number climbs to 1.278. When you add up his individual shots from post ups and the shots that come off his passes from the block the PPP is 1.101.

As a reference, the Gators’ overall PPP on all of their attempts for the season was 0.897. That means running their offense through Blackshear on the block would instantly make for a much more potent offense.

Passing

Scoring, rebounding, and defensive versatility are the first things that come up when Blackshear gets mentioned nowadays but his underrated passing ability could be extremely important for a team that outside of Andrew Nembhard lacked passing and playmaking.

Here were Florida’s top players by assist rate last season:

Andrew Nembhard: 32.8
KeVaughn Allen: 14.3
Isaiah Stokes: 13.6
Keyontae Johnson: 11.5

Blackshear’s assist rate was 17.3 which would have made him comfortably the second best assist man if he were on Florida’s roster and the Gators could really use that secondary playmaking.

The easiest threes in basketball are the inside-out catch and shoot threes where a player gets into the paint and kicks the ball out to an awaiting shooter. What makes those shots so high percentage is that the shooter receives the ball already looking towards the hoop meaning he can quickly find the rim during his delivery.

71.8% of Blackshear’s assists were on three-point baskets. Almost all of them were of the coveted inside-out three variety. Florida put up a ton of threes last season but there were too many off the dribble and too many that were simply point-to-wing catch and shoot threes which aren’t terrible shots but aren’t looks that are in the same efficiency realm as the inside-out three. Hypothetically the motion offense Florida played at times was geared towards getting dribble penetration to lead to kick out threes but they struggled to get that initial dribble drive and while the team will be more suited to that offense with Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann coming, having a player like Blackshear you can throw the ball into would make a world of difference.

Roll Threat

One of the most used plays in modern basketball is the pick and roll or variations of that action and it was never a very effective action for the Gators last year as they were at 0.828 PPP, making it a less efficient play than their average 0.897 PPP attempts.

There were a few reasons for this. Andrew Nembhard wasn’t a threat to pull up and opponents were also content to let him try to finish in the lane and the Gators didn’t have a roll threat with enough gravity to force help to leave shooters and suck into the paint.

This is another area Blackshear could really help. He was part of one of the most deadly pick and roll attacks in college basketball last season at 0.958 PPP and while a good chunk of that credit belongs to ball handlers Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson the threat of Blackshear on the inside opened a lot of things up and the attention he’d command on the roll would open up a lot of options for Nembhard when they play the two man game.

He won’t get credit for it on the stat sheet but Blackshear sets really good screens. Not only does he look to make good contact but you can tell he’s mindful of the angle he’s screening at and it allows the most time and space for his ball handling teammate to turn the corner. Then, he rolls hard to the hoop every time which is something not every big is committed to doing due to the energy required. That forces help defenders to come in and take away the passing lane which in turn makes a shooter open. If help doesn’t come, any pass that comes near Blackshear he’s going to catch. With soft hands and an accurate touch around the rim it’s not long after he catches the ball that it’s going through the hoop. A Nembhard-Blackshear pick and roll could be absolutely devastating to opponents and open up a lot of open jumpers for Noah Locke and Tre Mann.

Rebounding

Securing the glass was not one of Florida’s strengths last year and they’ll be searching for a way to improve in the rebounding department next season especially with their best offensive rebounder Kevarrius Hayes graduating.

Landing Kerry Blackshear would help a lot in solving that problem.

Hayes was excellent on the offensive glass with an offensive rebounding percentage of 13.1% but he didn’t dominate on the defensive glass with a defensive rebounding rate of 16.8%.

Blackshear’s rebounding percentages:

Offensive: 13.7%
Defensive: 18.5%

At 6’10” and 250 pounds Blackshear has a big frame and that can make him a load to handle when he carves out space looking for a rebound. The size he possesses makes him an above-average rebounder and that’s exactly what the Gators need. Keyontae Johnson brings Florida a nose for the ball and an athleticism that makes him an inspired rebounder but athleticism and length isn’t always enough, you need bulk to push away bodies to control the valuable real estate around the hoop. Blackshear could provide that muscle and with Johnson alongside to bring the athleticism the rebounding could get a lot better for the Gators. Florida lost a few games last season where they simply allowed their opponents too many extra possessions and landing Blackshear could seriously shift the way they’re able to rebound.

Shooting

One area he’s rather pedestrian in is when it comes to jump shooting, but he could definitely be better than what he appears. His stroke doesn’t look too bad and his numbers aren’t terrible at 33.3% from three. While that percentage isn’t bad I think it’s worth noting that he took less than 2 threes per game which could indicate he’s not super comfortable taking them or it’s a shot coach Buzz Williams didn’t want him searching. He was on a team with a few deadly shooters and that could mean he differed, but even at 33% as a center he’ll be keeping teams honest. I also find it noteworthy that there was a spot behind the arch, the left 45, that he was dismal from shooting 10%. If you take away the threes from that area and look at all the remaining long balls he was a 36% 3-point shooter and that could suggest he might be a shooter more in that range.

Florida didn’t get any 3-point shooting from the center position last season and that made for a condensed floor at times. If Blackshear comes to Florida I’ll expect him to be closer to three 3-point attempts per game and even if he doesn’t improve a ton on the 33% that will bring a different element to the offense and will keep shot blockers from getting to set up camp in the paint.

Defense

If Blackshear checked every box for a big man he would have been in the NBA a long time ago and while he excels in many aspects of the game there are some areas where he’s mortal and one of them is athleticism. At 6’10” and 250 pounds he’s a big body and he therefore isn’t a great leaper. When it comes to protecting the rim that can be detrimental and when he was attacked he often gave up points at the rim.

He only averaged 0.8 blocks per game last season which doesn’t look great but there’s a number that exposes his struggles defending the hoop even more.

Opponents shot 67.9% at the rim against Blackshear.

For some perspective, the average big man allows around 47-49% at the rim so that Blackshear number is extremely concerning. So concerning, in fact, that I went to the tape to see what information I could glean.

I will say this in Blackshear’s defense. Virginia Tech had zero depth in the frontcourt and when he went to the bench their backup option was 6’6” 220 pound Ty Outlaw, a player better suited to small forward than center. For that reason Blackshear avoided fouling like the plague. Foul trouble for Blackshear would have meant disaster for the Hokies and for that reason he never fouled a player attacking the rim.

While it was clear he would rather give up two points than potentially foul I don’t think he’s an elite rim protector but I think if he went all out without fear of fouling he’d be decent. He’s got great bulk to absorb the hit from driving players and he’s got a really good sense of timing to meet players at the best possible point. Florida lost an elite rim protector in Kevarrius Hayes and while I don’t think anyone could live up to the play he provided Blackshear would be a solid replace replacement at the rack.

The fear of fouling also affected how he guarded post ups. He allowed 44.4% and 0.889 PPP on post ups which isn’t great but it’s not terrible. Once again, if he was playing without worry of fouling I’d anticipate him guarding much harder and playing much more stout post defense.

Where Blackshear does shine defensively is when it comes to switches. For a man that big he moves his feet really well side to side and really stays sitting down in a stance which doesn’t give a weak foot for a speedier guard to attack. Coach White loved to switch and if you’re going to switch a lot you need a big man that can guard smaller players out on the perimeter and Blackshear would be able to do that.

Final Thoughts

While Blackshear is a capable defender it’s his offensive game that is special and if he joined Florida it would seriously change the trajectory of the team. The Gators were spectacular defensively last season but were stagnant on offense at times and Blackshear, being perhaps the best offensive center in college basketball, would redefine Florida’s attack and make them dangerous with the basketball. He would improve pretty much every aspect of the game offensively for the Gators in addition to improving the team’s rebounding and also fitting seamlessly into the defense. With the returning talent are gleaming recruiting class there’s a lot to be excited about already but if the Gators land Blackshear this could be a team competing for a Final Four.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.

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