Quantifying the Impact of Kamar Baldwin, Butler’s Unsung HeroPosted by Justin Kundrat on March 22nd, 2017
As Chris Holtmann’s group of Bulldogs head to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in six years, the underpinnings of “Butler basketball” are increasingly apparent. Statistically, this is the most efficient offensive unit in the last 16 seasons at the school. The offseason addition of sharpshooter Avery Woodson (42.9% 3FG), the remarkably effective play of point guard Tyler Lewis, and the midseason revival of leading scorer Kelan Martin have caused opponents to struggle with a brand of team-oriented basketball that trots out five legitimate scoring threats at any given time. It is therefore no surprise that such an experienced group comfortably executes its offensive sets at its own pace while minimizing turnovers. The tangential storyline, however, resides on the defensive end of the floor — the virtually unquantifiable impact of freshman guard Kamar Baldwin.
For the uninitiated, Baldwin is a former three-star recruit whose presence in the Bulldogs’ recruiting class was largely overshadowed by that of 6’10” center Joey Brunk, one of the highest regarded incoming big men this season. It was expected that Baldwin would provide backcourt depth alongside the returning starters and incoming transfers Avery Woodson and Kethan Savage, but a more significant impact was felt right out of the gate. Baldwin quickly slid into a role as defensive disruptor, providing relentless on-ball pressure and using his lateral quickness to cut off driving lanes and reroute passes. In fact, the Bulldogs rank 11th nationally in defensive assist rate — opponents assisting on just 43.7 percent of their baskets, compared with the national average of 52.1 percent — in large part because of Baldwin’s efforts.
From a review of game film, a number of the freshman’s steals and deflections occur in help defense and off-ball situations. Baldwin not only anticipates passes well in man-to-man schemes, but has tremendous instincts when it comes to playing spatial areas. Here Baldwin generates a steal by helping out in the low post.
While Baldwin averages 1.7 steals per game and boasts a 3.8 percent steal rate (33rd nationally), these numbers might still be understated because often his impact in the passing lanes accrues to the statistical benefit of others. Here is one such example.
The most telling statistical indicator of his impact on the defensive end is in his on/off split, particularly over the last six games:
Combined with a steady down tick in his tendency to foul, Baldwin’s play has been a major driver in Butler’s postseason success. In tournament play, his defensive efforts played a crucial role in both Keon Johnson (Winthrop, 22.3 PPG) and Giddy Potts (MTSU, 15.3 PPG) shooting a combined 7-of-26 overall and 3-of-13 from three in their respective performances against Butler. Holtmann has a rare defensive talent on his hands, and the overarching magnitude of the impact his freshman makes is now impossible to ignore.