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’17-’18 Player Forecast: Frank Kaminsky

Charlotte Observer

Position: Forward/Center

Height: 7’0’’

Weight: 242 pounds


Frank Kaminsky, the No. 9 pick back in 2015, enters his third season in the NBA on year three of his rookie deal, thanks to Charlotte exercising his third-year option last October. He will make around $2.85 million this season — not a bad price.

Kaminsky isn’t an expensive player, and he does some things well; however, there may not be a more dissected player in the online Hornets community. Much of this stems from the night of the 2015 Draft, when Charlotte passed on players like Devin Booker and Myles Turner — who look to be future All-Stars — and turned down a reported king’s ransom from Boston for the No. 9 pick.

Cognitive dissonance was strong that night, and it’s shaped just about every evaluation of Kaminsky ever since that — fair or foul. Regardless, let’s jump in and see where we stand with the 24-year-old Frank Kaminsky.

Reasons for Optimism:

It may not have always looked pretty, but by the numbers, Charlotte was better on offense with Kaminsky on the floor last season. The Hornets scored four more points per 100 possessions with Kaminsky on the floor (108.3 to 104.4). He ranked third on the roster in offensive rating, per NBA.com: 108.3 — behind only Kemba Walker and Cody

It wasn’t just the overall number, though; the Hornets were better in several other key offensive metrics with Kaminsky spacing the floor. Charlotte’s assist rate jumped to 61.4 percent when Frank was on the court — as did the team’s true shooting rate. The Hornets had a true shooting rate of 56.1 percent when he was on the floor — the best on the entire roster.

Now, a key variable in that equation is that Kaminsky played 56.3 percent of his 1,954 minutes last season with Kemba, which makes a big difference. And in those minutes, Charlotte was predictably a lot better.

 

Offensive Rtg

Defensive Rtg

Net Differential

Minutes

FK + KW

112.1

106.9

5.2

1101

FK, no KW

103.2

107.9

-4.7

851

 

The Hornets played at the rate of a top two offense with Kemba and Kaminsky on the floor last season. The defense was still a problem, but that 5.2 net differential is solid. The Houston Rockets ranked third, as a team, in 2016-17 in net rating: 5.4.

Opponents may not defend Frank tightly, and they know he can be run off the line when he’s lining up a shot from beyond the arc. However, it’s clear that he brings enough shooting and passing to pull defenders, cause rotations.

This is when Kemba can go to work on defenses out of those Horns sets Clifford loves to run. Cody dives, Kaminsky drifts behind the arc, Batum rotates up, and MKG waits for an avenue to cut. That’s not a bad look.

This is also why having two stretch 4s — Marvin and Kaminsky — is so valuable when MKG is a primary cog in the rotation. The spacing can stay reasonably sound on offense.

Kaminsky received 646 passes from Kemba last season — way more than anyone else on the team. Walker assisted on 58 on Frank’s 320 field goals. The 7-footer shot 32.3 percent from downtown after a pass from Kemba (30-of-93). He was better after a dish from Nic Batum: 28-of-65 (43.1 3P%).

When Kaminsky and Zeller played together — 461 minutes — Charlotte scored 111.9 points per 100 possessions, and allowed only 100.7 points per 100 possession. That’s at the rate of a top three offense and a No. 1 defense. Those two guys should play a lot together this season, coming off the bench for Steve Clifford.

Now, it should be noted that 400 of those minutes came with Kemba on the floor, too, which matters. In those minutes, Charlotte scored 115.8 points per 100 possessions, and allowed just 101.1 points per 100 possessions. Numbers like that should make the Hornets happy.

I know Frank Kaminsky hasn’t shot the ball like most Hornets fans hoped — no duh. But there are some positive indicators. Kaminsky put up 334 catch-and-shoot three-pointers in 2016-17; that was roughly 42 percent of his total attempts from the field. He shot 34.4 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season, too.

That’s not great, and it needs to improve, but it’s certainly not awful. Also, look, someone has to put those type of shots up — there’s value in that, too.

Secondly, range is a big factor for him. On three-point attempts that came from within 24 feet — shorter triples — Kaminsky shot 40.8 percent (53-of-130), according to NBA.com. If he could extend that range another foot or two, that’d be huge. On the flip, Kaminsky shot just 29.2 percent on threes from 25-29 feet (216 attempts). A good exercise for him may be making sure to not drift too far beyond the arc when he pops out.

We can see that Charlotte’s assist rate ticks up when Frank checks in. He deserves some credit for this; Kaminsky is a pretty good passer, especially for a 7-footer. He averaged three assists per 36 minutes (2.2 per game), and posted an individual assist rate of 13.5 percent. Kaminsky was one of 19 player 6-foot-10 or taller in the NBA last season to play 1000-plus minutes and have an assist rate above 12 percent.

In general, his shooting and passing helps the Hornets unlock some of that side-to-side action they want from their high pick-and-roll/high-post DHO offense. He can help facilitate ball reversals from Kemba to Batum, or vice versa.

Streakiness is definitely an issue with him, which makes you wishful that he could stretch some of that productivity out over the course of a full season. For instance, in 11 February games last season, FK averaged 18.1 points on 43.2 percent shooting, and 38.6 percent on triples (6.4 attempts per game). A full season of that efficiency for deep would be tremendous for Charlotte.

It’s worth noting, too, that in a lot of those games, Kaminsky played center with Cody Zeller on the mend. That may have given him an advantage speed wise, and allowed him to avoid quicker stretch-4/wing defenders.

With Kaminsky on the floor in those games, Charlotte scored 107.1 points per 100 possessions and gave up just 100.6 points per 100 possessions (net of +6.5), which is great. Although now with Dwight Howard in the QC, I don’t think we will see too much of Frank at the 5.

Lastly, Frank seems to be an interesting dude whose interests extend beyond the basketball floor, which I think is cool. Having guys like this — that are fun to have in the locker room, and teammates enjoy being — around is critical. Chemistry is vital in basketball, and the Hornets get along fantastically.

Maybe that’s not the type of stuff you want to hang your hat on with a former lottery pick, but it matters, too.

Reasons for Pessimism:

The usual sources of frustration with Frank Kaminsky come from his inability to not make quite enough wide-open threes, and punish smaller defenders after a switch.

According to the league’s tracking data, 338 of Kaminsky’s three-point attempts came with no defender within four-plus feet of him. He shot just 33.4 percent (113-of-338) on these attempts. That’s after a post-All-Star break uptick, too. It’s not quite enough to get it done.

Kaminsky shot 35.4 percent from downtown when Kemba was on the floor, and only 29.1 percent when Captain Courageous (shoutout Eric Collins) sat. Considering how 95 percent of his attempts from deep came “Open” to Wide Open” that difference is likely just random.

Regardless, if Kaminsky could nudge that 33.4 percent clip into the 37-38 percent range (not unreasonable), then it would be a major boon for Charlotte.

That issue gets compounded, too, because of Frank’s inability to consistently punish mismatches. Opponents have no fear in defending him with a wing or simply running him off the line.

For the second year in a row, Kaminsky shot under 58 percent in the restricted area — a below average number. However, his 57.7 percent clip this season was a nice jump over his rookie campaign: 51.4 percent.

Going down to the block, Kaminsky used 12 percent of his possessions on post-up — the most of any full-time rotation player in 2016-17 for the Hornets. The results were NOT GREAT, BOB, as Peter Campbell would say: 41.3 percent shooting, 0.84 points per possession (in the 39th percentile of the league).

The midrange was mostly a dead zone for Kaminsky, too. Per NBA.com, Frank shot just 28-of-87 on two-point field goals between eight and 22 feet — 32.2 percent. He’s not exactly Chris Paul.

Since Kaminsky’s arrival in Charlotte, I’ve thought the best long-term projection for his game was at the 5. A borderline starter that would more than likely come off the bench, play 28-32 minutes, shoot threes and juice the offense.

I still feel that way, too. As the league becomes increasingly more athletic at the 4, it really seems like Kaminsky is at a continuous physical disadvantage. He’s the modern day tweener; a man without a true position. Even when he shifts over to the 5, it creates problems on the defensive end.

The Hornets allowed 2.3 more points per 100 possessions with Kaminsky on the floor in 2016-17 — 107.3 points per 100. He offers little to no rim protection, either, which throws water on the ‘Kaminsky at the 5’ take.

Opponents shot 58.2 percent on field goal attempts defended at the rim by Kaminsky. Amongst players that defended at least 300 shots at the hoop last season, that ranked fourth worst. He’s taller than the three players ranked worse than him here: James Harden, Julius Randle and Jon Leuer.

Obviously, the team had some success with him at the 5 last season — most of that playing time out of necessity. However, with Dwight in town, those minutes will dwindle even more this season. For the time, that experiment is likely to be shelved.

Number to Know:

46 2FG%

According to Basketball Reference, there were 49 players 7-footers that played at least one minute in the NBA last season. Of that group, only two players attempted at least 100 two-point field goals, and shot below 46 percent on said attempts: Meyers Leonard and Frank Kaminsky (45.5 2FG%).

If Frank the Tank is going to become the sort of stretch-4 matchup nightmare that Hornets fans want — which entails punishing smaller defenders on switches — then he’s got to get better inside the arc, and especially around the basket.

2017-18 Forecast:

In his first two seasons in the league, Kaminsky has already played in 156 games — second most from the 2015 class, behind only Karl-Anthony Towns. Kaminsky averaged 11.7 points per game last season, which was the third most on that team, and he has has collected 5.6 win shares since entering the NBA;

Frank Kaminsky is one of 22 7-footers to more than five win shares while playing fewer than 4,000 minutes before the age of 24, per Basketball Reference.

He won’t turn 25 until April, which makes him one of the oldest players in the league from the 2015 draft class. We have a lot of data to indicate the kind of player that Frank Kaminsky is, and will be going forward.

However, he should still be getting better, in theory at least. It should work to Kaminsky’s benefit that he will get to play at all times with Zeller and Howard.

Kaminsky shot worse with Zeller on the floor last season, but that’s likely just random bad luck. Schematically, it should help Frank — on both ends of the floor — to play exclusively alongside rim runner/protectors.

I think Kaminsky will once again play 26-plus minutes per night and average double figures. As he adjusts to the speed of the NBA, his efficiency from deep should track upwards. He will get plenty of open looks. Defense will stay flat, but it’s time for him to become a bigger contributor for this team.

Finally, it seems way off in the distance, but it’s time to also start kicking the can on what to do with Kaminsky’s next contract.

Charlotte will have to decide by the end of next October if the franchise wishes to extend his rookie deal, like they did with other parts of the team’s nucleus: Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller (which kicks in this season).

The Hornets will get another full season to evaluate Kaminsky, and see if he’s the kind of player worthy of an extension. That’s valuable.

I’ll cut this short, though, since I’m sure there will be plenty of talk on this at QCH over the next 13 months. However, my guess is the team holds off on that extension, and lets him hit restricted free agency. This wait-and-see approach would let the team see what the market value is for Frank; if they want to match, fine, go for it.

Brian Giesinger (@bgeis_bird), Co-host of Buzz Beat Radio / staff member of SportsChannel8.com

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