1. He doesn’t really fit Calipari’s system
-If you forget, Wiltjer even committing to Kentucky came as a surprise to many. At the time, UK was recruiting Chane Behannan for the 4-spot, but Wiltjer’s sudden commitment changed a lot. But at the time, it was all good. Wiltjer was still a Top 25 prospect with good size, etc etc. But as you witnessed in his 2 years here, Wiltjer had some flaws. And unfortunately, they were flaws that went against everything Calipari seems to want. Cal loves slashers, even at his power forward spot. Wiltjer certainly wasn’t that. He had no serious ability to drive the ball to the hoop, which was especially bad because he got the ball on the perimeter so often. When coming up with an ideal lineup for a dribble drive offense, I strongly doubt a player like Kyle Wiltjer is included. Look at Calipari’s 2 best teams before Wiltjer arrived. His 2008 Memphis team and his 2010 Kentucky teams had athletic 4-men (Patrick Patterson and Joey Dorsey) who could move much quicker that Kyle.
2. His strength wasn’t as strong as you might think
-I think we can all agree when asked what Kyle Wiltjer did best, the answer would be his outside jump shot. And I would agree with that assessment. But the reality of the situation was Kyle Wiltjer was a very good outside jump shooter…….for his size. At 6’10”, he presented matchup problems because other power forwards had to guard him on the perimeter. The truth is, overall, Kyle Wiltjer was a decent shooter. A streaky shooter at best.
In 2011-12, Kyle Wiltjer shot 36.6% from the 3-point line. Julius Mays shot a higher percentage than Kyle while shooting more 3-point shots. Now while Mays was considered a decent shooter, I don’t remember anybody acting like he was a dynamite shooter. Yet, when talking about Kyle, people talked about his jump shot like he was Doron Lamb. Lamb, by the way, shot 46% from the 3-point line in 2012. THAT is a great shooter.
3. His weaknesses were exploited
-Rebounding and Defense. Something a 6’10” guy HAS TO DO. He has to or he becomes a gigantic liability on the floor. And Wiltjer became that, especially in his sophomore year when he saw the floor more. Team after team attacked him in the post if they had a capable big man, especially after Noel went down. But more important, in my eyes, was he inability to rebound effectively. Consider this stat: ARCHIE GOODWIN HAD MORE REBOUNDS THAN KYLE WILTJER LAST SEASON. In the same number of games. Goodwin played 9 more minutes per game than Kyle, but that is absolutely no reason your shooting guard should outrebound your power forward for a season.
4. Playing time could be limited anyway
-On last years mediocre team, Kyle Wiltjer still played just the 5th most minutes on the team. Yes, he was a starter, but he also was often one of the first players subbed for. Now, with the amount of talent coming in, especially at the 4 and 5 positions, playing time was going to be cut. Unless there was some major improvement coming in the offseason, then Kyle would have played less minutes this year than last. Probably a big reason why he transferred. But it also emphasizes how his loss should not have a serious impact on the title chances for the Cats. I don’t consider losing the 7th man in the rotation to be a serious blow to the chances.
5. Experienced Leadership is Overrated
-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the leader of the 2012 team. I don’t need my older players to be leaders, I need my STARS to be leaders. I know people talk about Patrick Patterson on the 2010 team, but it always seemed to me John Wall really had the reigns of that team. And that is what makes a great team great. If the Harrisons or Randle are true leaders, the loss of an experience Wiltjer will have no effect on this team. The problem is that it is sometimes rare for a freshman to step up like that. Wall and Gilchrist were exceptions, more than rule. Certainly every great needs a leader, but I am sure it doesn’t have to be an older player. Plus, if reports of Wiltjer’s sometimes questionable work ethic are true, then I am not sure he would have been a leader anyway.
I don’t highlight these 5 points to rip on the kid as he maybe heads out the door. I hope he stays honestly. He’s an interesting player to watch. I more point it out for the fans who are panicking about what Wiltjer leaving might mean to the title hopes. We wish Kyle the best on his next endeavors if they are not in Lexington, and I truly hope he does become the focal point on some team’s offense if he does leave. But when it comes to the 2013-14 UK basketball team, I am not so sure his departure might mean. And for that, I come into this next season with as much confidence with Wiltjer as I do without him.