Campaigning for Kadin

In my recent entry previewing the season, I wrote that Beekman and Shedrick were our best players last year and that, for us to reach out ceiling, we would need both to take a developmental leap, especially on the offensive end of the ball. This generated some discussion as I think most UVa fans thought of Jayden Gardner as our best player last year (or Reece), but view Shedrick still more through a developmental lens – which I very much agree with. In that article, I focused more on the Gardner side of that equation, emphasizing the tradeoffs that he brings to the table – but here I want to focus on the Shedrick side. I agree with the premise that there is a TON of room for development in his game. His ceiling is through the roof, and it’s natural to focus on where he can be vs. where he is. I will argue below that what he already brings to the table is incredibly valuable and provides a quality floor to his performance, while also highlighting which aspects of his game can significantly improve.

Flaws and All

In 2021-2022, Kadin Shedrick was an incredibly talented but also flawed and inconsistent player. He was the only player in our standard starting 5 to rotate in and out of the lineup, starting 19 games to Francisco Caffaro’s 16. He averaged 20.2 minutes per game to Papi’s 17.7 and lost his starting job for the majority of the second half of the season until the start of the postseason. Watching how the season played out from a distance, seeing their similar PT, and hearing fan chatter, you would think that they were more or less interchangeable players. Both challenged offensively, both solid defensively, Papi the more physical “bruising” player and Kadin the more athletic one. That’s the narrative and there’s some truth to it, but there’s also a lot more nuance to it. Papi was the stronger player. He was also a better positional player, a more technically sound rebounder, and less likely to give a careless foul. He was also (slightly) better at getting you a bucket if you threw it to him in the post with that little right-handed power hook move he loves. But Kadin… Kadin played above the rim, truly impacted opponents’ ability to finish inside, was quicker (laterally and with regard to elevation), and made for much easier offense when his teammates created opportunities.

The result was a screaming dichotomy where Shedrick gave us many more eye-popping highlights and “wow” plays but also a far greater number of silly mistakes, creating some frustratingly glaring moments that would get him into foul trouble and keep him off the court. I think this (along with his being demoted from the starter’s role mid-season) frustrated many fans and created the perception that Papi was just the more sound and “safe” player who would quietly contribute and get the job done. The idea was that he was more effective than Kadin and/or that Kadin wasn’t helping the team as much as he could be (which is true, but there’s scale here) due to his availability and mistakes. But while parts of this were very true, the conclusion was not.

Metrically, there was a wide chasm between the two players. He was not a player who could often create his own shots, but his offensive rating of 123.3 lead the team and was over 11 points produced per 100 possessions higher than our next best player (Reece Beekman, Gardner was third at 111) and almost 20 points per 100 possessions higher than Caffaro’s 104.5. On the defensive side of the ball, he was often out of position, struggled with cheap fouls, could get overpowered by stronger players, and yet his 93.2 points allowed per 100 possessions was ALSO best on the team, over 6 better than our second best player (Beekman) and over 7 points better than Papi (as an aside, the few times both Kadin and Papi were on the court together provided some of our best metric moments, albeit small sample size, because the defensive improvement well outpaced the offensive hit). Added together, his contributions over 100 possessions were more favorable by 26.1 points than Caffaro’s. His PER was highest on the team at 23.7 (Caffaro 13), and his BP/M was second among starters at 5.7 (Caffaro -1.6!). I am drawing the direct comparison between Shedrick and Caffaro here not to pile on Papi, but because they were almost always directly subbed for each other 1-1. The common discussion is always about the merits between the two, but Kadin’s numbers stacked up favorably with every other starter on the team. Some of that is because he played between 10-15 minutes fewer than the other starters, but it was still a very clear and stark picture. In fact, team and player analytics website calculates efficiency ratings across player combinations and the top 5 two player pairings last year ALL included Shedrick (with Beekman, Stattmann, Gardner, Clark, and Franklin, in that order)!!! He made literally everyone who got regular minutes (aside from Caffaro who he regularly played with) better and they were all their most effective when paired with him.

So, what’s going on? Why is there such a discrepancy in perception among fans either in how they viewed Shedrick’s performance as a stand-alone or in how they viewed him in contrast to Papi?

Fair Criticism

The knocks on Kadin have been as follows: he plays week, he’s often out of position on defense, he gives up too many bad fouls, he’s not a threat to create his own offense. All of these things… have mostly been true.

Here he is against Armando Bacot; a matchup in which both he and Caffaro struggled mightily last year – but this kind of play tends to make a greater impression. He plays the defensive possession well, gets switched onto perimeter defense, switches back, is in good rebounding position, and simply gets pushed out of the way/out muscled for the ball. His ability to secure rebounds has been criticized as a result of plays like this and also like this:

In this one he literally just gets walked under the hoop and has no shot at the rebound as a result, and then compounds the issue by fouling. His lack of physicality once again leading to a rebounding concession. It’s true that Caffaro was the better rebounder last year – but the gap wasn’t as big as you’d think given these examples. Caffaro paced the team with 10.5 rebounds per 40 minutes and Shedrick was second with 9.8 (next closest was Gardner with 7.8). It’s because even though the above was happening (or he was out of position which we’ll discuss soon), he also had this ability:

I like this clip because it’s almost a direct comparison. Both are boxing out from almost identical depths in the lane, both are moving toward the basket (Caffaro actually has a little more momentum) and Kadin just inhales the ball despite the bounce heading more toward Caffaro. You can see here that his ability to go and get it – to reach certain balls is unparalleled on the team which explains why his rate wasn’t that far off despite his struggles with positioning and physicality. More on this theme to come later.

There were many times he struggled positionally on defense as well, especially in the pick and roll. The biggest issue with this being that he would overstay on hedges and then either be slow rotating back or pick up a cheap foul in so doing.

In this clip, he simply overstays on the hedge. He actually starts to back out for a second, but then doubles down and continues to press the ball handler, perhaps thinking he could create a turnover or sow chaos, but actually leading to a wide open Bacot. Once and a while when he would do this, it would lead to a great play, like here:

Which is probably why he would be tempted to do it. His quickness and length were good at obscuring sight lanes and making ball handlers panic. But more often you’d get a play like the above with Bacot, or a play like the below, from the same Clemson game:

This is EXACTLY the kind of foul that would force CTB to sit him and, more often than not, when a post player is reaching on a guard like this, it’s going to be called. It was avoidable, mental, and due to positioning/over-aggressiveness and, in that game, was his second. It sent him to the bench despite having been playing very well to that point.

There were also examples like this one where he’s slow to rotate back and just lets his guard down.

Some of this might have been a conditioning thing, which also likely accounted for some of his minutes over the span of the season, but a lot of it is just losing concentration. When CTB talks about being, “continuous” this is what he’s trying to condition out of our guys; not letting up or losing focus. For contrast, here’s a Caffaro rotation from that same Clemson game earlier:

Most of the Kadin hedges above you see him lingering on the ball handler trying to get a steal or just being slow to re-purpose. Caffaro defends two ball screens in this clip and notice how once he’s diverted the ball handler on the hedge he’s immediately looking to recover back to his man or to find the appropriate rotation. He loses track of his last responsibility in the corner a bit at the end, but is still in position to be able to rotate if the ball goes there and to collect the rebound if it came off the other direction. And this is correct. It comes through more experience within the system and more discipline. CTB’s Pack Line uses perimeter hedges on screens to allow the screened player to recover, and then to immediately flow back to either their responsibility or to fill in on the rotations that stemmed from the hedge. This is what we mean when we say that Shedrick was far more often out of position which could both create open players on the opposition or lead to him picking up undisciplined fouls.


Here’s a great example of Kadin playing tentatively and getting pushed around by Bacot. He does draw the foul here, but it’s a non-shooting one and he hesitates after getting a great pass from Franklin. This allows Bacot to get back into the play and use contact to throw him off balance. It concedes the ability to get what would have been an easy shot up. And, generally speaking, it highlights the other issue in that Shedrick was almost no threat to create his own offense against quality competition last year. This was an opportunity that we didn’t capitalize on, but it was an opportunity created by Armaan Franklin curling hard off of a ball screen and then threading a fantastic pass through two players.

This clip is from earlier in that same game and is one of the few times in the game he attempted to create his own shot. It came at the end of the shot clock after the offense couldn’t generate anything and he basically runs into a brick wall in Bacot, having to fade away after contact despite being the taller player with the longer reach. This is the kind of shot Gardner would usually generate for himself last year, but he did so because he was often giving up a lot of size and it’s a shot he shoots efficiently. It wasn’t something Kadin was capable of getting reliable offense from last season and, as a result, is something he rarely attempted. Notice also how lax Bacot can play off of Shedrick while he’s setting his screens throughout that possession, as well. On one occasion, he helps deter a Beekman drive, and rather than maintaining spacing and staying by the elbow, Shedrick just continues to drift into the lane because he wasn’t a reliable threat to shoot from there.

This became an even more visible factor later in this game in that UNC, realizing that Shedrick wasn’t a significant threat to generate his own points, shifted Bacot to guard Gardner and put Manek on Kadin. Here’s a look at that:

Notice the contrast here. Manek isn’t really having to work on defense here and there’s an obvious opportunity for Kadin to post him but he doesn’t even try. On the other end, Gardner tries to establish post position vs. Bacot after having found some earlier success against Manek, but it’s a harder entry pass and is not an appealing matchup.

So, what gives? The criticisms of Shedrick’s play from last year, at least in regard to the areas I touched on above, were valid. These were just a few highlights illustrating these points that consistently showed up throughout the year. What I want to differ with, though, is the conclusion being drawn as a result.

Worth It.

So, we’ve established that last year Kadin Shedrick was a fallible player; incapable of creating his own offense, often physically pushed around, frequently caught out of position, who made mental mistakes, and got into unnecessary foul trouble impacting his availability. Painting an enticing picture here!

He was also an elite rim protector, great in pick and roll offense as a threat to finish around the rim, and whose athleticism allowed for “easy” second chance buckets that no one else on our roster had the ability to create.

This is his bread and butter and it’s important to note how frequently and effortlessly he does this. This one he catches one handed….

This one is later in a close game…. most of his highlight reels are these kinds of alley-oops off of pick and rolls. It’s not just that these plays are exciting, it’s that they’re highly effective and difficult to defend. He plays so effortlessly above the rim that the ball handlers on pick and rolls can simply throw the ball up toward the basket any time there’s an over-commitment from the post defender. This makes it so that Shedrick’s man really cannot spend much time at all stopping the ball handler; he has to recover as soon as possible to keep this from happening:

Pitt’s John Hughley IV (#23) has an impossible decision on that play between staying with Clark’s drive and recovering to Shedrick; it’s made even more challenging by how easily Kadin can catch and finish that play. Caffaro will often catch a ball like this, come back down, gather, and go back up – allowing his defender to get back into the play and make his shot more difficult.

Watching those three previous plays from Shedrick, all Franklin would have had to do in this situation when Duke’s Mark Williams (#15) readied to block his shot would be to throw it up at the rim and Shedrick would have had plenty of space to dunk it there. Caffaro cannot make the same play with the ease or explosiveness necessary here so, instead, Franklin has to slip the pass backward to him, which allows Williams to recover and alter the shot. This point might seem like a hypothetical – but it’s easy to see the difference that Kadin brings and it does add up. It changes everything from the ease and different angles that our guards can find him, it changes the way his defender has to play him (cannot be as aggressive on the ball handler) which opens up additional opportunities for our guards to be aggressive as well. In this case, the difference likely added up to not getting two points that we otherwise would have with Shedrick on the floor.

The same is true of second chance points:

That’s Jayden Gardner and Louisville’s 6’11” Malik Williams (#5) thinking they’re about to compete for a rebound and Shedrick just skying over them to flush it.

It’s much harder to box out from a zone than from man-to-man because you’re having to locate and find the correct player rather than continuously positioning against the same guy. Shedrick is a nightmare to account for in the zone in situations like this but, also note, how his not having to bring this rebound down and then go back up created an easy two.

And this is just bonkers as he’s going over the back of the #1 pick in the NBA draft, 6’10” Paolo Banchero, for the put back dunk. Yes, Banchero is flat-footed here, but this is the kind of opening not many players have the athleticism to make; just taking a couple of strides toward the hoop and being so far above everyone else.

Now contrast this with Papi who also gets some second chance points:

In this clip, Caffaro has a similar running start to what Kadin has in the dunk over Banchero. He takes a few strides to the hoop and actually tips it up and into the hoop from slightly below the rim. It’s still two points, so why does it matter? In this situation it doesn’t – but you can see how that’s a harder play for him to make, how the actual shot itself has a greater risk of failure, and how much more range Kadin has to convert those types of plays.

Let’s check out the defensive side of the ball where this really starts to show up:

We’re back on Bacot, 6’10” runner up ACC player of the year, and even though Shedrick gets beaten on the pick and roll, he’s able to get back into this play and completely erase the shot.

Here Bacot is driving and getting Shedrick on his hip with no one else in the way of his drive. There aren’t many (if any) ACC players who would be able to both stay with him after he creates an advantage like this and ALSO be able to block the shot despite him having his full body between Shedrick and the ball.

“You cannot foul a driver when Shedrick is back there to be able to block the shot.” – Jay Bilas

He spiked that Caleb Love effort clear into the ground from the help side. Bilas’s point is spot on because you can see again how much room to spare Shedrick had and how effortlessly he was able to get to that ball. It should take pressure off of our perimeter defenders because they know that if they’re beaten, the shot is still going to be difficult. Let’s contrast again with Caffaro:

Is there any doubt that Shedrick would have swatted this first shot by RJ Davis? Because Caffaro doesn’t have the same reach and vertical gap-closing ability, he can’t get hands on the first shot, then takes himself out of the play and can’t recover without fouling Bacot off of the offensive rebounding.

Here’s another example where Clark loses his man cutting across the middle of the court. Shakeel Moore on Mississippi State is only 6’1″ and Caffaro is right there but he can’t get into the play enough to offer at or bother the shot. While we can’t assuredly say that Kadin would have blocked this opportunity, I think it’s obvious that it would have been a much more difficult play if that were him. Maybe something looking more similar to this?

There are many times when he gets beaten defensively but his length and athleticism simply make up for it.

Here he reaches on this play and gets beat on the drive to the hoop… but this is elite level rim protection and he’s able to eviscerate the shot anyway.

Here he’s not quick rotating back on the pick and roll, over helps on the stalled baseline driver, completely falls for his man’s pump fake, but his second jump is so quick and invasive that it bothers the shot and forces a miss anyway. A perfect example of him making mistakes throughout an entire possession but simply by being him he was still able to force a positive outcome.

And then there are just the jaw-dropping plays like the one above where he just kind of makes Clemson’s PJ Hall look small; deflecting the entry pass and inhaling the shot attempt… and then this nightmare-inducing sequence:

He’s playing quality post defense on one side of the lane, Franklin completely loses track of his man who cuts wide-open down the other side, and Kadin is somehow able recover off of his man, who made the pass, to annihilate the shot. He basically negated two players at the same time here. This is game changing stuff that completely shapes the way the opponent can attack our team.

In Conclusion

The point in all of this is not to simply try to “wow” with some of the eye-popping stuff that Shedrick can do. It’s that the clips help to conceptualize why the team was so much better when he was on the floor last year and why metrically he was so much more valuable than you’d think. The mistakes are visible, frustrating and, worse, keep him out of the game at times; but the overall impact of him being on the court alters things. Our opposition has to play us differently to account for his skillset, which no one else on our roster replicates. So that’s the lens through which I would evaluate his season last year. He was already our second best player despite having so many areas for improvement.

But that’s still the exciting flip side. There are so many things he can still approve upon. He’s had another year in the defensive system. He’s had another year in Mike Curtis’s scheme and certainly looks stronger – quick clip of the Blue-White Scrimmage here… he looks huge through the upper body compared to last season:

Which will help his rebounding, post defense, and ability to execute post moves. There have been rumors of an improved mid-range jumper and even the potential of a three-point shot.

In every single pre-season game, 3 games in Italy, B/W Scrimmage, Maryland, and UCONN, he’s been mentioned as the standout player. By all accounts, he has worked on many of these areas. It’s easy to imagine how any one of these additions to his game would be huge for us, let alone multiple areas of significant improvement. It’s the reason why I’ll be watching him the most tonight, looking to see how much of this reported progress translates; how much shows up in games that count. But, when assessing his play this year (or when thinking about last year), I wouldn’t let visions of what he could develop to be detract from how valuable he still was and is. We are significantly improved above replacement when he’s in the game. Now we get to see just how much.

Tip off is at 9, let’s get this season started! Go Hoos!

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