What Svi Mykhailiuk’s return means for KU basketball

By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

Let’s start with the obvious when it comes to Svi Mykhailiuk’s decision to return to college: This is a positive for the Kansas basketball team.

KU is getting a good player back who also has the added benefit of understanding the team’s system after playing it three years. Coach Bill Self needed this scholarship to be filled with a contributor — three transfers will be ineligible next season, while a fourth (Sam Cunliffe) will be out first semester — and it’s unlikely he would have been able to pull someone this late in the recruiting season who could have as much impact as Mykhailiuk will in 2017-18.

Having said that, we probably shouldn’t overstate how this helps KU, given the team’s somewhat awkward roster construction.

The Jayhawks were already most deep at the wing position, and that was before Wednesday’s announcement. Lagerald Vick averaged 24 minutes last season, while Self has already talked up Malik Newman, saying he’d be surprised if he’s not an all-Big 12-type player. There’s also the aforementioned Cunliffe — an athletic Arizona State transfer — and top-40 recruit Marcus Garrett projecting as potential fits at the 2 and 3 spots.

With Mykhailiuk returning, it’s going to be tough for all those guys to get playing time. And because KU’s “small ball” four-guard lineup won’t be as likely this season without a versatile player like Josh Jackson playing the 4, the battle at the 3 spot next to point guard Devonté Graham and Newman should be competitive.

Mykhailiuk, who averaged 28 minutes last year, returns as a player with pronounced offensive strengths that become even more clear when viewing Synergy Sports’ logs. His best offensive asset was three-point shooting, as he made 29 of 58 “unguarded” threes in the half court — good for the 89th percentile among all players nationally. Mykhailiuk also has the rare skillset of being a talented shooter off the dribble, ranking in the 99th percentile while posting 1.38 points per possession on those attempts.

As of now, though, he has yet to use his size (6 foot 8) to display a more diverse offensive game. He’s not much of a factor on the glass, doesn’t create for others often and also posted a microscopic free throw rate, which indicates he hasn’t been aggressive enough on drives to draw contact.


Mykhailiuk also struggled at times defensively, though his overall effort on that end ranked in the 56th percentile according to Synergy — strong enough for a “good” rating. During his low points, he struggled to keep opponents in front of him, and from watching film, he appeared to lack explosiveness needed to guard 4s when he was forced into emergency duty there.

Because of his relatively short arms — he had a 6-foot-5 wingspan at the NBA Draft combine — he also doesn’t stand out when it comes to steal rate, though his pick-and-roll and isolation defensive numbers on Synergy still ended the season in the “very good” range.

Mykhailiuk should be KU’s projected starter after getting the nod in 25 of the Jayhawks’ final 26 games last season, though his future standing there won’t be a guarantee. The small forward position will have four talented players fighting for primary minutes unless Vick adapts to become a small-ball 4 — something that will be tougher with his height (6-5, 175 pounds) but perhaps possible because of his athleticism.

The bottom line: Self and KU will gladly take back a floor-spacer and future pro, even if it’s at a crowded position.

Mykhailiuk, meanwhile, has much to prove, the most important of which being that he’s worthy of an NBA Draft selection — something he wasn’t able to validate through his first three seasons in Lawrence.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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