Miller Kopp entered the season as the second-highest rated player in the best recruiting class in Northwestern basketball history. There was a lot of hype surrounding the class, even after we learned that Jordan Lathon wouldn’t be a part of it. Kopp was expected to play a solid role in the 2018-19 season, but nobody thought he’d be a starter in the Big Ten Tournament. The fact that he was is a testament to both his development and the team’s struggles. Let’s take a closer look.
While Kopp operated in an offense that was one of the worst in the country, which certainly hurt his individual numbers, his stats also weren’t great. A 41 percent field goal percentage and 32 percent 3-point percentage won’t open any eyes, but you have to look at the marks with perspective. Chris Collins gave three freshmen significant minutes: Kopp, Pete Nance, and Ryan Greer. Kopp led the trio in every meaningful statistical category. Furthermore, he played 39 out of a possible 45 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament against Illinois. You can attribute that to Collins wanting to get Kopp experience, but to give a freshman that much time in such a meaningful game should tell you something about Kopp’s development.
Kopp’s 60.5 percent field goal conversion rate at the rim was the fourth-best on the team. About 61 percent of those attempts were assisted, meaning he was fairly effective at creating opportunities at the rim. For a player whose game is based on outside shooting, that’ll be a number to keep an eye on closely when watching his development, as it could allow him to grow as a two-way offensive player. A more concerning number would be his 26 percent conversion rate on 2-point jumpers. Out of players who attempted at least 100 shots, Kopp is ahead of only Anthony Gaines in that area.
All considered, it’s fair to expect Kopp to develop into an impactful player for Northwestern in his time with the program. Though his numbers aren’t great, the team’s struggles offensively, as well as injury issues, allowed him to attain valuable experience. He showed some nice athleticism and quickness throughout the year, so as long as Kopp’s shot can improve, he’ll be an asset for Northwestern.
It’s easy to credit a lot of Kopp’s issues to the rest of the team’s struggles as well as inexperience, but he really didn’t have a statistically good year. For a player that bases his game on scoring, when that part of the game isn’t fully there, it’s hard to be an impactful player. Kopp’s 3-point percentage placed him in the bottom 25 percent of Division 1 players, and his ORtg was the third-worst on the team. For a player that isn’t a defensive weapon, those stats need to improve.
Working on becoming a consistent two-way player should be a priority in the offseason. While Kopp wasn’t necessarily a liability on defense, he didn’t provide the defensive ability on the perimeter that Anthony Gaines or Vic Law did. That’s not an easy thing to do, but if Kopp can grow on the defensive end, he can become an extremely useful player.
Offensively, it’ll be imperative that Kopp knocks down more shots next year. He showed that he is capable of putting the ball on the floor at times and getting to the rim, but the focal point of his game is his shot. If he is able to improve his shooting numbers just slightly, that will be a big bonus for the Northwestern offense.
The Bottom Line
Barring any sudden changes, Kopp is going to be a starter on next year’s team. He will be expected to be one of the leading scorers on the team, in addition to one of the most heavily played players. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which next year’s Northwestern team isn’t at or around the bottom of the Big Ten, but Kopp will be able to garner even more experience as the roster continues to reshape. Ideally, that will translate into further success in his junior and senior seasons.