Is Tyler Ulis the Best Point Guard of Kentucky's Calipari Era?

How does Ulis stack up against a couple of other great Kentucky point guards?

Everyone and their brother has been talking about Tyler Ulis lately...and why in the Big Blue world wouldn't they be!

The outstanding sophomore point guard has been really solid all season long, but as of late, he's been playing some awesome basketball.

In his last 10 games, Ulis is averaging 19.8 points per game with a sizzling hot shooting slash of 50.4% from the floor, 37.8% from three and 82.4% from the charity stripe.  

In that same time frame, the 5'9" floor general has dished out 8.7 assists with a mere 1.9 turnovers per contest. On the defensive end of the floor, he's had the same type of impact adding 1.7 steals and -- just from watching last night's game against Alabama -- causing even more turnovers than that figure would indicate.

During last night's telecast, a graphic displayed notable John Calipari-coached point guards (and current NBA players) Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans from Memphis, and John Wall and Brandon Knight from Kentucky, as the commentator added that maybe Ulis is next on that list.

I wouldn't say maybe

Ulis is almost certainly the next star to make the jump from Calipari to the NBA. However, you might be surprised at just how good Ulis has been in comparison to those who have come before him.

Check it out.


Through 27 games, Ulis hasn't quite lived up to Wall and Knight in terms of some advanced defensive metrics, but he's not too far off.

Player Defensive Win Shares   Defensive Rating
Tyler Ulis 1.5 101.4
John Wall 2.6 94.1
Brandon Knight 1.8 101.5

To be clear, Knight compiled his 1.8 Defensive Win Shares in 38 games whereas Ulis has played 11 fewer games at this point in his second season. So, I can say with confidence that Ulis will catch Knight in this metric.

Wall, on the other hand, I'm not so sure, as he was part of a great defensive squad in his single season under Calipari. That isn't to say that Ulis isn't just as capable as either of the two.

With two seasons under his belt, Ulis has compiled a career Defensive Rating of 96.4 on the back of a freshman season in which he amassed 2.1 Defensive Win Shares.

A big reason why he's such a good defender is his quick hands. In his short college career, 2.5% of his opponents' possessions end in a Ulis heist -- nearly to the level of Wall's mark of 2.9% and over double Knight's 1.1% steal rate.

We'll call defense ever so slightly in favor of Wall.


On offense, you might be surprised how he stacks up this season.

Player Offensive Win Shares Offensive Rating True Shooting% Effective FG%
Tyler Ulis 4.2 130.3 57.4 50.0
John Wall 3.7 111.7 56.2 50.3
Brandon Knight 3.6 109.9 55.3 50.8

When we're talking about offense, the edge goes to the experienced Ulis. 

In 10 and 11 fewer games than Wall and Knight, respectively, Ulis already has more Offensive Win Shares -- not to mention a superior Offensive Rating and True Shooting Percentage.

The Wildcats' current floor general has also earned an Offensive Box Plus-Minus (OBPM) of 8.5, which is over 3 points north of Knight's OBPM of 5.4 (OBPM wasn't measured prior to the 2010-11 season, so Wall does not have a score).

On a per-game basis, Ulis could be the best among the trio as well. As a sophomore, Ulis is averaging 16.7 points and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 43.8% from the field, 32.5% from beyond the three-point line and 86.1% from the stripe.

Wall put up a nearly identical 16.6 points and 6.5 assists per game, and did so shooting 46.1% overall, 32.5% on threes and 75.4% on freebies. Knight's numbers weren't so similar to the other two mostly due to the fact that he did a little more scoring (17.3 points per) and a little less distributing (4.2 assists per) on a game-by-game basis. 

The Total Package

How do the numbers look overall?

Player PER Win Shares per 40 Minutes Win Shares
Tyler Ulis 24.1 .229 5.7
John Wall 22.3 .196 6.3
Brandon Knight 19.3 .157 5.3

Bound to pass Wall in total Win Shares this season, Ulis takes bragging rights in each of these advanced metrics, including Player Efficiency Rating where today's Wildcat leads the former standouts by decent to sizable margins.

Following logic, with a near push on defense and a noticeable advantage on offense, the numbers support the verdict that Tyler Ulis is the best overall point guard of Kentucky's John Calipari era.