UNLV has its number one option. Bryce Hamilton has taken 39.5 percent of the Rebels shots, the fourth highest mark in the nation.
But UNLV has not been efficient on offense. The Rebels offensive rating of 94.2 ranks 275th in the country. Among Mountain West teams, only San Jose State has been less efficient.
Hamilton is a high volume, low efficiency scorer. He hasn’t proven to shoot well from three (30.9 percent for his career) and settles for too many mid-range shots.
But he can create an open shot at any moment, a skill UNLV needs to lean on.
However, asking Hamilton to take nearly 40 percent of the team’s shots is not going to work out. The Rebels need more. They need a second source of offense.
Michael Nuga should be the answer to UNLV’s problems.
Nuga averaged 17.8 points per game last season at Kent State. Hoop Math registered Nuga as an analytics dream, as he took 73 layups, 96 threes and just one mid-range jumper last season.
He made shots, finishing 64.4 percent of his layups and drilling 38.5 percent of his threes.
So far this year, Nuga has been limited on offense. He has hit just 2 of his 12 three pointers and has just eight shots at the rim in five games.
Last year he averaged 5.6 layups per game. That is where UNLV needs Nuga.
Against Wichita State, he produced glimpses of greatness.
The first bucket of the game came from Nuga attacking the rim off a ball screen. Wichita State switches the screen and Nuga attacks the big. He doesn’t even create a ton of separation, but shows how well he can finish in close.
He also proved he can get to the rim without a ball screen.
Nuga’s defender takes a step away to help in the paint, but recovers nicely. Nuga drives to the paint anyway and finishes over two defenders with the shot clock dwindling.
Late clock possessions have mostly fallen to Hamilton, but Nuga can produce a quality look – and finish – in high stress scenarios.
UNLV needs to give Nuga more opportunities to create. Wichita State was trapping Bryce Hamilton off ball screens and denying him the ball. Throught the first half, it helped keep Hamilton quiet, but allowed Nuga to step up, who led the team with 11 first half points.
When teams key in on Hamilton, Nuga should get more looks to carry the offense.
His three-point shooting has to improve as well. He shot 34.3 percent in his lone season at Portland State and 38.5 percent last year at Kent State.
His 25 percent mark for this season should be a small sample size anomaly. Once he starts hitting from deep his numbers should drastically improve. He is currently averaging 9.2 points per game with the third worst offensive rating on the team.
UNLV’s defense appears to have improved drastically this season. But until the offense finds someone other than Bryce Hamilton to score consistently, UNLV will find ways to lose big games more often than not.