Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best/Worst/Probable Case for UK 2012 Roster

Signing day was yesterday for all the high school seniors who wanted to ink themselves to their basketball school, which of course has the most impact for UK fans as we're the rabidly drooling rankings perusers ever since Cal didn't walked through that one door we watched live feed of. So here's my personal opinion on the different scenarios that will form our roster for our predestined 2012 national championship.

Best Case: NBA LOCKOUT!!! I hate the notion as a pro fan, but UK fans want to personally go to David Stern and talk ish to ensure that he takes his wrath out on the Players Association. In this case, our only roster departure would be our resident senior, Josh Harrellson. Enes, Brandon, and Terrence would have no choice but to remain as the greatest sophomore class of all time and not take their talents straight to the lottery (as they'll pretty much be guaranteed to be drafted in, otherwise). Darius and DeAndre, who'll both have the NBA itch due to their breakout 2010-2011 campaigns, won't even have to send out draft feelers and put their names in for consideration. All the incoming freshmen will simply have to accept and make the most of their unexpected secondary roles since ... well, they've already signed in blood on their letters of intent. Besides, this would be the single most talented team in college basketball history. Ever.

C: Enes Kanter/Anthony Davis/Eloy Vargas
F: Darius Miller/Terrence Jones/Kyle Wiltjer
F: DeAndre Liggins/Michael Gilchrist/Jon Hood
G: Brandon Knight/Doron Lamb/Stacey Poole
G: Marquis Teague/Jarrod Polson

Calipari would have quite a job on his hands to define the roles and playing times for all the eligible ballers on this squad. There are literally ten starting-caliber players on this roster, so he gets to divvy up the new and experienced guys in whatever fashion he deems best. My guess is that the main starting line-up shake-up is Knight sliding to the 2-guard to take advantage of his scoring prowess and Teague's pass-first mentality. It would be the ultimate Wall/Bledsoe version 2.0 combo, though I would venture to say this incarnation would be more lethal due to Knight's consistent shooting stroke over Bledsoe's streaky one.

The front court would be where all the tough choices would lie. It would be hard to bench the two seniors in Miller and Liggins, especially considering their expected stellar production along with them earning their stripes in every way imaginable. So in this case I see the 4-wing/1-big combo being used at its finest. Terrence would have to take a slight back seat after being a freshman starter, but the promise of him being the leader of the second team should still hold appeal. His skill-set sure isn't going anywhere, so neither is his draft stock even if he comes off the bench. At this point, Cal can throw out any combo of skill sets that he wants. Defense? Kanter and Davis become the longest and most feared shot-blocking tandem since Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Shooting? Kanter and Wiltjer can pick and pop with the best, even extended to the three-point line. Small ball? Jones and Miller have the versatility to handle the ball with ease as well as the size to give nothing up to opposing big men. The best part about it all is that Eloy Vargas wouldn't be relied on to produce in any greater capacity than Perry Stevenson in 2009-2010. And that induces a sigh of relief.

The fact that Liggins and Gilchrist are interchangeable parts at this point is about the greatest situation you could ever have at the small forward position. Maybe Cal wants Dre's defensive intensity to head the back-up attack and Mike even gets the start on most nights. It wouldn't matter because they're both going to see monstrous amounts of floor time and have an impact every second. Perimeter shooting would never be a problem ever when you have the likes of Knight, Miller, Liggins, and Lamb still around in addition to Kanter, Jones, and Wiltjer being able to step out. This squad could literally put eight guys in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. As long as they won a championship, not a single fan in the world should be disappointed in those decision. But maybe one or two of either Gilchrist, Teague, or Davis would want to stay that extra year to jump from the 25th pick to a top-5 guy the next draft. You never know at that point. Every kid who dons the UK jersey doesn't have the same mind state as Daniel Orton, ya know?

Bottom line ... this squad should and would run the table. I don't see how anyone could disagree at that point. High quality senior leadership? Two full #1 recruiting classes? Two elite, interchangeable point guards? Easily the best big in the nation? Over two-and-a-half deep at every single position? Perfection.

This is all assuming Kanter gets cleared to play college ball at all, of course. Sorry to pull you back into reality for a second ...

Worst Case: The crazy thing is that the starting line-up for our absolute worst case is still absolutely sick. That's the kind of thing you get when you net three of the top six freshmen basketball studs in the nation. But I'll focus on why we lose on everybody at this point ...

Enes, whether or not he's cleared to play a single game, is a top-3 draft pick next year. Most likely he's going to in the consensus 1-2 combo with Harrison Barnes a la Oden/Durant a few years back. It's that simple ... he's gone. Next is Terrence Jones who has far too much potential to not be capable of immediately making the jump. He really is a Lamar Odom clone; and with how well LO is killing it this season, teams will no doubt put a premium on that kind of contributor. He's got by pick #7. Next up is Brandon Knight. There's a reason why he used to be the best ranked player in his class across the board. The kid will put up monster scoring numbers, probably be the SEC player of the year, and on one of the All-American teams. Avery Bradley put up mediocre numbers as Texas' lead freshman guard and went #19 in the 2010 draft. Knight is picked by #15 in 2011.

Now for the unexpected departures. Miller and Liggins will both test the waters and will thoroughly enjoy what they hear. Both guys will be told that they're mid-first round picks due to their NBA size, skill sets, and winning mentalities displayed in UK's surprising 2011 season. Both will play the Jodie Meeks undecided game and finally choose to stay in the draft last-minute. Liggins goes #24 off the strength of his individual workouts, still farther back than he was initially told, and Miller slips to the #36 in the second round, having to fight his way into earning a guaranteed contract. But the fact remains ... the NBA stole five of our guys for the second straight year!!!

C: Anthony Davis/Eloy Vargas
F: Kyle Wiltjer/Trans. or Freshman
F: Michael Gilchrist/Jon Hood/Stacey Poole
G: Doron Lamb/Trevor Lacey
G: Marquis Teague/Jarrod Polson/Trans. or Freshman

Even with our roster being overturned on its second straight binge-and-purge, the remaining guys are still contender quality in the same way as Michigan State's Fab-5 was right off the bat. Gilchrist and Teague already have proven their unselfish chemistry on the U17 Olympic team this last summer together. Neither is your traditional high school blue chipper. Gilchrist didn't notch 50-point games, he wowed the scouts with his warrior-mentality of doing every single thing necessary to win, showing off his skill set and basketball IQ across the board. He's already got a pro's mentality to the game, he didn't have to show off and shoot 40 shots a game to prove to the recruiting gurus that he was a top-ranked guy. Teague also has lesser stats than other elite league guards of the last few years, but his outrageous yo-yo handling combined with his speed and pass-first mentality has him in the position as the best point guard coming out of high school, anyway. Davis is a guy who's going to come out as an elite shot blocker immediately and be a match-up nightmare who can fit in with whoever he's put out on the floor with. Wiltjer is simply a bonus at that point who switches up the looks from the bench as a more prominent shooter than low-post guy. With this roster-gutting, though, Coach Cal will have to work his magic to pull at least shooter Trevor Lacey and one or two more recruits we haven't heard of yet. We can't be going into the 2011-2012 season expecting to even hold a complete practice with 9 guys.

Even if Doron Lamb goes off this year, he's definitely not a sneak-in NBA guard in the mold of Eric Bledsoe. People question if Lamb can even dunk or not. Ha. So he'll be back as ... *gulp* ... the most experienced leader on the floor. But it will definitely be a pain with having to put 85% of our hopes on freshman production. The '10 team had Patterson, Miller, and Liggins as prominent experienced contributors while '11 had Miller, Liggins, and Harrellson in that same role. I sure don't wanna put all that weight on Lamb, Hood, and Poole. We'd still be insanely fun to watch and a threat to win any game we play, but the lack of depth will hurt us in the long run. I love our freshies, but for them to be required to put up transcendent numbers every single game is a stretch. Wall had a couple minor struggles while Cousins and Bledsoe had quite a few major struggles. So unless Anthony Davis is Greg Oden, Mike Gilchrist is Carmelo Anthony, and Marquis Teague is John Wall, we simply can't put up a transcendent sub-3-loss season like everybody's going to be wanting out of this squad.

Bottom line ... we're a sneaky Elite 8 team fighting the odds all season since we're too incredibly thin at all positions. A single injury would be crushing, and you definitely don't want to be sitting on a roster where you stress out every single drive and rebound over a sprained ankle.

Probable Case: The NBA isn't gonna lockout, so we'll meet somewhere in the middle. Enes, Knight, and Jones will all be beckoned away. But Miller and Liggins will stay after testing the draft waters and throw their names in as a 4-year UK legends. This slates our top three freshmen as starters to go with them and Doron Lamb as our bonafide scoring 6th man. We still need to get Trevor Lacey to have any level of depth at all and probably one additional big man recruit or transfer. We definitely still have title hopes with the talent on this squad, but we'll need Jon Hood to turn the corner as a legitimate college player and for Eloy to be able to pull down boards in spot minutes during his senior campaign. But simply noted, we will still have the most feared starting line-up in the NCAA with talent bulging out the seams.

C: Anthony Davis/Eloy Vargas
F: Darius Miller/Kyle Wiltjer
F: DeAndre Liggins/Jon Hood/Stacey Poole
G: Michael Gilchrist/Doron Lamb/Trevor Lacey
G: Marquis Teague/Jarrod Polson

Bottom line ... we're a definite Final Four team. We probably stay top-3 in the rankings for the entire season and are the favorites at tourney time. It's that simple.

... and Free Enes.

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so what did ya think about whatever the heck i wrote?