“Excuse me, I’m prognosticating.”
So just this morning, Kentucky basketball got a commit for a walk on whose parents were both freaking Olympians, and whose 100m dash time is close to the state record. He had scholarship offers from other schools, but chose to come to Kentucky and blaze his way around the court. With or without the ball. They may just throw him in to run circles around opponents, and that’d be fine. Who knows. Bottom line is, this pickup is pleasantly bizarre, and a little ridiculous. Which can mean only one thing:
We’re at the second-to-last ridiculously early question for the 2013-2014 Wildcats. We’ve talked about possible leading scorer (my guess: Aaron Harrison), and possible minutes leader (Andrew Harrison), but this time we’re gonna look at a question that would have been easy last year: who will lead the team defensively? Of course, Nerlens was the anchor for the team last year, challenging not only Anthony Davis’ blocks record, but also Rajon Rondo’s steals record, in his freshman year. His injury cut those endeavors short, but he was unquestionably the defensive leader. Next year? It might be replacement-by-committee. Or we might have somebody step up and dominate like Nerlens. Who knows. But we’re certainly going to guess–who will be next year’s defensive MVP?
The Case For: Any consideration for defense starts at size, and Poythress has plenty of that for the SF position. He’s long and physical, and could have the necessary mean streak we saw a couple times last season.
The Case Against: Poythress averaged only 6 rebounds, .4 blocks, and .3 steals per game. Archie had more blocks last season, and he was as a guard.
The Case For: Willie is the best returning defensive player on the team, after picking up 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season, and his size and experience could lead him to a drastic improvement in those numbers.
The Case Against: The only case against Willie is that he might not keep up with some of the young guns on the team who could be stronger and meaner. Dakari just measured in at over 7 feet, and looks like he could out-muscle a Russian Cossack riding a bear. Plus WCS needs to really perfect taking the charge without being called for a block. But his defensive fate so far is in his own hands.
The Case For: Well, this is something of a struggle; Kyle’s really more of an offensive threat. But he showed improvement last year in his toughness, and that could lead to dividends on an already tough team.
The Case Against: He just looks too soft most of the time. Which is handy when he’s softly laying in those floaters from the baseline, but not so handy when you’ve got to teach somebody a lesson.
The Case For: Polson stepped up big time last season, especially early on against Maryland, and became a tenacious, annoying defender.
The Case Against: His stats don’t really back him up as an elite defender. Maybe with more minutes he could produce more turnovers and rebounds, but proportionally, it’s still less than other guys.
The Case For: He has great lake hair.
The Case Against: He has great lake hair.
The Case For: Andrew is going to absolutely torment other PGs with his size. Consider: John Wall was a huge point guard, and he’s 6’4″. Andrew is 6’5″. That length alone could lead to more steals and forced turnovers than we might be expecting.
The Case Against: Like WCS, this is a “there’s lots of competition” concern. Won’t pick up rebounds like the forwards/centers will.
The Case For: Same size and length as his brother…
The Case Against: …But plays a “bigger” position. Plus he won’t be able to generate as many steals playing off the ball.
The Case For: Like the rest of the wings, he has a ton of length. Seriously, this is starting to look like a Syracuse team, except the players are big AND athletic.
The Case Against: Frick, this is getting hard. He might be a great rebounding wing like Gerald Fitch, and he might generate a ton of turnovers, but it’s hard to pick the wings over the big guys in this scenario.
The Case For: Almost everything he does. He’s strong, big, fast, and can rebound.
The Case Against: Yeah, I’m drawing a blank on this one. We’ll know more when we see his rebounding tendency and ability to be mean, but there are very few questions left unanswered.
The Case For: This kid will gather up any missed shot within 8 feet of him. He averaged around an unreal 20 rebounds a game in high school.
The Case Against: He’s a little smaller than some of the other guys he’ll be playing around, like Dakari and WCS. Plus with all the competition, playing time might be a little too scarce.
The Case For: The height of WCS and the strength of about two dozen Coreys. Is already a “defensive minded” player.
The Case Against: Might struggle to see as many minutes as the other main contenders: Randle, WCS, and Andrew Harrison.
The Case For: He’s a big forward, which should help him pick up some rebounds.
The Case Against: We have yet to see if he has the athleticism required to be an elite defender.
The Case For: A decently-sized point guard at 6’1″, could cause a lot of disruption.
The Case Against: He’s not as big as the other guys on the wing that are going to look to cause the same disruption.
This one might be the hardest of all the “ridiculously early” predictions. Top three would have to be Andrew Harrison, Julius Randle, and WCS. Harrison and Cauley-Stein just have so much size, and Willie has the experience to really bloom this year after spending a year watching how Nerlens does it. That said, Julius just has every possible asset a defender could want–most of all his cutthroat competitive attitude. That’s just something I don’t see in the other bigs, so my vote for best defender has to go to Randle.
As always, feel free to disagree. This was a hard one, and I struggled to get a grip on it.