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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda that Calipari is Facing in 2014-15

The greatest storyline coming into next season in my opinion is the rotation options for John Calipari and how he handles playing time.  It is clear the Cats are loaded at center and both the guard spots seem to have an obvious rotation.  But the 3 and the 4 spots are a little murkier for Coach Cal.  I’ve already heard a bunch of analysis about could this guy play this position and would Calipari try this lineup, etc.  So I did a coulda, woulda, shoulda for the 4 returning guys who might have some flexibility in the position they are going to play.  I think Dakari Johnson is pretty well slated as a center, Dominique Hawkins and Andrew Harrison as a point guard.  But Derrick Willis, Marcus Lee, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Aaron Harrison could, in theory, play multiple positions.  As for the incoming freshman, let’s be honest.  We really don’t know how good any of these guys are yet.  We don’t actually know if Trey Lyle or Karl Towns can play multiple spots or not.  So I am not even going to bother adding them to the list.

For reference, how do I define the coulda, woulda, and shoulda’s:
COULDA: meaning does the player have the talent/skills to play the position
WOULDA: meaning how likely Coach Cal would be to play the guy at that position
SHOULDA: meaning does it seem like a good idea from a lineup standpoint

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DEREK WILLIS
COULD he play small forward: If he can prove the ability to defend other small forwards and rebound the ball, then I don’t know why not.

WOULD he play small forward: Yes, he has the potential to.  Plus, it’s the one spot on the floor Kentucky doesn’t have depth.  There is basically Alex Poythress and nobody else.  I guess Booker or Aa. Harrison could slide down if needed, but Willis will find no greater spot for playing time than at the small forward spot.

SHOULD he play small forward: I would argue yes.  This is where Cal should try and get Willis to play.  If Kentucky continues to bring in 5-star All-Americans in at the 4 and 5 spots, Willis might struggle to find the starting lineup.  I envision him as the backup to Poythress this year and then potentially starting his junior year.  Best case scenario.
———————————————————————————–
MARCUS LEE
COULD he play power forward: Yes, he has the athleticism to defend the power forwards.  His offensive game still needs some work to play the 4, as we’ve really only see dunks and putbacks from Lee, but develop a little better ball handling and post moves, and the 4 could be a great spot for him.

WOULD he play power forward: Of course he would.  Seeing as Dakari Johnson is likely planted at center and Willie Cauley-Stein will see most of his time at center as well, Lee better get ready to play some power forward.

SHOULD he play power forward: Here is the big question.  And it likely depends on just how good the incoming freshman will be.  It seems, on paper, both Trey Lyles and Karl Towns could potentially see time at the 4 spot.  Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calipari try a twin towers approach occasionally with WCS and Johnson.  If Lee makes the common freshman to sophomore jump, then I fully expect him to see the floor often next year.
———————————————————————————
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN
COULD he play power forward: Well, he certainly has the length to bother power forwards at the defensive end.  Paired with Johnson, the paint would be locked down.  I just worry that on offense, having 2 guys with little game (as of right now) outside of 5 feet would lead the offense to being anchored down.

WOULD he play power forward: To me, Cauley-Stein is going to be a center at the pro level.  There might be certain circumstances where putting 2 centers out there will be necessary.  But I would be surprised, and not in the positive way, if that becomes the norm.  I am not sure Cauley-Stein is having his skills taken advantage of the most at the power forward spot.

SHOULD he play power forward: Only in extrreme circumstances.  Now, if WCS develops a decent free throw line jumper and becomes a little better passer, then maybe.  But as the talents stand now, I don’t see it happening very often.
———————————————————————————
AARON HARRISON
COULD he play small forward: This would depend on the matchup.  Let’s take Tennessee from last season.  Harrison would have been in trouble against Jordan McRae.  But teams who play a smaller lineup could work with Aaron at the 3.  It also depends how good Devin Booker is.  If his jumpshot is too good to keep off the floor, Harrison might have to shift down a little.

WOULD he play small forward: I think you are likely to see a 3-guard lineup in many situations next year, especially if Booker makes an impact.  Whether that means Aaron plays the 3 or Booker the 3, I bet we’ll see it some.

SHOULD he play small forward: I think he should at times.  He certainly will be the starter at the shooting guard for most of the season, or so it appears.  But I think occasionally playing Harrison at the 3 does give Kentucky some matchup advantages, especially on offense.  Defensively is where you come into problems here.  But I wouldn’t be surprised for an offensive spark if you see Aaron move down.
——————————————————————————–
ALEX POYTHRESS
COULD he play power forward: Well, of course he can.  We’ve seen him do that for the last 2 seasons.  He has the athleticism and ability to score around the basket to do it.  He showed increased energy this year and appears on the verge of a leader-like season.

WOULD he play power forward: I don’t see a scenario where Calipari is going to need Poythress as a power forward this season.  He has at least 4 guys who appear better suited for the spot in Lyles, Towns, Lee, and Cauley-Stein.  Maybe there are scenarios like foul trouble where it will be needed, but there can’t be many.

SHOULD he play power forward: Probably not.  If Cal is about developing a kids game, then Poythress’ small forward abilities need to develop for his NBA future.  His jumpshot and ball handling need to improve.  And frankly, Kentucky needs him to play the 3 this year.  He seems to be the best suited for the job and I would bet that is where he will shine.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

26 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda that Calipari is Facing in 2014-15



  1. Kevin Smalls
    9:06 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Unfortunately, Willis will not see much time, Lee will get a some more mins than last year, but not a sig amount more, Aaron should not move to the 3 but probably will play the 3 if Coach Cal wants him and Booker on the floor at the same time and WCS may play the 4 at times if he and Dakari are both on the floor



  2. jus sayin
    9:07 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    I don’t really think Aaron playing SF is a big Adjustment. He’s 6’6. Defensively he tends to struggle against SGs too so I don’t really see the problem.



  3. Billy Burbo the Linebeard
    9:17 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    For the life of me, I will never understand how people get a player’s name wrong. It’s DEREK Willis. I have seen at least 50 articles with his name spelled correctly on this site alone! Same with RANDALL or COLLY-STEIN. Put it together!!!!



    • Seriously
      10:26 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Don’t forget Trey Lyles, not Lyle.



  4. E
    9:22 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Like the article, misspelled Derek’s name though.



  5. WalterL
    9:37 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Poythress should target getting PT at the three as he has more room there on this team. Plus, when he gets to the NBA, he can’t play successfully against many of the elite PF’s there.He needs to learn to slash and finish and shoot on the perimeter. I think he could guard the three, but he likely needs to stay all four years at UK to be ready for the NBA.



  6. cristoforoUK
    9:39 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Do we spell Derek Willis incorrectly on purpose?

    No mention of Tyler Ulis? Hawkins won’t be our back up point guard. It will be Ulis. Hawkins didn’t even play point guard this past year. Don’t be surprised to see lineups with Ulis/Harrison/Harrison. Hawkins will be a utility guy, similar to this past season, and only play when the game/team dictates it. I don’t think he will be a part of the regular rotation. He’ll be the “fifth guard” but also the best defender of the bunch, so it just depends on the game and what Cal needs.

    Basically, whatever Cal needs for any particular game, he has at his disposal. He will be able to take advantage of every team’s weakness by putting the best match up on the floor. But it will be up to him to figure it out.



  7. ATB (Always True Blue)
    9:41 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    All good questions. Really. I think early season Cal will try and see how talent blends. I am a big fan of separating defensive and offensive assignments. If I were Cal, I would try the following rotation and see how it works.
    Starting 5: Andrew Harrison-PG, Aaron Harrison-SG, Towns is the SF on O and PF on D and WCS is the PF on O and defends the SF, Dakari at Center. Then go through a rotation every 5 minutes.

    With second 5 being: Ulis/Hawkins (whomever wins the spot – Ulis is a scorer and facilitator and Hawkins can defend) – PG, Booker at SG, Poythress at SF, Lyles/Willis (whomever wins the position and depends if we need a zone buster at that time) at the PF (good mid-range shooter), and Lee at Center (can clean up around the rim).

    In reality with this kind of approach we could go 12 deep. 5 guys get 20MPG and the other seven get 14.5MPG. Play with intensity for 40 minutes, and no one will be able to stay in the gym with us if the Freshman are even close to what the scouts think they are. My 2 cents worth.



  8. H.A. Milton
    9:43 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    What about Lyles at the 3?



    • Elwood Blues
      9:56 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      He could and probably will at times, but definitely shouldn’t. He’s about 6’10” and I don’t think he can shoot or dribble well. Ideally, I’d like to see Derek be the 2nd string. He’s long, athletic, and a great shooter, which we desperately need. He may be a little raw at first, but cal needs to keep him in so he racks up experience and gains confidence. A reliable Willis could very well be a dangerous Willis to the opposition.



    • Rupture
      10:11 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Bingo!! Lyles at 3, Towns at 4. Then we win #9
      Unfortunately Cal will only play Trey at 4. So we
      will have a number of unnecessary losses.



    • SMH
      1:54 pm May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Elwood Blues – where did you get the idea Trey Lyles can’t shoot well? He shot 63% from two point range, 35% from 3 point range and 74% from the stripe his senior season of high school. Scouting services all say he is a good shooter. He is also a terrific passer and has good ball handling skills. His biggest weaknesses are in the areas of athleticism and quickness. That is where he would struggle at the small forward position. Trying to defend smaller quicker more athletic players would be a challenge for him.



  9. UKBlue1!
    9:52 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    I will let coach figure it out. 3 final 4’s in 5 years. No doubt he knows what he is doing…this is not Tubby or Billy Clyde running the program.



  10. Elwood Blues
    10:00 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    We’ll never know, unfortunately, but if Hood were given PT earlier on in his career, I think he could’ve been a real help. More importantly, he would’ve been a leader. I’m just hoping Willis gets that chance at his time here.



    • ATB (Always True Blue)
      10:02 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      I agree but Hood didn’t seem unhappy so he must have seen something in practice that made him feel that way. I think Willis will get a chance somewhere along the line.



  11. cdc_uky
    10:05 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Hearing about Hood over the years was tiresome. The same people who complain about his playing time were certainly yelling to get him out of the game when he couldn’t defend. He had 4 yrs of practices to improve and earn more playing time…which he was not able to do.



  12. just saying
    10:05 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    what people forget is that Poy HAS as great perimeter shot, he just refused to shoot it last year. His freshman season he was more than capable from there. The real issue with him at the 3 is his dribbling, and I seriously doubt if 15+ years playing basketball, if he hasnt learned a handle, then it wont happen this Summer.

    Two things will be the Achilles heal for UK next season. #1 No true 3, #2 No “go to guy”.

    9 McD AAs, plus WCS, but not a single player on the team that can “take over”. First time since Cal arrived he has experience, depth and (unbelievable) talent, but not a single Wooden watch player

    my 2 cents



    • Rupture
      10:14 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Amen. The loss of Young will hurt far more than Randle.



    • James Maek
      10:21 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Unless Aaron (or maybe Booker) can step into that “we need a bucket right now” position that young was so vital in last season. I honestly think Lyles will fill Randle’s spot quite nicely – good article breaking down UK’s prospects next season: http://straighthoops.com/one_and_not_done.html



    • CatBlue in LR
      11:56 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Alex’s shot needs a little work, too. He leans back on it, which throws him off-balance, and puts a little too much arch on it.



  13. coolinjector
    10:52 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    so what if D. Will isnt a great stopper yet. Let the other team’s forwards blow by him…. there will be 2 seven footers waiting for them in the paint. BLOCK!

    and then let Derrick light it up on the offensive end.



  14. Beatle Bum
    11:18 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    I think Cal should try to get one from this group (1) (WCS, Lee) on the floor with one from this group (2) (Towns, Lyles) at most time next year. That would always give him a rim defender with a fact the basket scorer in the paint.



    • ATB (Always True Blue)
      11:24 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

      Both Towns and Lyles are more face up offensive guys by watching them play. Not that they couldn’t be back to the basket kind of guys, I’ve just never seen that kind of game from them in the very few I have watched them play. WCS and Dakari are our Back to the Basket guys for certain.



  15. Jim 1
    11:24 am May 1, 2014 Permalink

    We need to be very careful in analyzing the rotation of this many basketball players. This is a great problem to have and I am sure Cal will determine who & what works best through tough practice sessions.

    Over analyzing can only lead to questions of why coach didn’t use this rotation and why not start, etc? We’re all experts in second guessing after the facts. Don’t take yourself to serious so you will be able to enjoy the ride that’s coming.



  16. clancyhat
    1:07 pm May 1, 2014 Permalink

    Love ya James – but whoever plays the 3 – their defense can’t be any worse than Young’s



  17. bung
    1:53 pm May 1, 2014 Permalink

    any combination suits me as long as it fixes last years poor shooting from the 1, 2, and 3 spots as well as at the line, gives more assists and starts and finishes the fast break correctly…we gotta score better