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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.