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John Calipari has a Problem at Forward


It’s been eight days since Kevin Knox shocked the Big Blue Nation by committing to Kentucky.  Naturally, the addition of a Top 10 player in the class of 2017 created excitement.  Now that the dust has settled, there’s an elephant in the room: Calipari has too many forwards.

John Calipari doesn’t have many weaknesses as a recruiter, but he always struggled to recruit true small forwards.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is an exception, but MKG is not an offensive player.  This year he has not just one, but three small forwards in his recruiting class who excel offensively.  Along with the returning players, here’s who will be in the crowded frontcourt:

  • Kevin Knox
  • Jarred Vanderbilt
  • P.J. Washington
  • Sacha Killeya-Jones
  • Wenyen Gabriel
  • Tai Wynyard
  • Nick Richards
  • Mo Bamba (maybe)

Even though Calipari has excelled with size (the 2015 team started three guys 6’10” and over), only Richards and Bamba are true centers.  For arguments sake, I’ll leave Bamba out of the equation.  That leaves six players vying to play two forward positions.  There are a few ways Calipari can make it work.

Play Small

Tai Wynyard and P.J. Washington are both bruisers on the defensive end of the floor.  Exceptional rebounders with a wide base, they can sacrifice some size and still adequately defend the opponent’s center.

This leaves room for the others to stretch the floor.  Gabriel, Knox and Vanderbilt are all at their best facing the basket and can extend their game all the way to the three-point line.  SKJ doesn’t have that range, but that’s more of an assumption because we haven’t seen much of him since high school.

Play Big


With Richards in the middle, Calipari can still employ three other small forwards because of their versatility.  Knox and Vanderbilt weren’t great three-point shooters during their senior seasons, but have dramatically improved their shooting over the last six months.  Each of them could play on the wing, while Washington or Killeya-Jones plays the four-spot.  This puts four players on the court at 6’8″ and above.

The Problem

Spacing.  The last two seasons Calipari has had two of his best backcourts.  Spreading the floor, he let them use space to create shots near the rim or find an open man an the three-point line.

Nobody in college basketball is more adaptable than Calipari, but if Hamidou Diallo does not return, the Cats will only have two players (Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) who can truly create off the dribble.  As basketball becomes more perimeter-oriented, next year’s team is going in the opposite direction.

There will be some growing pains at the start of the season, but if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

28 Comments for John Calipari has a Problem at Forward

  1. timewilltell
    5:58 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Feel sorry for Cal. What a horrible situation!! I am sure all the other D1 coaches have already sent him sympathy cards. Not one of the better KSR posts.

  2. kentuckyrld
    5:58 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Coach Calipari has no problem at all. The problem is the people who write about the situation without having enough intelligence to write something accurate and interesting.

  3. 3 fan
    6:09 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    SKJ and Tai ride the pine or transfer. Bamba and Richards play the 5. Knox or Diallo play the 2. Problem solved

    • shelby
      8:40 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

      I think SKJ is gonna surprise u; the kid has great skills; i think he was just a bit overwhelmed as a freshman. I consider him and PJ to be stretch 4s. Richards is a 5. Wenyon can play the 4 also. I honestly think knox is a big 2/3; he and vanderbilt will swap out there. If diallo comes back then knox will probably play more 3 with barker backing up hami at the 2. Wow this team is gonna be fun to watch.

    • BBNDan7
      9:16 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

      Yeah Tai shouldn’t even be considered in this conversation lol, SKJ has a chance

  4. gobble gobble
    6:10 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Nick, how is this a problem? Please refrain from doing opinion articles bc you are full of terrible said opinions.

  5. kenny
    6:24 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    So, the solution is to either play big, or play small.

  6. Skeeter Valentine
    6:41 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Well, I guess you gotta come up with articles like this one since KSR has a daily post quota to meet.

  7. binarysolo
    7:11 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    It’s as if Nick thinks all of these guys have to start and play 40 minutes.

    Neither Tai nor SKJ pose a real threat to gobble up major minutes. Out of Knox, Vanderbilt, Washington, and Gabriel, you have two that start and the other two coming off the bench. Also, Knox can play some guard. I really don’t see a problem.

  8. bosshogg24
    7:13 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Three of your forwards are not forwards but Centers (Wynyard, Richards, Bamaba)! Calipari is the expert and the one to decide player rotation not some college kid trying to make an extra buck writing an article!

  9. wild bill
    7:32 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Stick to football.

    You make zero valid points.

    • BBNDan7
      9:16 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

      They really need to add a like button for comments on here

    • meeksfor3
      8:21 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

      He usually doesn’t make many valid points there either. He’s quickly becoming Bryan the Intern 2.0.

  10. BobNWeaver
    7:50 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Next year’s team is all about shooting. Teams will play a packed-in-zone defense 75-85% of the time against us. If we have guys who can make open shots, we dominate. If we can’t make shots, it will be ugly basketball (but we will still win most games because of talent and defense)

  11. unbridled
    8:06 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Anyone with a basic understanding of basketball would not think this is a problem.

  12. nybrasky
    8:15 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    KSR has a problem when it lets Roush write anything other than football posts.

    • wild bill
      8:45 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

      I don’t understand how playing small would mean winyard is in the game….what is he talking about?

    • Luether
      9:41 pm May 15, 2017 Permalink

      KSR has a problem when it lets Roush write anything…

  13. BoogieDMC
    9:10 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Nick, I love the football podcasts. Stick to that.

  14. BK
    10:14 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    This is indeed a big problem……..for our opponents.

  15. kuhlkat
    11:53 pm May 14, 2017 Permalink

    Awful Nick….Cal will make it work

  16. Kat4Life
    6:58 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

    Do not dismiss the wood chopper he is a lot better than we give him credit for and only needs playing time to demonstrate that

    • Kat4Life
      7:32 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

      Which I quickly agree will be hard to come by

  17. bennyd113
    7:32 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

    Well you can take two off that list as they shouldnt be an option to play. Gabriel and Wynyard. Gabriel was lucky last year there was a shortage at the position

  18. symphonist41169
    8:58 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

    Charles Barkley just called, said this article was turble.

  19. chrisg18
    10:00 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

    Let’s see here:

    PG – Green/SGA
    SG – Diallo or Johnson/Baker
    SF – Knox/Vanderbilt
    PF – Washington/Gabriel/SKJ
    C – Bamba/Richards/Wynyard

    And that is best case scenario. If no Bamba or Diallo or Johnson things thin out. But this doesn’t seem like a problem at all when you are replacing virtually your entire team. The only logjam may be at the 4 spot. My guess is that Tai and then one of Gabriel or SKJ don’t play much at all. But we are making huge assumptions on all of the incoming freshman, none of whom committed are surefire stars. Think of what we thought about SKJ and Gabriel at this time last year.

    • chrisg18
      10:04 am May 15, 2017 Permalink

      Edit: Knox seems like he will be a star and one and done.

  20. CatBlue in LR
    3:12 pm May 15, 2017 Permalink

    We don’t get Bamba, Hami or Johnson, I’m still saying it’ll be a tough season.