While everyone is beyond excited — and rightfully so — about the Jamal Murray commitment along with the star-studded incoming freshman class, the most important player to Kentucky’s success this season continues to quietly work on his game.
Not Tyler Ulis, who is undoubtedly a fan-favorite due to his diminutive size and constant hustle. Not Marcus Lee, the high-energy player who always seems to bring a smile to his teammates face. But, the senior Alex Poythress — who is the most important player on Kentucky’s roster this season.
There are a couple of reasons why Poythress is the most important player, but there are two main reasons.
The first is the versatility Alex brings to the table, with the ability to play three positions, especially if the game does go to true small ball. As we’ve discussed on this site before, the Wildcats can mimic the Golden State Warriors, with Poythress filling the role of Draymond Green. He’s an exceptional defender that can switch onto a guard while also playing in the post. Offensively he’s a decent enough shooter from the outside that he can draw a bigger defender away from the rim while still grabbing the rebounds Kentucky needs him to get.
The second is the fact he’s the biggest question mark on the team solely because of his injury. Despite the majority of guys in the rotation never playing a game in Rupp Arena before, we have a general idea what to expect. Poythress could be the key to what Calipari calls a ‘crazy season’ again. If he comes back healthy and looks the way he did during the 2014 NCAA Tournament and to start last season, Kentucky will be the favorite to win the national title again. However, if he is sluggish and takes a step back due to injury, Kentucky will have to rely on an already depleted frontcourt line and will resemble more of the 2010-11 team, who scrapped their way to a Final Four.
If you think someone else will be more important to the team this year, let us know in the comment section.