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Options are Endless for Calipari’s “Positionless” Approach

Photo by Chet White, courtesy of UK Athletics

 

The college basketball season is fast approaching and the Big Blue Nation will get their first look at their 2017-2018 Wildcats this Sunday, as the team will take part in the programs annual pro day. The NBA scouts will flood Lexington for an up-close look at the talent John Calipari has stockpiled and will attempt to mold into a national title contender by season’s end.

 

Before we jump into the strengths and weaknesses of this team, this could be one of Calipari’s most versatile teams he has coached. The speed, length, and athleticism will be on display every single night the Wildcats take the court.

 

Despite the injury to Jarred Vanderbilt, who will miss the first two months of the season after suffering an ankle injury, the Wildcats have the options to shuffle people around. The addition of Vanderbilt during conference play will only expand Calipari’s options with this team.

 

My Projected Starters for the First Exhibition

 

Guard: Quade Green

Guard: Hamidou Diallo

Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel or P.J. Washington

Center: Sacha Killeya-Jones or Nick Richards

 

 

I expect to see one of these two lineups when the Wildcats begin exhibition play, or something similar to these. Of course, Calipari could interchange a couple of those pieces, but I expect those to be the seven guys in contention for starting spots. Calipari will most likely insert Sacha Killeya-Jones to begin the year, but Richards provides the elite rim protector that Calipari loves to utilize defensively. It will be hard to keep P.J. Washington out of the starting lineup, but Gabriel deserves an early look.

 

Explosive Line Ups (Fast, Long, Hard to Guard)

 

Guard: Quade Green

Guard: Hamidou Diallo

Guard/Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: P.J. Washington

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel

 

Guard: Shai Gilgeous Alexander

Guard/Forward: Hamidou Diallo

Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: P.J. Washington

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel

 

Guard: Quade Green

Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Guard: Hamidou Diallo

Forward: P.J. Washington

Center: Wenyen Gabriel

 

Guard: Quade Green

Guard: Jemarl Baker

Guard: Hamidou Diallo

Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: P.J. Washington

 

Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Guard: Jemarl Baker

Guard/Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: P.J. Washington

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel

 

When you look at the line up combinations above, the one thing you notice is that they all make sense. Those combinations are fast, long, and each player has the ability to grab a rebound and lead in transition, which is something Cal’s best teams have been able to do (Terrence Jones and Julius Randle).

 

In order to play those combinations, defensive rebounding is crucial. I expect Cal to experiment with various combinations early on. It stings losing Vanderbilt because he would be the perfect fit for those lineups.

 

Bigger Line Up

 

Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Guard/Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel

Forward: Sacha-Killeya Jones

Center: Nick Richards

 

That lineup across the board has size, beginning with a 6’6” guard in Alexander. Killeya-Jones can step out and knock down the mid range jumper. Jones and Richards would provide elite rim protection and rebounding.

 

 

Shooting Line Up

 

Guard: Quade Green

Guard: Jemarl Baker

Guard/Forward: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Forward: Kevin Knox

Forward: Wenyen Gabriel

 

You ask anyone to identify a weakness with this team and they will be quick to reply with shooting. That is definitely a concern, but the Wildcats have options. The addition of four-star guard, Jemarl Baker, will help from the outside. Baker is an excellent shooter and will get opportunities to play this season because of his ability to space the floor. The question is who else can become a consistent threat?

 

I know that’s a lot to digest, but I hope you get the idea of how versatile this team can be. The question, like always, will be whether or not all those guys can remain in the rotation. If they deserve to play, Calipari will get them on the floor. Defense and rebounding will get them there, the two things Cal hangs his hat on. Regardless of what combinations take the floor, this team will be fun to watch.

 

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