Kentucky Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of Wildcats' 2014-15 Roster
It's been a different sort of offseason for Kentucky basketball. No, there wasn't a drop in recruiting. In fact, the opposite happened.
Most of Kentucky's roster decided to return to make another run at a national championship. Three starters in Dakari Johnson, Aaron and Andrew Harrison elected to return for their sophomore year. Joining them were rotation players Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Willie Cauley-Stein.
When the Harrison twins announced their decision to come back to Lexington, a lot of fans wondered if this was the perfect roster. Well, this slideshow will address that by breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Wildcats' 2014-15 roster.
Yes, Kentucky fans, there are weaknesses, so continue reading to see what they are.
Think about the following for a second. There will be at least four McDonald's All-Americans on the bench for Kentucky, no matter who the five on the floor are. That's one of the benefits of having nine McDonald's All-Americans—more than any NBA team.
The Wildcats have a solid backup at every position, especially in the frontcourt. Whether it's Dakari Johnson and one of the freshman starting at power forward, there will be at least two players who played serious minutes in the NCAA tournament ready to sub in, between Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress.
The biggest benefit of depth beside having the obvious advantage when it comes to foul trouble, is being able to select different lineups based on matchups. Don't be surprised to see head coach John Calipari use a hockey shift-like sub system, where an entirely different team comes onto the floor.
The Wildcats will be incredibly difficult to plan for, because you never know who can play serious minutes that game.
Weakness: Small Forward or Second Wing
Sure, there's depth everywhere and the possibility of having a true 12-man rotation. However, who is going to play the small forward position?
Last year, James Young filled the role nicely with Aaron Harrison playing the shooting guard. What happens this year? Does Kentucky go with a three-guard lineup that will play either Harrison or Devin Booker at that position? Or does Kentucky go big with Alex Poythress there? Can Derek Willis crack the rotation in this role?
Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to see Poythress begin the season as the starting small forward. He showed signs of being able to play this role as a freshman. He was a decent shooter from behind the arc for his size and quick enough to handle opposing small forward's on the defensive side of the ball.
While many people might clamor for Willis to play, the first sub here will be to go small and move Harrison or Booker to that spot. This could be a liability on the defensive side of the ball where an athletic, taller small forward can give some trouble.
This could turn into a strength as the season goes on, but until Calipari figures out a rotation, this position will be a weakness.
This might be the tallest team in the history of college basketball. In recent memory, there has been no team that has two 7-footers, a player at 6'11", two at 6'10" and two guards who both stand 6'6".
Kentucky is just downright massive when it comes to its size. The Wildcats will be able to bully other teams on both sides of the ball, by attacking the paint offensively and swatting shots defensively.
The Wildcats will still run their patterned dribble-drive offense, but don't be surprised to see them try to get more touches to their big guys in the paint. Dakari Johnson showed his potential last season by quickly making a move to the basket when he got position down low. Also, there will be a ton of alley-oops as the majority of these big guys are also athletic.
Defensively, Kentucky has always had a great shot-blocker in the Calipari era. This year, expect the same but from numerous players. There could be a battle of who gets to block a shot, but if a guard gets beat off the dribble, don't be surprised to see a plethora of Kentucky players go up to block the shot.
The size will also be able to wear other teams down, whether it's playing physical with so many fouls to give between players or just banging bodies to grab rebounds.
Weakness: Outside Shooting
This is a weakness at present because it's more of an unknown. Remember heading into last season? Aaron Harrison and James Young were supposed to be lights out shooters, which never really developed until late in the season.
Well, this year it's pretty similar. Harrison is expected to carry over what he did in the NCAA tournament to the 2014-15 season, while Devin Booker is arguably the best shooter in the class of 2014. The question is will this translate to Kentucky being a good shooting team next season?
Point guards Tyler Ulis and Andrew Harrison are decent enough shooters to keep defenders honest, but aren't looked at as great shooters from deep. The real struggle will be from the small forward spot, which was addressed in a previous slide.
If Poythress can shoot like he did as a freshman and not as a sophomore, this becomes a strength and not a weakness.