Yesterday at the Jordan Brand Classic game, Doron Lamb cast his lot with Kentucky, and Josh Selby decided to matriculate to Kansas. So where does that leave Kentucky, keeping in mind that the roster is far from complete? Let's look at who is known to be coming back and coming into the program as of right now:
Continued after the jump.
A couple of assumptions I have made here:
- *Either Eric Bledsoe or Daniel Orton comes back. Right now, that doesn't seem likely, but it could happen. I chose Bledsoe as the most likely to return.
- Darnell Dodson isn't going anywhere. That may or may not be right.
- A snapshot of where we are right now, not considering that at least two and probably three more players will come in this recruiting class.
At this moment, UK is just as inexperienced as they were last year, and could get slightly younger if both Orton or Bledsoe stay in the draft. UK is also slightly shorter as it replaces two 6'10"+ and one 6'9" player with shorter guys. If UK were to get both Leslie and Jones, for example, the average height would really not change but by a couple of tenths. UK is still going to be a tall team at an average of 6'6".
What we see taking shape here is the perfect DDM team, a team composed of long players, with vastly improved outside shooting from last year. Next year's team will not be able to overpower teams like Kentucky did this year, but looks like a better ballhandling team and an even better transition offensive team.
Defensively, next year's team will differ from last year's team only in shot-blocking ability. Patterson and Cousins were a rare combination down low, and Kanter is not known as a great shot blocker. Both Leslie and Jones are somewhat known as shot-blockers, but overall the length, quickness and athleticism of this new version of the Wildcats should eventually be the equal of last year's Elite Eight squad on the defensive side. Brandon Knight is known as an elite defender, and DeAndre Liggins has shown a new commitment to defense that has surprised most Kentucky observers.
If Orton were to return, it would change the dynamic of this team quite a bit. UK would become less of a DDM team and more of a low-post offensive team, much like what we had this year. If Bledsoe returned, UK would become even more of a DDM team than they are right now.
So it is interesting to see that Calipari is recruiting a team that looks very much like his 2008 Memphis Tigers team in terms of athleticism and shooting, although the 2010 version of the Kentucky Wildcats will be much younger and somewhat longer. But there is really no doubt that Calipari wants to get back to the dribble drive, and it will be really exciting to see these talented young players run that potentially devastating offense. With as many as seven solid outside shooters shaping up for UK next year, zoning Kentucky will likely become much more difficult. Jones and Leslie both have the ability to shoot the ball from three, so assuming that at least one of those guys picks UK, the perimeter game can only improve from here.
In summary, Kentucky is shaping up to be much different next year than this, and in an exciting way, finally bringing the dribble drive to Lexington after a one-year hiatus driven primarily by personnel.
Vive la différence!