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Kentucky Basketball: What if Dakari Johnson had stayed?

Dakari Johnson would have fit in nicely with this year's team

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

With the struggles of the front court, it's easy to play the "what if" game. It's easy to think of scenarios that could've played out that would be beneficial for the Kentucky Wildcats this season, but one that immediately comes to mind is none other than Dakari Johnson.

With Johnson struggling to find his footing in the professional ranks, it's easy to think about what would have happened had he returned. Johnson was selected with the 48th overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Johnson is currently in the D-League, where he is averaging a respectable 12 points and 9 rebounds to go along with 1.2 blocks per game.

I can't help but think that Johnson, with a strong junior year at Kentucky, could've potentially played himself into a late first round pick, which would've been much more beneficial for his career (first round picks receive guaranteed contracts).

Fans had mixed feelings about Johnson during his time at Kentucky. Johnson wasn't the most athletic guy on the floor, which often was a complaint among fans, but he was a solid rebounder and a strong presence in the post... areas in which the Wildcats are lacking this season.

Dakari seems like a perfect fit for this year's Wildcat roster. We could reasonably expect that with an increase in minutes, Dakari's numbers would increase as well. His 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game do not seem significant at first, but adjusted on a per 40 minutes scale, his averages during his sophomore year at UK go up to 15.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

Johnson's big frame (7 feet, 260 pounds) would come in handy for a team that lacks strength in the low post. Too many times, Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee are just simply overpowered down low and moved out of position. Having someone who can bang with other big bodies would be a gladly-welcomed addition to this year's squad.

If nothing else, Dakari would provide experienced depth in the frontcourt. Johnson would be a battle-tested big man after going up against NBA big men such as Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Karl Towns. With Issac Humphries struggling to enter into the rotation and the mysterious case of Tai Wynyard, Kentucky could definitely use some added depth.

It seems as there have been several instances of a player leaving prematurely that would've fit in really well the following season. Jodie Meeks in 2009-2010, Daniel Orton in 2010-2011 (I understand the negativity associated there, but 2010-2011 was another year where Kentucky struggled with frontcourt depth), and Marquis Teague in 2012-2013.

It seems as if Dakari Johnson fits into that category this year.