So the media circus is all over, and Marques Bolden has announced he will be playing basketball for the Duke Blue Devils next season. This comes after massive amounts of speculation on how Kentucky would fit Bolden onto their roster.
Forward Marcus Lee seemed all but certain that he was headed to the NBA when he said the chances of him leaving college for good were "87%". However, after canceling his team workouts, it's not so clear as to whether or not he will enter the draft or come back to Kentucky.
With that uncertainty, experts began to predict that Bolden was headed to Duke, and with good reason. UK wouldn't have a scholarship open if Lee returned, and Bolden would get more playing time at Duke than at UK if Lee were to stay in college as well.
But what really shocked me about the controversy with trying to fit Lee and Bolden on the roster at the same time were the conspiracies coming from fans of other programs. Take this one for instance:
I am assuming Calipari is pushing Lee out to try and land Bolden. According to UK fans only K does that.— Jeff Ingram (@JIngram_79) April 21, 2016
To assume that Coach Cal would force Marcus Lee out of Kentucky for Bolden makes little to no sense to me. You're talking about forcing out a guy who led the team in blocks per game last year with 1.6, and was tied for the lead in rebounds per game with six.
Telling perhaps your best interior defender that he has to leave in order to make room for someone else could be an utter disaster for two reasons. The first reason, which is the situation that the Cats are now in, is what happens if you don't get the guy you were making room for?
You lose Bolden, and if Lee had signed with an agent yet it'd be all for nothing. You lose your top returning shot-blocker and rebounder, and get nothing in return. The second reason is what if Bolden doesn't pan out? You hate to see injuries occur to anyone, no matter what jersey they wear, but Bolden could suffer the fate of many athletes and come down with a major injury that keeps him out for an entire season.
Again, if that happens, you've forced out one of your best players and received nothing in return. Coach Cal is way too smart when it comes to coaching to take a chance like that, and the idea that he would have forced Lee out to make room for Bolden is not plausible at all.
The Lee/Bolden conspiracies were bad, but it got worse when it was announced that guard Charles Matthews would be transferring from Kentucky to go elsewhere. When that occurred, we got reactions like this one:
Marcus Lee can't get drafted, Bolden needs a spot, Matthews transfers the day before Bolden announces but just a coincidence, #ChildPlease— 2013 (@CardsWonItLast) May 18, 2016
It's pretty clear that anyone who thinks Calipari told Matthews that he needs to leave to make room for Bolden didn't pay any attention to what Cal and Matthews said about his transfer. You can read all of that here, but I'll point out parts of Cal's statement to show how much Calipari wishes that Matthews would stay.
"The hardest thing as a coach is to lose a player that you really wanted to coach," said Calipari. This was not what Cal had in mind. This was Matthews' doing, as he could see the writing on the wall, and he knew that if he wanted to get a good amount of playing time he would not be able to stay at a university that is bringing in 5-star guards year after year. Cal wanted him here in Lexington, and the idea of him forcing Matthews to leave to get Bolden is preposterous.
The bottom line is that, above all else, trying to force players out to make room for potential commits just isn't smart coaching. To give up a valuable defender, or force a guard to switch schools just for the chance at Bolden isn't plausible, especially when you already have a 5-star center coming in. It's something Calipari would never do.
It's certainly possible that Bolden chose Duke over Kentucky on Thursday due to the fact that Lee may be coming back, and he's worried about playing time. If that's the case, just take a look at the front court that Kentucky will have, which will feature Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Derek Willis, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard.
Adding Bolden would've made that group of forwards and centers terrifyingly good, but they're going to be just fine without him. If Lee returns, it makes them that much better down low, and keeps them from losing one of their top interior defenders from last season.
Even though an Adebayo-Bolden front court would have been a sight to see next season, Kentucky will be fine down low without Bolden, and the idea that Cal would intentionally bust up parts of his team to land Bolden is preposterous.