Having Hamidou Diallo back in the fold at Kentucky means the following things for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats:
- This will be the longest team Cal has had except for the 38-1 team
- Defensively, this should be one of the best in the country
- The athleticism and speed of this team could be on par with last season’s squad
- They are deep enough at the guard position now
- Cameron Johnson as a Wildcat is likely out of the picture
- Instead of two surefire one-and-done talents (Vanderbilt and Knox) there are now three (Diallo)
- By tournament time this team should be primed for a deep run
So what exactly will this team look like as far as size, starting lineup, and the bench? Pretty damn scary if you ask me.
Point Guard- Quade Green 6-1, 170
Shooting Guard- Hamidou Diallo 6-5, 190
Small Forward- Kevin Knox 6-8, 206
Power Forward- PJ Washington 6-8, 229
Center- Nick Richards 7-0, 239
Point Guard- Shai Gilgeous- Alexander 6-6, 175
Shooting Guard- Jemarl Baker 6-4, 185
Small Forward- Jarred Vanderbilt 6-8, 213
Power Forward- Wenyen Gabriel 6-9, 213
Center- Sacha Killeya-Jones 6-10, 230
Center- Tai Wynyard 6-10, 254
Guard- Brad Calipari 6-0, 179
Cal has seven players that are 6-8 or above and most of them can play multiple positions. Knox will be able to float between small forward and shooting guard; Vanderbilt, Washington, and Gabriel can all play power forward; SKJ and Richards can both play center as well as power forward. This will be positionless basketball at its height.
I fee pretty confident in Cal starting Diallo, Knox, Green and Richards but I wouldn’t count out Vanderbilt or Gabriel cracking the starting lineup. I put Washington in that position because out of the three players I think that he is more of a traditional power forward. The great thing is that Cal can mix and match than depending on the situations and the opposing personnel.
Green will start but don’t count out Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Many of the scouts have not seen him enough to give him the credit he is due. He is a very tall point guard that is more in the Calipari mode. I think he can be an Eric Bledsoe kind of surprise for this team.
The one position I worry about is center. I think Richards is ready to play right away as far as defense is concerned but I worry about his offensive game. His post game will have to develop as the season progresses much like Bam Adebayo. Luckily he has Kenny Payne to bring him along because there is no better coach in that regard. If there is a situation in which Cal absolutely needs offense in the post, I’m hoping that Sacha Killeya-Jones has developed enough to garner big minutes. He came in with the reputation of being a big that can score.
What do you think of the projected starting lineup and the bench? How are you feeling about a run to the Final Four with this group?