John Calipari is having one of the odder recruiting cycles of his tenure in Lexington.
With the spring recruiting period in full swing, Calipari is working hard to add more guards to what’s already shaping up to be a guard-heavy 2018-19 team.
By now, you know all about Ashton Hagans, the No. 6 overall recruit in 2019 that’s likely to move into the 2018 class.
Then there’s Tyrese Maxey, who has also emerged as a potential reclassification target for 2018.
And lest we forget about Jalen Lecque, someone UK has been recruiting for awhile that could also reclassify.
That’s not even accounting for incoming guards Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley to potentially join Quade Green and Jemarl Baker on next year’s roster.
So, it begs the question, what in the world is Cal doing?
Here are some ideas as to what the Hall of Fame coach may have up his sleeve.
Resurrecting the Platoon
We’ve only seen the platoon for one season under Cal, but it was a pretty good one. The 2014-15 team ran out to the 38-0 start largely due to an insane amount of depth that few teams could keep up with, including four guards who logged significant minutes in Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker and Andrew Harrison.
That team also had an oversized wing in Trey Lyles, which could have ended up being another guard/wing had he not been there. It’s not crazy to think UK could have had five guards logging significant minutes that season, and right now, that’s something the 2018-19 Cats might need to consider.
‘If’ UK were to land Maxey or Lecque and have them join Hagans in reclassifying into the 2018 class, that would give UK six guards/wings worthy of significant minutes, including Quade Green, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, Hagans and Maxey/Lecque.
All of this would make for a good reason to resurrect the platoon to ensure all of those guys get a chance to play. Perhaps the starting lineup would include Green, Quickley and Johnson, then have the second unit of Hagans, Maxey and Herro running the show.
That’s not even accounting for former four-star shooting guard Jemarl Baker, who missed last season while recovering from knee surgery.
Saying this, it doesn’t feel like this is a legitimate option for ensuring everyone gets the minutes they deserve.
This would seem like the most logical approach if UK ends up with all the above mentioned names on the roster for next season. Having four guards on the floor at once would help ensure 5-6 of those guys are getting enough minutes.
Keldon Johnson is big and physical enough to play as that fourth guard and not be a major liability. He’ll still get taken advantage of by bigger power forwards, but he’ll also get by them better on the offensive end enough that it could end up being effective.
This past season, Kansas made the Final Four with shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk playing the 4 a lot. He’s tall enough to hold up there at 6-8 but has just a 6-6 wingspan. Johnson is 6-5 and has a reported 6-8 wingspan. It wouldn’t be something you’d want to rely on too much, but it’s possible to have four guards in with Johnson being at the 4.
After all, four-guard lineups tend to sacrifice defense for offense, so as long as UK could operate effectively enough on offense, this could turn into an advantage against a lot of teams.
Still, it would be hard to execute this kind of lineup for significant stretches, and it would also take a talented big man off the floor. UK will have Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery next season. I think Jarred Vanderbilt returns while Wenyen Gabriel leaves to pursue a pro career.
PJ Washington is a toss up for now, but if he returns, that’s still a very talented group of big men UK would be limiting by playing four guards. But if Washington leaves, it’s easy to play four guards and still get those three bigs the playing time they deserve.
Bracing for a Transfer
What if getting this many guards isn’t about a style of basketball Calipari wants to play and instead is about preparing for a transfer?
It’s no secret that Quade Green has at least considered leaving, so adding another guard would become a necessity if he leaves.
Green is expected to start next season after averaging 25.6 minutes per game as a freshman behind a likely lottery pick in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
There’s also Hamidou Diallo leaving for the draft, so if Green leaves, UK will have lost its top three guards from last season. It would only make sense for Calipari to bring in more guards to help offset that loss.
It would be unfortunate for UK to lose Green, but it would help explain why Calipari is working hard to add another guard.
Lack of faith in incoming guards?
If you’ve followed the final recruiting rankings for the class of 2018, they’ve not exactly been kind to UK signees. Tyler Herro came in at No. 28 in the final ESPN rankings and No. 34 in the Rivals rankings.
Immanuel Quickley came in at No. 20 at Rivals and No. 23 at ESPN. While rankings aren’t a final say in a recruit’s true potential, it does make you wonder if both guards are ready to log heavy minutes as true freshman.
Perhaps Calipari is a little weary of having a roster that has one or both of them starting and playing 20-30 minutes per game. Maybe he thinks both players are more suited for backup roles that allows them to slowly develop and not get thrown right into the fire.
Who knows what Calipari is really up to or what it means for the future of Kentucky Basketball. However, it is safe to say that the roster for next season is still a very fluid situation that may not be resolved for several more weeks.
What do you think Cal is up to? Let us know in the comments section.