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Kentucky Basketball: Projecting UK’s starting lineup

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This team will be able to play just about any style you want.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky Blue-White Game Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Reid Travis has announced his commitment, I think it is safe to say that the Kentucky Wildcats basketball roster for 2018-2019 is set.

This class looks so much different than it did in January, and has even improved dramatically since adding Reid and Ashton Hagans this month.

With such a strong group of incoming players and several returners who saw important minutes, it will be interesting to see the combinations that John Calipari puts on the court. This team can play fast and push the ball, slow it down and work the ball inside, or throw five guys out there that can shoot the three.

Being one of Calipari’s most versatile teams, it could be fun to speculate who will crack the starting lineup. So let’s do just that. (I know, I know. Coach Cal always says that it is more important who finishes the game...but whatever.)

Point Guard

Immanuel Quickley was the first guy to sign in the 2018 class, and Big Blue Nation has been preparing to see him lead for quite some time. But with the addition of Ashton Hagans, who is significantly taller and more athletic, and considering that Calipari pushed Hagans to come a year early, you have to think that Hagans will get the nod at the point.

Quickley is a better shooter that Hagans, as is Quade Green, but both also have the ability to play off the ball as well. With Hagans’ defensive prowess and propensity to get to the rim, he will lead this offense more often than anyone.

Shooting Guard

While he has strongly denied transfer rumors, many believed Quade Green may move on after he saw this loaded back court class coming in. But what really kept him here?

I am sure Calipari did not promise him a starting role, but I do believe that it makes the most sense for him to start at the two. He shoots the ball at a high percentage, moves well without the ball, and defends bigger than his height would suggest.

The other option to start here would be Quickley, but I believe Cal will rely on him to handle more point guard responsibilities than Green. Having a definitive backup point guard will be a big deal to this team, and for that reason I think Quickley comes off of the bench.

Jemarl Baker and Tyler Herro will also see significant minutes at the off-guard position, but I do not see either competing for a starting slot this season.

Small Forward

Keldon Johnson is really the only prototypical three on the team, and even he could slide into the two if needed. Johnson starting at this position is one of the only certainties in the starting lineup.

Tyler Herro could see some time at the three as well depending on who is playing the two. We could also see some bigger sets on the court where PJ Washington is pulled out to stretch the floor, but with so many strong guards in the lineup that will be more of a rarity.

Power Forward

Besides Johnson, the only other lock in the starting lineup is PJ Washington. He did not turn down a potential guaranteed contract to come back to Kentucky and come off of the bench. And given the workout videos we have seen, he continues to grow into more of the player Calipari wants him to be.

Sophomore PJ Washington could be an All-American type player. He will start at the four and potentially play some center when Calipari wants to play with a smaller lineup.

While expected to be the starting center a few months ago, I expect EJ Montgomery to see more time a the four with Reid Travis on the roster. Montgomery has a strong inside presence, but also has a smooth jumper that could lend itself to stretching the floor.

Center

Nick Richards started 37 games last season, but unless there are injuries I do not see him starting at all this season. I think he is behind Travis and Montgomery at the five, but can play alongside any of them when they are in at the four.

Reid Travis committed to Kentucky seemingly before getting his suitcase from baggage claim at Bluegrass Airport. Calipari had to let him know he would be a big part of the plan moving forward, and it would be tough to sit a guy who is a two-time All-Conference selection.

I think Travis starts at center with Richards backing him up, and Montgomery and Washington playing there as needed.

To summarize, this is what I believe your 2018-2019 lineup for Kentucky basketball will look like:

Starters

  • PG - Ashton Hagans
  • SG - Quade Green
  • SF - Keldon Johnson
  • PF - PJ Washington
  • C - Reid Travis

Substitutes

  • PG - Immanuel Quickley, Quade Green
  • SG - Jemarl Baker, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Brad Calipari
  • SF - Tyler Herro, PJ Washington
  • PF - EJ Montgomery, Reid Travis
  • C - Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery, PJ Washington

Who do you think will be on the court when Kentucky tips off against Duke on November 6th?