Kentucky Basketball: Predicting 2013-14 Rotation with Dakari Johnson in the Fold
Kentucky did it again. Another 5-star recruit, another commitment to play for John Calipari.
This time it was Dakari Johnson, the No. 1 one-rated center and No. 12 player overall, according to ESPN recruiting.
Most Kentucky fans are anxious for next season already but this commitment has Big Blue Nation in an uproar. Calipari has already received commitments from the No. 1 point guard, shooting guard and center, as well as the No. 2 shooting guard.
While this year might be considered a "down year" for Kentucky standards, there's no reason to think next year won't be the best recruiting class of all time and arguably the best team talent-wise in Kentucky history.
Here is my prediction for the Kentucky 2013-14 starting lineup as well as their top bench players for next season. This does not include any uncommitted recruits such as Andrew Wiggins. This does include those players who I predict will stay in Lexington another year.
The slideshow begins with the bench players expected to see a large amount of playing time next year.
Next year's Kentucky team has a good chance to be the deepest team Calipari has had in his four seasons with the Wildcats.
I expect Kyle Wiltjer to return for his junior year (and his senior year, as well) and to be one of the primary scoring threats off the bench for Kentucky. Joining him will be freshmen James Young and Marcus Lee.
According to Rivals, Young, a 5-star shooting guard from Rochester Hills, MI, is the second-rated shooting guard, behind only Kentucky teammate Aaron Harrison. As a junior in high school, Young averaged 25.1 points per game and 10 rebounds per game and has the chance to be Kentucky's leading scorer despite coming off the bench his freshman year.
At the very least, he will be called on to spell one of the Harrison twins, while providing Kentucky with an offensive threat from the guard position off the bench.
Lee is yet another five-star player for Kentucky. The California native stands at 6'9" and is expected to challenge for the starting power forward spot next year. Lee is an athletic player known for his defense and rebounding and will be able to come in with Wiltjer to provide Kentucky with a defensive presence.
Lee averaged 13 points, 13 rebounds and over nine blocks per game last season for Deer Valley High School. I expect Lee to be a talent similar to former Wildcat Daniel Orton but have much better production.
Overall, I expect Calipari to go to his bench quite a bit to mix and match lineups. I also expect to see all three players averaging 20 minutes per game, with Young playing the most.
Center: Dakari Johnson
Dakari Johnson will follow the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel as the next great, athletic big guy to succeed under Calipari.
Johnson, a 5-star recruit (surprise!) committed to Kentucky on Saturday. Just like Noel, Johnson reclassified in November and then trimmed his list to three—Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown—almost immediately.
Johnson isn't an elite athlete like Noel is, but he does a good job of using his body for position on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
Johnson is currently averaging 20 points per game while shooting 68 percent from the field for top-ranked Montverde Academy in Florida. He's also averaging 12 rebounds per game.
While Calipari is known for getting top-ranked point guards to go with his system, lately he's been getting the best big guys as well. Johnson fits well in Kentucky's system, and the former Wildcat that I most expect him to play like is Patrick Patterson—but better.
Power Forward: Willie Cauley-Stein
I predict Willie Cauley-Stein will return for his sophomore year. He will also be the starting power forward for a national championship contender.
Projected by NBADraft.net to go in the top 10 of next year's draft, Cauley-Stein will instead return to hone his skills. Currently he is a high-energy player, someone who relies on his athleticism to score on dunks and put-backs off of offensive rebounds.
While being one of the best rebounders in the country, he is the very opposite when it comes to shooting. Cauley-Stein will return to work one more year on extending his range.
The seven-footer has been coming off the bench for most of the year and is currently averaging seven points and six rebounds per game. Cauley-Stein has started the last two games (Louisville, Eastern Michigan) and has shown flashes of brilliance. However, his conditioning has also come into play, and he can often be seen tiring after a couple minutes of strenuous play.
I expect Cauley-Stein to extend his shooting range slightly next year while being the best rebounder in the country.
Small Forward: Alex Poythress
If Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb returned for their sophomore seasons, why can't Poythress and Cauley-Stein?
Poythress, the 6'7" freshman from Tennessee has been very inconsistent during his first year in Lexington. He is currently averaging 14 points per game and six rebounds, but there have been times where he's disappeared completely, like in the Louisville game.
Poythress has the skills and body to be a top pick in the NBA draft—if not the top overall pick. Currently he is being projected to go in the middle of the first round of next year's draft, so there is reason to believe Poythress will return for his sophomore year to improve his stock.
Which is what Jones did a couple years ago, when he decided to return for his sophomore season and, along with an impressive recruiting class, helped lead Kentucky to a national championship.
I think with the roster right now—and with no commitment from Andrew Wiggins—the small forward position is of the utmost importance for Kentucky. There is depth at every other position, and the 3 spot in Calipari's system needs to be someone who can play different roles.
This is exactly where Poythress will need to help improve to better his stock for the NBA draft. A lot of this does depends on Wiggins' decision, but Poythress could very well be back regardless, due to his inconsistency so far this season.
Shooting Guard: Aaron Harrison
Aaron Harrison is a scorer and a shooter. He provides the deep threat for Kentucky's team next year and will be hard to take off the court.
He is currently averaging over 25 points per game for Travis High School in Texas, playing alongside his twin brother Andrew.
It will be hard to guard Kentucky next year, because if you go zone, Harrison can shoot you right out of it. Obviously, against man to man, Kentucky's offensive skill and athleticism will be too much to handle.
Harrison has drawn comparisons to Brooklyn Nets star Joe Johnson. While he is able to control the game with his shooting and playmaking, the hardest person to take off the court won't be Aaron Harrison but most likely his brother.
Point Guard: Andrew Harrison
Andrew Harrison will be the reason Kentucky wins a national championship with the current roster.
The 6'5" point guard has drawn comparisons to former John Calipari point guard Tyreke Evans, but I think he is a much better passer and all-around player.
With his size at the point, he is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane, and he has excellent skills distributing the basketball. Inside Calipari's system this is exactly what is needed out of a point guard. If teams try to clog the lane, Harrison has the vision to set up open perimeter shots for his brother or James Young. His ability to penetrate could also lead to lobs for Dakari Johnson or Cauley-Stein.
Harrison is the point guard Kentucky fans have been forever drooling about, despite having already been blessed with the likes of John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague.
I expect Harrison to play the bulk of the minutes and to assume the role as team leader, regardless of who stays or who commits.
Kentucky's championship fate—and the chance to be the school's best team ever—rest on Andrew Harrison's shoulders.