Michigan State Basketball: Predicting the Spartans' 2013-14 Rotation
Assuming that Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne stay put for another year, the Michigan State Spartans' starting lineup and rotation will look much the same in 2013-14 as it did in 2012-13.
Nothing else to see here.
All kidding aside, the lineup definitely has a tinker-with quality now that Derrick Nix will no longer be a part of the scheme. Aside from incoming recruit Gavin Schilling, a forward, Tom Izzo's arrangement probably won't drastically differ from what he used during this past season.
For now, this slideshow will examine the rotation and stable of starters as if the trio of aforementioned Spartans are staying another season in East Lansing. The NBA undergraduate advisory committee has until April 15 to release evaluations.
At this point, the NBA stock of Appling, Payne and Harris isn't known. Well, maybe the bloggers know more than Izzo, who poked fun at mock drafts and their creators during a recent interview (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung).
Adreian Payne will be the mainstay in the middle for the Spartans next season.
At 6'10", the will-be senior—should-be senior in this case—has length that creates problems for opposing offenses and defenses. He proved that he could knock down jumpers like a skilled scorer, and he showed an ability to block that would make Louisville's Gorgi Dieng proud.
Payne's versatility allows Izzo to utilize him in different roles, but he's the only pure center Michigan State has.
Unless Matt Costello, a will-be sophomore, develops some type of miracle-like inside-outside game during the offseason, expect Payne to be the starting center.
That being said, Costello could easily be the No. 2 big man behind Payne in 2013-14. The former Bay City Western star and 2012 Mr. Basketball winner (Michigan) showcased improvements in his overall skill set as the season progressed.
At first, Costello seemed a bit intimidated by Big Ten opponents. But as the Spartans' season drew to a close, Costello, a 6'9", 245-pounder, became more comfortable and reliable. Though he only averaged about six minutes per outing, he developed into a valuable bench contributor for the Spartans, who fell to Duke in the Sweet 16, 71-61.
Alex Gauna, a soon-to-be junior, is nearly identical in size as Costello. However, Gauna isn't as active as Costello in the paint, despite averaging the same amount of game time as Costello (6.1 minutes).
The top three centers will likely be, in the following order, Payne, Costello and Gauna. But Costello may not have time to play second-fiddle to Payne in the middle. No, Costello could be something more...
As mentioned in the previous slide, Matt Costello really ramped up his game as the season ended.
Costello will be Izzo's best bet at the 4-spot. However, depending on the look of the lineup, Payne could see duties at power forward, too. His ability to shoot makes him much more than just a centerpiece for the Spartans.
His aggressiveness can't be denied any longer, and he will only increase the Spartans' chances at getting shots from the free-throw line; he's relentless now that he's experienced a full season of Big Ten basketball.
Alex Gauna will probably claim the No. 2 role, while incoming recruit Gavin Schilling, another 6'9" specimen, could contribute off the bench. Schilling is more of a scoring forward, but his multifaceted skill set could take him to the power forward position if and when needed.
Branden Dawson's athleticism is tricky.
One game it's abundantly productive, and the next it's doing nothing for Michigan State.
Dawson doesn't have the jump shot to be a truly effective and dangerous scoring guard at this point—that's the one thing that his arsenal lacks, other than consistency.
Projecting Dawson as the starting 3 is logical.
The will-be junior can rebound and play defense. He's a great matchup for other athletic small forwards. Well, great for Michigan State, not necessarily the other guys.
Denzel Valentine showed glimpses of rebounding efficiency in 2012-13, too. He could be thrown into the mix as well.
Now, if Izzo sees enough in Gavin Schilling, the soon-to-be frosh may also see time on the floor at the 3-spot while Payne and Costello man-up at the 5 and 4.
Seriously, he's it as far as 2-guards go for the Spartans.
Harris was second in scoring for Michigan State this past season, averaging 12.9 points. He absolutely dominated Memphis in the NCAA tournament with 23 points.
As a shooting guard, Harris gets fouled—a lot.
He hits 76 percent of his attempts. He's also pretty good when hoisting long-range shots, evidenced by his 41 percent completion rate from beyond the arc.
Michigan State really doesn't have another guy who can score like Harris, other than Keith Appling, who will be the point guard 99 percent of the time when he's on the floor next season.
Of course, Harris can't play 40 minutes every night. So, Izzo will have Travis Trice to spell Harris momentarily, then it's back to Gary Time.
Oh, there is also Russell Byrd. If he finds his shot, he'll get a chance to contribute. The captain and soon-to-be-junior just couldn't locate his stroke in 2012-13, but he's a fan favorite nonetheless.
This one is simple.
Keith Appling is the best option at the 1-guard, despite the fact that most view him as a 'tweener. He's not the purest of point men, but he's also not the end-all when it comes to playing the 2-guard role. Well, he was in high school, but college is a different story.
Anyway, back to the point that's trying to be made here—which is that the Spartans are limited, to an extent, at who can play the point.
Appling led Michigan State in scoring with 13.4 points per outing. At one time during the season, he averaged close to 15 a game. He can explode for 25 or crawl to six points (a point made in a previous article, but that's OK—it's a valid one to cite).
Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice are the other two options. Combined, they averaged 3.3 turnovers per game (Valentine was responsible for a pair of those cough-ups to the other guys). Appling turned over the ball 2.3 times each contest but averaged 3.3 assists, a team-high.
Valentine played about 20 minutes each game and dished out 2.4 assists, second in that department.
Appling played close to 34 minutes a game this past season, so don't expect a whole lot of change at the point—you know, just the standard resting period for Appling.
Michigan State's will-be senior is the obvious choice for the 1-guard. Valentine, who will be a sophomore, is the second best.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81