Adreian Payne (bottom left) and Derrick Nix (top) were two incredibly effective forces in the paint for MSU this past season. Only Payne remains—and the Spartans have to figure out what's next without Nix.
There is good news and bad news for the Michigan State Spartans as they approach the 2013-14 season.
The good news is that Adreian Payne is staying for his senior year—the Spartans will certainly have an all-around threat in Payne, who will be used like Draymond Green was in 2011-12, according to coach Tom Izzo.
Green developed a strong outside game to complement his prowess in the paint. Last season, Payne did the same.
There should be ample opportunities for Payne to elevate his game to the next level as a senior under Izzo's guidance.
The bad news for the Spartans is that Derrick Nix won't be around next year. Nix completed four years of respectable basketball in East Lansing, providing a beefy inside presence for Izzo that kept the Spartans competitive against the most physical teams in the Big Ten.
Nix is the only subtraction from the 2012-13 team. However, his absence will shake up the rotation as Izzo devises a new strategy—one that could have the Spartans at the top of the polls for weeks this coming year.
Matt Costello showed toughness in the latter part of 2012-13.
Without Derrick Nix knocking and swatting guys like flies, the Spartans will need to find another bruiser who will stop at nothing to own the rebound.
Nix was great at doing that—a 10-board night was nothing out of the ordinary for the pudgy former Michigan State big man.
Who will do that during this upcoming season?
The logical choices to fill that void are Matt Costello and Alex Gauna.
Gauna was easily one of the most improved players on the Spartans' roster this past season. He averaged about six minutes per game and showcased an increased desire to push and pull his way to a more meaningful role in Izzo's scheme.
Costello, a will-be sophomore, is nearly identical in size as Gauna—both about 6'9" and 250 pounds. Costello played in a hard-knock league in high school—the Saginaw Valley—while starring for Bay City Western.
He's no stranger to contact. The Valley hosts programs from Flint and Saginaw, two of the state's hoops hotbeds. Costello has seen it all. He just has to translate that to the college forum.
Gauna and Costello may not entirely make up for the lack of Nix, but they'll give the Spartans solid options when it comes to gritty Big Ten boxing matches.
Russell Byrd struggled mightily a year ago.
Travis Trice battled concussion-like symptoms for the better part of the season.
Brandan Kearney transferred and Keith Appling hit a slump during the latter quarter of 2012-13.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo didn't seem to have a healthy guard corps for any significant stretch of time, so he relied heavily upon Denzel Valentine, a freshman who averaged a steady 20 minutes per game and contributed five points per outing as a solid reserve.
Now with Alvin Ellis entering the party, Izzo has another guard to manipulate to his liking. Ellis can play the 2-guard or small forward position. At 6'5" and 185 pounds, he has the size to make a difference as a freshman.
Izzo isn't shy when it comes to giving chances to youngsters, so expect to see Ellis' number frequently called once the season gets rolling along.
Appling, Trice and Valentine will remain as the go-to guys. If Byrd doesn't perform, he could be the Spartans' fan, sitting court side on a chair discussing the game with the Michigan State coaching staff.
With Ellis in the picture, Izzo has enough shooters and defenders to pair hockey-like lines together in the back court.
And don't forget about Gary Harris, who will undoubtedly be the No. 1 scoring option for Michigan State.
Adreian Payne will likely be MSU's do-it-all next year—just like Draymond Green was in 2011-12.
They're two completely different players, but Adreian Payne and Draymond Green each exhibited a skill set that was truly unique for players their size.
At 6'7" and about 230 pounds as a senior, Green won Big Ten Player of the Year honors while guiding Michigan State through the rigors of conference play. He wasn't the fastest or most athletic guy on the court, but Green—or "Day-Day"—was consistently good for a double-double each game.
Payne should have a similar year in 2013-14. As was the case with Green, Payne's development from the perimeter bodes well for the Spartans. Who knows, Spartans fans may see Payne bringing the ball up court off the in-bounds pass.
Well...maybe not. Green had the ball-handling skills to do so, Payne, a 6'10", 270-pound forward, doesn't have such smooth dribbling techniques.
Sure, there are differences in each guy. But like Green, Payne has the chance to essentially carry the Spartans on his back as a senior—just like Green did.
Expect to see Payne everywhere on the floor—everywhere.
No longer just a resident of the painted area, Payne should morph into a Swiss Army knife-type player for the Spartans, knocking down three-pointers, dunking with reckless abandon on opponents and hitting the freebies from the line.
He'll do it all.
Just like Green did.
Because of Derrick Nix's departure, Branden Dawson may be used more as a forward than guard to compensate for the loss of size.
Kenny Kaminsky should make his return next year as a redshirt sophomore forward.
Gavin Schilling, Michigan State's lone 2013 recruit, is also a big-bodied scorer that can immediately contribute.
But with the lack of size inside, Branden Dawson may play more small forward than 2-guard—he's effective at both. When the will-be junior isn't scoring like he should, he makes up for it with rebounds and great interior defense.
Derrick Nix's departure impacts several areas of Michigan State's offense and defense.
Tom Izzo's most interesting move this upcoming season may be the one he makes with Dawson, who recovered from an ACL injury this past season and desperately needs to impress as a junior or face the music from the frenzied Spartans fanbase.
Is Keith Appling in danger of losing minutes? Michigan State has a young and hungry group of guards vying for playing time.
Because of Gary Harris' insane freshman year, the Spartans know that they have a star on their hands.
Will that cause Harris to get more touches and specialized plays thrown his way in an effort score more?
Will that take the ball out of Keith Appling's hands?
Appling has been a serviceable point man for the past three seasons. Although he's a streaky scorer and inconsistent assist man, his speed is valuable to Michigan State. Appling dictates the tempo of games with his zealous bursts up and down the floor.
Appling probably won't be shoved aside to make way for Harris and (insert guard here). But he could see a decrease in playing time if Denzel Valentine evolves into a prolific 1-guard. If Alvin Ellis, a previous Minnesota commit, shines during his first year with the Spartans, Appling could be the odd man out during his senior year.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81