Michigan State Basketball: Breaking Down Spartans' Future at Every Position
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After the 2013-14 season, Michigan State will have a few holes to fill.
And that's putting it lightly.
Three stars are set to depart: Keith Appling and Adreian Payne due to graduation and Gary Harris due to his NBA future.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo has the task of finding a new point guard to replace Appling. He'll have to plug someone in the frontcourt to make up for Payne, and he'll have to find a new scorer to replace Harris, a marksman who can drive as well.
Power forward Gavin Schilling and wingman Alvin Ellis make up the 2013 class. Izzo is working on the 2014 class, which should dramatically increase the power of the Spartans' roster next year—especially with prizes Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander considering Michigan State.
What does the future hold for Izzo's personnel? Entertaining a few different possibilities should clear up the situation.
Future in the Middle
The center position has evolved.
No longer requiring a big man who dominates based on height alone, the position now asks for more athleticism, which in turn compensates for the lack of height.
The days of the slow-moving 7-footer are a thing of the past. Having players such as Adreian Payne, a 6'10", 240-pounder with gazelle-like agility, is what coaches want. Payne can rebound, shoot, finish at the rim and play incredible defense.
Right now, Tom Izzo doesn't have another Payne.
Here's who he has: Matt Costello (6'9", 240, Soph.), Alex Gauna (6'9", 245, Jr.) and Kenny Kaminski (6'8", 240, RS Soph.).
This past season, Costello and Gauna each proved that they're physical. They're not as athletic as Payne, nor can they shoot like him. But they're valuable on the boards.
Kaminski sat out last year with a shoulder injury, but he's closer to Payne in a couple of ways: He has range and will give the Spartans room to work with.
Cliff Alexander, a 5-star 2014 recruit, is definitely the future for Michigan State. The 6'9" power forward out of Chicago Curie would be a great addition to the roster.
"I can be like Adreian Payne, get the ball out and run," Alexander said during an interview with Chicago Hoops (via YouTube).
If Alexander can be like Payne, Izzo can be happy.
Future at Forward/Wing
As mentioned in the previous slide, the Spartans have Alex Gauna, Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski to move around at forward.
But they also have incoming 3-star recruit Gavin Schilling, a 6'9", 240-pound power forward who is capable of playing like Payne, too. Cliff Alexander would be the ideal fit, but with Schilling mixing in with the rest of the forwards, Michigan State can survive.
He's a finisher. He's extremely physical with a budding interior skill set. And again, he's only a freshman. It took time for Payne to develop.
Schilling and Alexander would undoubtedly form one of the Big Ten's elite frontcourts.
At 6'5" and 220 pounds, sophomore Denzel Valentine has the size to be an efficient wing. Coupled with a great ability to rebound, Valentine is one of Izzo's best inside-outside threats due to his incredible passing and developing shooting skills.
Right now, junior Branden Dawson is expected to be that. Like Valentine, Dawson is good on the boards. Once he develops an outside shot, he'll be complete. But this could be his final year in East Lansing, so it's time to look harder at Valentine.
Who Replaces Gary Harris?
Chicago De La Salle's Alvin Ellis shot 40 percent from three-point range during his final two years of prep play.
Gary Harris has been the best pure shooter at Michigan State since the legendary Shawn Respert, who lit up the Big Ten from 1990 to 1995 with one of the most lethal jumpers in college hoops history.
Also a valuable defender, Harris will be missed by the Spartans once he jumps to the pro ranks, which he'll almost certainly do after completing this, his sophomore, season.
So who's up after that?
Incoming freshman Alvin Ellis fits the order. At 6'4" and 190 pounds, he's about the same size as Harris. However, he may be a project, taking a couple of years to get comfortable. In 2012-13, Harris immediately emerged, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
According to The Only Colors, a popular Spartans blog, Izzo had the following to say about Ellis:
Alvin will be a great addition to our backcourt. We like his offensive skill set, especially his shooting touch, hitting 40 percent from three each of the last two seasons. He's got good length and versatility, with the ability to defend a couple different positions on the perimeter. Combine his great work ethic, his great family background and his commitment to academics, and I expect him to be the type of player that really develops during his time as a Spartan, enjoying the complete student-athlete experience
Devin Booker has warm interest in Michigan State, according to his profile on 247Sports.
At 6'6" and 194 pounds, the Moss Point, Miss., shooting guard has turned heads the past couple of years. Ranked No. 6 at his position, Booker is most definitely the type of elite player who could step in and take over for Harris.
It would be a smooth transition.
Wolverines 247 contributor Mark Zakrajsek's crystal ball prediction gives Michigan an 86 percent chance of landing Booker. According to the forecast, Kentucky has a 14 percent chance.
At this point, having Ellis or Booker would be a beneficial scenario for Izzo.
What's the Point?
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Tyus Jones is the future at point guard for every school.
He's that talented.
The 5-star Apple Valley (Saint Paul, Minn.) point guard is the No. 1 ranked player in the 2014 class, per 247Sports. He reportedly has warm interest in Michigan State.
But he insists on playing college ball with friend Jahlil Okafor, who is also being recruited by Tom Izzo.
The chances of getting a package such as Jones and Okafor, the top center of 2014, are slim for any coach. It's basically a wait-and-see approach. Should Izzo land both, he'd have at least one year set—they're both likely one-and-doners—at the point and in the middle.
Depending on what Izzo brings through recruiting, Travis Trice may be the starting 1-guard as a senior. Now a junior, Trice is a great piece off the bench. He can run the offense for limited stretches and is one of the Spartans' best defenders.
And with Appling set to graduate, he's going to get more minutes.
Valentine, as mentioned earlier, is a dazzling passer. His needle-threading ways have been compared to Magic Johnson's. He'd make a nice point man, too.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81