Kentucky Basketball: What Each Projected 2014-15 Starter Brings to the Table
Sure, Kentucky men's basketball lost its top two scorers on a team that played in the NCAA tournament title game. That's something the Wildcats should be used to by now.
What's different, though, is that the Wildcats, who lost Julius Randle and James Young, return the next top seven players from that roster, and joining them are four McDonald's All-Americans. To say it's a talented yet crowded roster is a massive understatement.
There has been no indication from Kentucky head coach John Calipari as to who will be starting come October, so this slideshow will take a guess at the starting five and what each projected starter brings to the court.
PG: Andrew Harrison—Leadership
Andrew Harrison was a quiet player when he was handed the reins as a freshman last season. He often shied away from being vocal and was often criticized for not being much of a leader on the court.
However, as the season went on, Harrison began to mold into the point guard many expected him to be. Hitting his peak in March during the SEC tournament and rolling into the NCAA tournament, Harrison's play became vital to the success of Kentucky.
With a year under his belt and plenty of experience playing in different situations and types of games, Harrison will be the leader of a team expected to be the favorite to win the national title in 2015. Expect him to continue to be vocal, helping direct players on where to be offensively and having a demonstrative attitude when it comes to firing up his teammates.
From a non-vocal standpoint, look for him to be the driving force offensively. He's not going to lead the team in scoring, but look for him to rack up the assists and be the engine to the car that is Kentucky's offense.
SG: Aaron Harrison—Scoring Threat
Sure, Aaron Harrison made a name for himself by delivering three dagger shots to help Kentucky advance from the Sweet 16 to the championship game. But he was third on the team in scoring, averaging over 13 points per game as a freshman.
At 6'5", he has the ability to shoot over smaller shooting guards from behind the line and also use his mid-range pull-up jumper to fill the stat sheet. There's more to Harrison than just shooting, though, as he is deceivingly athletic and can finish at the rim with the best of them.
If teams continue to try to run a zone defense against Kentucky this year, expect Harrison to be a much better shooter thanks to having Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis and Karl Towns joining the team. All three players can shoot from behind the arc, and Booker has one of the nicest shots in the freshman class.
With teams having to focus on other players and not being able to concentrate their defenses on Harrison, expect the Texas native to be a dynamic scorer.
SF: Alex Poythress—The Defensive Swiss Army Knife
Alex Poythress will most likely never play at the level Kentucky fans expected him to as an incoming McDonald's All-American with a NBA body. However, he will continue to play a vital role in the success of Kentucky basketball.
As a freshman, he was expected to be a star; last year, he was a sixth man who gave Kentucky energy off the bench. This year, he should be moved back into the starting lineup and be the most versatile defender not only on Kentucky, but in the country.
He can guard pretty much all five positions thanks to his quickness and length. His long arms bother guards when they try to shoot over him, and his size and strength allow him to play in the post against opposing bigs.
Poythress also isn't afraid to challenge shots, something that seems to be a staple of Calipari-coached teams at Kentucky. Keep an eye out as someone drives to the rim; it shouldn't be a surprise to see Poythress at the rim trying to send the shot back to half court.
PF: Karl-Anthony Towns—A One-Man Highlight Reel
Sure, the game is developing to the point where it's not uncommon to play small ball and have a power forward who can step out and hit jumpers. But how many power forwards are 7'1" that can shoot from behind the arc, finish at the rim and pass like a point guard?
Well, Karl Towns can do all those things. In fact, at the McDonald's All-American event, he competed in both the slam dunk competition and three-point contest.
The New Jersey native should be a step ahead of his fellow classmates due to the fact he played for the Dominican Republic national team at the age of 15 and competed against the likes of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
He's also the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year due to his 20.9 points per game, 13.4 rebounds per game and 6.2 blocks per game averages in high school.
All those skills will translate to the collegiate level, and with Calipari's offense designed to benefit players like Towns, he will flourish immediately. He's not going to be as forceful as Julius Randle, but look for him to be a double-double man the same way Randle was throughout his one year in Lexington.
C: Dakari Johnson—Enforcer in the Post
Dakari Johnson is a large, large man. At 7'0" and 265 pounds, he takes up a lot of space in the low post and makes his presence known there.
Don't let his size fool you, though. Johnson has quick feet and good hands for a man his size. On top of that, he makes fast decisions when he catches the ball in the post and is an excellent passer out of the post back to the wing.
He's not going to wow you with numbers on a stat sheet, but he's the ultimate role player on a team like this. He knows what he has to do, and that's grab rebounds, set hard screens and not be afraid to foul with a plethora of talent behind him on the bench.
His size will take a toll on opposing big guys, and don't be surprised to see Calipari run offensive sets through Johnson to try and take those opposing bigs out of the game early. With being in better shape than he was as a freshman, Johnson will continue to work in the low paint and develop chemistry with the opposing power forward, who is likely going to stretch the floor for him.