2009-2010 Basketball Preview: Early Musings

Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N

A few weeks ago, N asked me to write downs some thoughts on the upcoming basketball season.  I thought I would have a post up soon after but when it came down to it, I really had no idea what to expect.  I have found it difficult to produce a "most likely outcome" based on a win-loss total mostly because a.) there's so much potential variance due to obvious reasons (youthful inexperience) and b.) I personally don't care about wins next season.  We'll get our fair share because the conference will truly be as bad as all the pundits will argue (so be prepared for that).

Disclaimer: Like N, I am operating on the assumption that Jrue is gone.  If he does come back, we'll be much better than what I will outline below.  Obviously.

But like most here on BN, I am going to be exicted about and anticipating significant development from our young guns.  However, how can we possibly predict the extent to which this will occur?  Drew Gordon could be one of the best rebounders in the Pac 10 with increased minutes, but will he be a consistent low post scoring threat?  Malcolm is already well on his way to being a lockdown defender, but can he develop into a reliable jump shooter?  How will Jerime handle most of the minutes at the point?  While we all saw evidence of his vision, passing skills, and athleticism, he struggled mightily at times and really didn't get enough time to be able to accurately project sophomore production.  Clearly all three of these guys will be good to great Pac 10 players eventually.  Will it be next year or the year after?  Hard to tell.

I'd be willing to bet we will see some improvement from DG but not enough for him to be a consistent low post scoring threat that he could very well become by his junior/senior years.  However, what we will almost certainly see is a better rebounding team as a result of getting more minutes for DG.  As much as we may have appreciated Aboya's tenacious desire, DG is an athletic, aggressive leaper with a good positioning instinct for the ball, thus a better rebounder in my opinion.  Also Keefe's rebounding cannot be overlooked.  A key to good team rebounding, as obvious as it sounds, is to have several good rebounders with proper size for the position.  Aboya was out of place at the five and really could have used some help on the weakside (the combination of Drago and Aboya at the 4 and 5 hurt us badly in terms of clearing the defensive glass and getting putbacks on the offensive end).

With the amount of talent coming in along with the potential improvement of last year's freshmen could mean less minutes for Drago by default.  Moreover, our rebounding deficiencies from last year are likely to be remedied due to DG's increased minutes along with Keefe.  I'd argue that a combination of two out of four of DG, JK, ND, JM will be more effective than ND, PAA, JK and DG were last year based on minute allocation (more for DG and JK, hopefully less for ND with JM getting 8-15 min/game).  This is a good thing.  Add our rebounding potential at the other positions and we could even be a good rebounding team next year. 

Furthermore, I really believe the development of Bobo will be the most important determinent to whether or not this team will be a threat to compete for a championship in the next few years, especially concerning a low post shot blocking presence.  Some of you may expect DG to fill this role, but he is more of a weakside shotblocker, not an intimidating body that will clog the lane and prevent penetrators from going into the lane in the first place.  DG's shotblocking is more of a last line of defense coming over from the weak side.  With no defensive three seconds rule, Bobo's defensive development is critical to the success of this time over the next few years.  We need an imposing shot blocking presence, and we need one badly (no offense to Aboya taking charges).  Player development next year will be critical to getting back to the Final Four (and ultimately a championship), which is why I am so ambivalent to wins and losses in particular, as they won't measure where we stand with regard to the year of development for Honeycutt, Moser, Stover, etc.  In two years this team will be scary good with prototypical size and athleticism at every position to defend and rebound, two things I'm pretty sure Howland gets results with.

As for Honeycutt next year, he could be effective just because he has a college-ready jumper and the size to get it off whenever he wants.  But will he be able to play well enough defensively to secure enough minutes for any of that to matter?  He is skinny to say the least.  All of this leads to a rather unpredictable scenario of whether or not TH will get significant minutes to contribute to even Holiday's level.  Nine points and six boards would be great.  He could potentially do more, but it might be more likely to expect less.

Moser will find the floor, but we can't expect him to produce much offensively.  A Malcolm-like freshman year showing his defensive potential would be nice.  Reeves Nelson could see minutes as a rebounding specialist, while Brendan Lane and Stover are likely to see the Bobo treatment. 

It's kind of funny how I've gone this far and have not mentioned much about the returning upperclassmen,  not that I don't appreaciate what they bring.  Realistically, Drago will be Drago (too slow on defense, capable rebounding, and 40 to 45 percent from three).  In my opinion, he is a player that should not be getting starters minutes.  If he plays over 20 minutes, we are committing ourselves to being at best an average defensive team as CBH's man-to-man demands intensity, focus, and quickness in recovery from every position.  He will never have all three of these qualities.  He is a detriment to the team defense no matter what position he plays whether it be the 3 or the 4.  Three point specialists that don't play defense haven't really been a Ben Howland staple in the starting rotation.  It was done out of necessity last year, and perhaps a bit too much.

In terms of overall offensive potential, I have a tough time predicting a point total.  Who is our go to guy?  Malcolm can penetrate, finish, and can shoot fairly well so he is a candidate.  I don't think we can expect JA to do any more next year than JH did for us last year it terms of scoring.  DG could get close to 10/game.  Drago should hover around that as well, unless his playing time is significantly reduced, since he really can shoot the ball.  Roll could be a pleasant surprise offensively as he has shown a diverse game over the past year where defenders would bite on his ball fakes and he would slide into the lane for a nice midrange pull up.  Keefe is Keefe.  Adequate shooter who will get some putbacks.  There's little to no chance he reaches a double digit scoring average.  I can't project anything for Bobo.  It all depends on how long he can stay in, but he has shown flashes of being a capable low post scoring threat.  Again, Honeycutt has the tools, but is he strong enough defensively to get enough time to use them?  If he can shoot like Drago he might have a chance to score in bunches.  His size and athleticism is a dream for our transition game as well, which could also improve from last year given JA's court vision along with ML keying transition buckets off of defensive pressure.  This team will be more athletic, quicker, and potentially more emotionally invested in the taking leadership roles now that minutes are there to be had.

Time for some predictions:

Given the apparent weakness in the Pac 10 I optimisitically see next year's team reaching 20 wins and a top 3 Pac 10 finish.  Washington and Cal will be the toughest teams, with USC capable of making a run, I guess.  Other than that, look at the conference and you will notice a huge dropoff in talent.  ASU, Arizona, Oregon, OSU, Stanford, and WSU just don't have the recruits (or for some, coaches for that matter).  18 conference games, 12 non conference plus the Pac 10 tourney and I think it might be hard to avoid reaching a 20 win season regardless of our inexperience.  We just won't be challenged enough.  The kicker however might be that our schedule will be so weak we could be a bubble team if 20 wins are all we can muster.  But again, wins and losses this year mean little to me, as the next few years could be the start of another epic run of Final Fours.  As long as Coach puts us in a position to compete for National Championships, the outcome will soon enough take care of itself.  And IIRC, he has a decent track record of player development.  His program is fast becoming a NBA pipeline, and that combination of talent and coaching will get us to where we want to be.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?  If you're reading this you got through this rambling mess and I much appreciate it.  Time for football! GO BRUINS!!!!

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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