Bumped. - BN
Please note: This post was intended as a response to A's excellent post regarding 2010-11 being a stepping stone to our triumphant return to elite status next year. Please read that first, and read this accordingly.
Firstly, I’d like to look at the landscape of the Pac 12 next year, and point out our competition, then get into what we’ll look like under the various NBA departure scenarios. A’s comments on Howland, of whom everyone who’s read anything of mine knows I’m an ardent supporter, sum up my feelings perfectly, thus I won’t say more.
Looking at the Pac 12 next year, I personally believe it will be a two-horse race between Arizona and UCLA for the Pac 12 championship. Arizona will lose Derrick Williams to the NBA draft, and boy has he earned it. He would have fit perfectly in Ben’s vision of a four man who can shoot the ball and still attack the basket. Oh well. They also lose key contributors in Jamelle Horne, and perhaps one other. However, much has been said about their incoming class, and believe you me, it is guard-heavy and chock full of talent. Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson are as good of a 1-2 combo as you can find in the recruiting world today. These guys are instant offense, and will likely see plenty of minutes next season. They thrive in the uptempo offense, and it will be up to Jones, Lamb, Anderson, Powell, Parker, and hopefully Lee to stop them. We, even with a defender like Lee, be hard pressed to do so. They also add two very impressive pivot men in Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson. Both are excellent rebounders and shot-blockers, however Chol is more advanced offensively. They will lack a center prospect, as they did this year. The development of Josh Smith could be pivotal in deciding who wins the matchup.
After Arizona, the primary threats are, in my opinion, Oregon, Washington, and Cal, in that order. Washington loses three very valuable contributors, and likely a fourth to the draft. Bryan-amaning, Overton, and Justin Holiday all graduate, and Isaiah Thomas is likely gone as well. They do have a strong crop of young guards, but despite this, they will definitely drop off. Their recruting class was sub-par, adding talented PG Tony Wroten, who will likely start next year, and Hikeem Stewart, of the Lodrick and Rodrick Stewarts, but that’s really it as far as impact. They’re very weak in the frontcourt save the defensive presence of NDaiye.
Oregon, however, poses, IMO, more of a threat to us. They lose their major post presence in Catron, however Dana Altman has put together a strong recruiting class. Jabari Brown is one of the top 2 shooters in this year’s class, and will absolutely light opponents up. He’s a very strong scorer with deep range, and will give opponents fits. Austin Kemper is a solid post presence, however he is very slight for a D-1 Center. Expect us to go to Smith early and often. Brett Kingma and Bruce Barron are both solid guard prospects and should help fill in their bench. I don’t know much about JC transfer Carlos Emery, except that he’s very athletic and strong. Skill-wise, he’s a bit of an unknown. Expect our post players to thrive against Oregon’s weak frontline, but their guards will pose challenges.
Aside from these players, the pac will be down again next year. AZ and UCLA are still the headliners, and Oregon is rising, but few other teams are improving, with some dropping like rocks, aka Wazzu, Washington, and Cal. Colorado will be a solid addition, Utah somewhat less so. I expect us to be easily in contention to win the conference championship outright, and in solid position to win the conference tourney. We will, with our experience, be a threat to strong nonconference teams early in the season.
As for the players leaving/returning, I believe strongly that Honeycutt is NBA bound. Though he is not a top 15 pick, he will be a late first round selection, and I believe, despite what Ben might say, that will be enough for him. I will operate under this assumption. Will we lose a lot? Sure. He was a good rebounder, solid, if streaky shooter, and had good timing on shot blocks. However, he is also extremely turnover prone, has a bad habit of disappearing in big games, and has been hampered the past two years with a shoulder injury. I also believe his carefree attitude was a detriment to our team’s much-needed killer instinct.
Lee is our most critical departure, obviously. His knee injury, I believe, will prevent him from really shining at any draft camp, essentially the only chance he has to break into the late 1st, early second round. Especially in the face of a lockout, it would be extremely unwise for Malcolm to try his hand, possibly going undrafted, with this much at stake. If he works on his shooting (I saw good improvement from last year’s abysmal effort) strength, and leadership, he could be a solid 1st round pick next year. If he stays, we are looking at excellent guard depth at both positions, with plenty of 3-guard options in the face of a Honeycutt departure with Lamb, Lee, and Parker all being viable options at the 3. Without him, we lose our best perimiter defender, clutch time scorer, and free throw shooter. We also lose our team captain and heart, soul, and work ethic example for our team. In short, we are in dire straits without him.
Reeves Nelson, to me, does not possess several qualities needed in NBA prospects. Firstly, his ceiling is very nearby, if not already reached, in terms of his offensive skills. He has excellent finishing ability, but lacks elite athleticism and NBA size for the 4 position. He is not quick enough laterally or east-west to really fit at the 3 position. The best comparison I have to him in the NBA is Jeff Green, a sort of odd hybrid-forward who lacks a clearly defined position, although Green’s defense is significantly ahead of Nelsons. Nelson is nearly unheard of in draft circles, and likely will go undrafted in the event he chooses to declare. He may, however, test the waters this year to get feedback on how to improve his game. A wise decision, I believe. With him, we retain our emotional (good and bad) leader, our aggressive force on the offensive and defensive glass, and our most consistent scorer. We will have extreme frontcourt depth next year, and his potential departure would open up the position to either Lane or one of the twins.
In summation, we are well positioned to win the pac 10 next year and compete for quality seeding in the tournament. We have experienced and talent in our Senior PG Zeek, and a quality backup with plenty of experience in Sr. Anderson. Lee, if he returns, will be our captain again and provide us with further senior leadership, and add to the bench Tyler Lamb, who with an improved shot and aggressiveness could really have an impact, and Josh Powell, who will provide an athletic spark we’ve been missing. Honeycutt will be gone, but filling his spot will be either of the Wear twins, extremely skilled big men who can stretch the floor, De’End Parker, a skilled, strong-handled guard, or the aformentioned Lee and Lamb. Finally, returning Nelson and Lane and the Wear twins, we have talent and depth at the four position, as well as experience. Smith, with continued conditioning, will be an even greater force in the post, and devleopment with Stover will give us another option in defensive situations. All in all, no other team in the Pac can match up with us in depth at all positions, though some may be more talented in certain areas.
I hope to spark some good discussion on our future. Please comment with your ideas regarding lineups, departures, as well as the future of our league and beyond next year. If anyone's seen any schedules for next year, i'd love to see them.