At the beginning of the season, Kentucky’s depth was often cited as one of the likely strengths of this year’s team. A combination of an 8-man recruiting class along with several returning sophomores gave John Calipari his deepest team since his arrival in Lexington. In fact, many wondered if there might be too much depth, a “problem” many coaches would like to have.
Certainly this season has shown that while some players (Marcus Lee and Derek Willis, for example) aren’t playing as much as they probably would like, Calipari has mostly settled into an 9 to 10 man rotation. And for guys like Lee and Willis, they likely took solace—at the beginning of the season—that they would see more playing time next season when guys like Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein had moved on to the NBA.
But as the season has progressed, it appears as though the number of guys leaving Lexington in a few months may be fewer than many believed back in October. Earlier this week, an article published on the Sporting News website claimed that Calipari “has been telling folks around [the] NBA that his twin recruits, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, will not been [sic] entering this year’s draft.” And, while the article acknowledges the twins’ parents will have a role in their decision whether or not to return, the article didn’t stop people from speculating if the Harrisons might, in fact, come back for another year. With the continued struggles of Cauley-Stein, and the uneven play (although much better of late) of Alex Poythress, it’s possible that only Julius Randle and James Young leave at season’s end. This, of course, assumes Dakari Johnson doesn’t pull a Daniel Orton and declare of the draft when he really should come back for another season.
With that in mind, next year’s team
could be would be loaded:
Centers: Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Karl Towns
Forwards: Alex Poythress, Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Trey Lyles
Guards: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dominique Hawkins, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis
This, of course, isn’t accounting for walk-ons.
But it raises the question of whether some guys may decide to transfer, concerned they would find themselves relegated to the end of the bench most games, used sparingly and primarily in garbage time. Now, I’m not saying I expect guys to transfer. Indeed, with at least another month left there is plenty of time for guys to improve their declining draft stock (I’m looking at you WCS). And there exists the possibility that someone (Dakari) might leave even though they really shouldn’t. Further, while Calipari says the Harrison twins will be back, at this point, does anyone really know what they will do? And, should more than just Randle and Young leave for the NBA, playing time for guys surely would increase next season.
But, if some of the guys everyone would thought would leave after spending a year at UK don’t, don’t surprised if some of the guys no one thought would leave do.