In a loaded transfer portal, which big man would be the best fit for John Calipari at Kentucky?

Kentucky hasn't had an elite frontcourt in a few years and while it was a crowded group of centers last season, it wasn't an effective group. With an elite group of bigs in the transfer portal, John Calipari needs to get one to come to Kentucky.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Clifford Omoruyi (11)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Clifford Omoruyi (11) / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky is always going to have great guards. That’s been the case since John Calipari went 35-3 in his season in Lexington with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. Many of the great guards of Kentucky's past are still littered across the NBA, and Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham will be the next to join him. 

However, elite big men have walked through the doors of Kentucky’s facilities a bit less frequently. When Calipari can pair his typical great backcourts with more talent in the frontcourt, that’s when the Wildcats win big in March. Think Anthony Davis’s national championship, the 2015 Final Four with Karl Anthony-Towns, or Bam Adebayo accompanying Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox in the Elite Eight. 

This past season, Coach Cal had a revolving door at the center spot, constantly cycling through Ugonna Onyenso, Aaron Bradshaw, and Zvonimir Ivisic, never quite finding the right mix to complement Sheppard, Dillingham, and of course, Antonio Reeves. 

It’s unclear who from that group will return for another season, all have remaining eligibility. Kentucky will also be adding five-star freshman, Jayden Quaintance, who will expect serious playing time in hopes of a one-and-done stop to the NBA, though that stepping-stone type of collegiate career is becoming harder to execute. 

Quaintance may not be ready to contribute to winning, and Kentucky already saw that what it got out of its trio of centers this past season, wasn’t enough. So, John Calipari should turn to the transfer portal to find the perfect fit in the front court. 

Here are the best options for Kentucky to choose from and the best fit. 

Transfer Portal Options: 

. Maxime Reynaud. 7'1" 250 lbs. Eligibility Remaining: 1. player. Maxime Reynaud. Maxime Reynaud. C. 517.

Over his three years at Stanford, Reynaud underwent an evolution, winning Pac-12 Most Improved Player this season after averaging 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 36.1% from three with 2.0 assists. While he can play away from the basket, Reynaud is best in the paint, using his size to finish around the rim. 

He’ll be a seamless fit on offense, not needed to touch the ball much to be an effective scorer, but Reynaud won’t improve Kentucky on the defensive end. He’s not a mover in space, so he’d force Calipari to play drop-coverage, but Reynaud is not much of a rim-protecter at 7-foot-1. 

. Danny Wolf. 7'0" 255 lbs. Eligibility Remaining: 2. PF/C. 2394. Danny Wolf. . Danny Wolf. player

After an underwhelming freshman year at Yale, Danny Wolf turned into an offensive hub for the Bulldogs. He averaged 14.1 points with 9.7 rebounds. While he has legit size at 7-feet and was able to hang physically with Auburn in Yale’s first round win, Wolf is smooth on the perimeter. 

He shot the three at 35% and can attack closeouts off the dribble. Though only averaging 2.4 assists, Wolf’s passing may be the best part of his game. He’s such a skilled player on offense, but with the way Calipari’s teams have been playing, relying heavily on the high pick-and-roll and playmaking guards. Wolf’s skills would be under-utlized, the way that Bam Adebayo’s passing was never fully realized until he got to the NBA, and , Wolf isn’t the defender and that Adebayo was. 

. Clifford Omoruyi. C. Eligibility Remaining: 1. Clifford Omoruyi. Clifford Omoruyi. . 6'11" 240 lbs. player. 452

Kentucky needs defense and Omuroyi would provide it. With his 7-foot-6 wingspan, he’s been the defensive anchor at Rutgers for the past three years. The Scarlet Knights were not a good team this season, but finished fifth in Kenpom defensive efficiency. 

Omoruyi averaged 2.9 blocks a game this year and would be an upgrade over Onyenso, but by how much isn’t clear. Onyenso plays similarly and neither would add much on the offensive end. It’s not like Kentucky needed much additional creation on offense, but with Sheppard, Dillingham, and Reeves all gone, it will. 

Despite his massive wingspan, Omoruyi isn’t an great finisher around the rim, only shooting 51.2% from the field and averaging 10.4 points. In his defense, Rutgers was a mess on that end and life would be easier in Lexington. He’d be a good fit, but not the best one. 

Best Fit: 

Brandon Garrison. . C. 6'11" 245 lbs. Eligibility Remaining: 3. player. . Brandon Garrison. Brandon Garrison. 465

Yes, Kentucky needs to get older, and Garrison wouldn’t solve that problem, but he was a highly-rated recruit just one year ago, so he’s right in Calipari’s wheelhouse. As a freshman, he scored 7.5 points in 22.6 minutes while shooting 57.2% from the field. 

He’s a fluid athlete in the pick-and-roll, excellent at finishing at the rim as a roller, capable of getting to the basket with a dribble or two and long strides on a slip, and capable as a passer out of the short-roll. He’d be a perfect complement to a Kentucky roster that will likely be reloaded with shooters, gobbling up space and kicking it out when his gravity as a rim-runner sucks the defense into the paint. 

Garrison can make plays in the post and knockdown mid-range jumpers, but it’s not where he’s at his best. Defensively he could use some work as well. However, he has the length and athleticism to develop into an effective player on that end and the remaining eligibility gives him time. 

Kentucky needs a big like Garrison, especially if any of their three centers from a year ago leave for the NBA or the transfer portal. While Aaron Bradshaw was higher ranked as a center in the same class, Garrison would be an upgrade.

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