Our Lineup Predictions and More for the Loaded Kentucky Roster
Just before the stroke of midnight Hamidou Diallo officially withdrew his name from the NBA draft. With his return the Wildcats roster is as loaded as it has been at any point during the Calipari era in terms of depth. Kentucky has 11 scholarship players on the roster, 8 of which were consensus 5 star recruits, with the remaining 3 being consensus 4 star recruits. Obviously it will be the youngest team that Cal has ever had at Kentucky so there will be lumps along the way. With that said the size, length, depth and athleticism of this team will be enough to overwhelm many opponents. Once they learn how Cal wants them to defend this should become a much better defensive team than the Cats have been the last two seasons. Patience will be needed as the team learns to play at this level and as a unit under Calipari but it should be a fun ride. Here is our projected starting lineup at this point with their backups listed as well.
C- Nick Richards– The seven footer from Jamaica is a raw talent with a huge upside. He will be a rim protector and strong rebounder. His offensive game is still developing but with all the scoring weapons the Cats have it should not be an issue. Expect him to play around 25 minutes a game.
Backups– Sacha Killeya-Jones will be the primary backup for Richards and will be a nice complement to him because he is more offensive minded. Tai Wynyard will get occasional minutes depending on foul trouble and injuries. He gives them good depth if needed.
PF- Jarred Vanderbilt– No position is more wide open than this one but I give Vanderbilt a very slight edge. He is more of a true 3 than he is a 4 but the starting 3 spot seems pretty locked up. Vanderbilt will slide over and play the 3 a lot during games but if Cal wants the best lineup on the floor he will start at power forward. His game is somewhat similar to Terrence Jones but Vanderbilt is a better ball handler than Jones was and has a better face up game. He will probably play around 20 minutes a game.
Backups– PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel will both get a bunch of minutes next year one way or another. Either of them could end up as starters throughout the season. Both of them should play 15-20 minutes a game. Gabriel could grab occasional minutes at the 5 if Cal wants to go “small” and Washington could play the 3 on occasions.
SF- Kevin Knox– Knox is the most skilled small forward that Cal has signed at Kentucky. Fans have longed for a true 3 since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left Lexington and now they have two of them in Knox and Vanderbilt. Knox will be one of the Wildcats top scoring threats and play 20-25 minutes a game.
Backups– Vanderbilt may start at power forward but he will likely move to the 3 when Kevin Knox goes to the bench. Washington could also see a few minutes here as well.
PG- Quade Green– Green should be a perfect lead guard for this team. He is a capable scorer that is most concerned with setting up his teammates. He should get a slew of assists this season and also be a bulldog on defense. Fans are really going to like this kid. Expect him to play close to 30 minutes a game.
Backups– Shai Alexander is a terrific guard in his own right and will push Green from day one. He is a big guard that can defend and put points on the board. He will play the point any time that Quade is out and will get playing time at the other guard spot as well. Look for him to get 15 minutes a game.
SG- Hamidou Diallo– The return of Diallo fills the one missing piece on this roster. He is a freak athlete that will be a terror in the open court. He is a slashing scorer and improving shooter. He could also be the Wildcats best defender on the floor. With a 6’11 wing span he will give other guards fits on the defensive end. He is my pick to lead the Cats in scoring average and to play the most minutes on the team at around 32 minutes per game. Getting him back was a big deal.
Backups– Shai Alexander will get minutes here as well especially if he shoots the ball well. Jemarl Baker could get some as well depending on foul trouble and other situations. His shooting could earn him more time if he can play defense at the level Cal wants him to.
At this point I would be pretty shocked to see any additions to this roster. The Cats have what they need to be able to compete for a national championship. The pundits say that you can’t win a championship without experience. That would make a title run even sweeter for Calipari with this roster because he loves to prove people wrong. Currently I expect this team to lose 7 or 8 games in the regular season and to be peaking in March. They will have a real chance to reach the Final Four for the 5th time under Cal. Not too shabby for a “rebuilding” year. Now the wait for Big Blue Madness is on. For the time being checkout this highlight video of Diallo to get you excited for his return.