Friday, December 7, 2007

Golden Gopher Point Guard Depth

Today at the Star Tribune site, blogger Myron Medcalf ponders the Golden Gopher point guard situation going forward. It's funny that a number of the comments were such that Medcalf shouldn't even be worried about something so far in the future. I guess a lot of people see freshman Al Nolen and sophomore Kevin Payton as enough talent to hold down the position for the next few years. And hope, of course, that some gifted PG comes to the Gophers in 2010.

I don't think that's a situation that takes care of itself, and it's worth addressing.

Don't get me wrong. I think Al Nolen is a decent ballplayer who will improve enough to be adequate for a middle of the road Minnesota team. But as a fan I've never strived for mediocrity in my favorite sports teams, even when they've hit rock bottom. My thoughts on the issue of the Gophers point guard situation going forward:

1. Nolen will be okay/decent/good but never an impact player for a top team. He should play major minutes until an impact PG can come in to run the show. Nolen, once he gets a couple of years under his belt, is talented enough to play an effective 15-20 per game for a top team, which should be the goal for Minnesota: to be a top Big Ten team in 2-3 years.

2. Incoming recruit Devoe Joseph probably is not a PG and therefore might not make sense there. That he wants to play it is understandable, because he knows that's his best ticket to the NBA. But that's not something you just switch to post-HS. We'll see if he has aptitude there, and if he does, the problem is actually solved. I highly doubt he'll be a better point than Nolen, though.

3. Washington PG Adrian Oliver has expressed some interest in playing for the coach who tried to recruit him to Kentucky. Oliver has no chance of being a Gopher. First, the reports make me think he simply isn't any better than Nolen. Add to that his lack of production, some injury history, and a transfer year (he could play in January, 2009), and this California kid who wants to stay close to home doesn't appear a good fit in any way.

4. Payton isn't good enough. He's clearly shown that he doesn't have the talent to be a decent PG, much less an impactful one. Payton actually would be an ideal candidate to transfer, except that he's already used up his redshirt year. Transferring to another D1 school would leave him with only one year of competition. Transferring to a D2 program, where his talent would make him potentially a big fish, could solve the problem if a top PG were to replace him.

5. As stated, for the Gophers to rise to an elite level 2-3 years from now, Nolen will need to share time with a very good/great PG. One of the most common themes for an elite team is that when its point guard has the ball, the probability of team scoring quickly goes up considerably. That means the PG is a threat to knock down the jumper, drive the lane, pull up from the dribble, get to the basket, finish, and get the ball to his teammates in a position for them to score more easily than if he hadn't touched the ball.

Nolen right now displays all these traits at a very low level for a BCS point guard. He does seem to possess them all, however, and the expectation is that he will improve each of them with experience and confidence. I just don't see that he can improve enough to be more than average, which is fine as a starter for a middling team or as a backup for a top team. I prefer thinking in terms of a top team, and filling the holes necessary under such an expectation.

6. Unfortunately, there are currently only three scholarships available between 2008 and 2009, the Gophers probably need a big man (maybe still this coming year), and the other two scholarships are waiting for local products Royce White and Rodney Williams (both 3's). So I would expect Unknown BigMan, White, and Williams to get the offers. And as we've seen, Tubby Smith can be very enticing with his charm and his quick elevation of the program from the rock bottom to something worth talking about, so I actually expect the the three openings to be filled by these three commodities.

Note that the reason the Gophers need a big guy is that two years from now they will only have then-sophs Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson, with then-senior Damian Johnson playing a smaller 4 . They need depth up front, and then-junior Paul Carter is definitely not a 4. A team needs at least four 4's and 5's to compete.

So unless we give up on or lose White or Williams (both rated in Rivals top 50), or unless there is a transfer (unlikely, it seems), there is no room for a PG until 2010, and that's troublesome. What's the plan, Tubby?

No comments: