It’s been one interesting off-season for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Players leaving early for the NBA, players heading elsewhere, transfers coming in, transfers coming in and then maybe changing their minds, other transfers being blocked, every day there is something new in the news. The fact is, over half of Pittsburgh’s roster will consist of players who have never stepped on the floor for Jamie Dixon before. Despite this, projecting the Panthers lineup wasn’t too much trouble.
GONE: Tray Woodall, Trey Zeigler, Steven Adams, Dante Taylor, Malcolm Gilbert, John Johnson and J.J. Moore (he’s suppose to be transferring, but hasn’t left as of this posting).
* Note: I’m projecting that DeAndre Kane will eventually end up with Pitt.
Projected 2013-14 Lineup:
PG – James Robinson (SO), 6-3/200
SG – DeAndre Kane (SR), 6-4/195 *
SF – Lamar Patterson (SR), 6-5/220
PF – Talib Zanna (SR), 6-9/230
C – Mike Young (FR), 6-8/245
It had to be heartbreaking for Panthers’ fans when they learned that Steven Adams was going pro after just one season. Both he and James Robinson were expected to be one of the most dangerous inside-outside duos in the ACC. Not any more. Robinson did return for his sophomore campaign and he has a good shot at becoming one of the top point guards in the league. Last year, he primarily played off the ball, but this year he will lead the attack. He’s got good length and an eye for passing. He could challenge for the assist lead in the ACC.
Beside Robinson, Dixon will insert incoming transfer DeAndre Kane (if he does eventually commit). He’s a scoring wing, who loves to create off the dribble. He has averaged at least 15 points per game every year at Marshall. However, the problem both he and Robinson have is neither has proven to be a good outside shooter. It’s tough to dominate in the ACC if your guards are not a threat from three.
Lamar Patterson is the team’s top returning scorer. He’s not going to impress you with his athleticism, but he’s a master at finding open spots on the floor so his teammates can set him up. However, I think he’s reached his ceiling, so I don’t expect him to suddenly become a 15-17 point scorer.
Inside, the Panthers don’t have a ton of height, but they do have some bulk. Talib Zanna should slide into the four-spot. One of three redshirt seniors starting, he’s a pretty polished big man who can score with his back to the basket from time to time.
However, inside Jamie Dixon will have to go with freshman Mike Young. At 6-8, he’s a little small for the five, but he makes up for it with a nice wide frame and he could surprise some folks with a well-rounded post game. The problem is, he’s not coming in with a reputation as a great defender and will struggle with some of the size in the ACC.
SG – Cameron Wright (JR), 6-4/205
SF – Durand Johnson (SO), 6-6/205
PF – Joseph Uchebo (SO), 6-10/220
Again, I’m still assuming J.J. Moore is gone. While he was never going to start, he was a scoring spark plug off the bench. He’s a huge loss.
Both Cameron Wright and Durant Johnson have been role players up to this point, but that needs to change. Johnson has some real potential to get some minutes. This Panthers lineup is going to struggle to hit the outside shot and that’s the one thing Johnson can do. Wright is not an outside shooter, but he’s quick and athletic, loves to rebound and lives to defend.
Joseph Uchebo is a junior college transfer, who will need time to develop his game, but Dixon doesn’t have that luxury. Uchebo will have to learn on the fly, because at 6-10, he’s the only true backup big man on the roster. He’s not expected to add a lot to the scoring load, but he’s got a seven-foot wingspan, so if he can play solid defense and pull down the rebounds, he’ll get his minutes.
In the end though, look for Dixon to go small more often than not and put either Patterson or Johnson at the 4-spot.
G/F – Chris Jones (R-FR), 6-6/200
PG – Josh Newkirk (FR), 6-2/175
Chris Jones is an intriguing wing. He’s capable of guarding three positions thanks to game-changing athleticism. It’s just hard to judge a redshirt freshman coming off a season-ending knee injury. If Dixon truly does go small ball when he goes to the bench, you could end up seeing more Jones more than Joseph Uchebo.
Josh Newkirk is a explosive point guard, capable of beating his defender off the dribble without a screen. He should get some minutes at point, which will allow James Robinson to roll over to the two-spot for brief moments. Still, Newkirk is a tad turnover prone and doesn’t have much of a jumper, so the skill set differential from Robinson to Newkirk is large.
SF – Jamel Artis (FR), 6-7/210
Like so many players on this team, freshman Jamel Artis can play multiple positions. He’s an elite athlete, who loves to make his teammates better. The problem is, SF is the one spot Dixon has plenty of depth at.
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