Whose playing time does Lagerald Vick impact most? Here's what one projection says
By Jesse Newell firstname.lastname@example.org
It's likely the Kansas men's basketball team already had too many good players and not enough minutes to go around one month ago.
Coach Bill Self only complicated that matter recently. Self welcomed Lagerald Vick back on June 30, turning an intense battle for playing time into ... well, one that should be about as crazy as Self has had during his 16 seasons in Lawrence.
With that, speculation began. Which players would be most affected by Vick's return? And who potentially would stand to lose the most playing time?
I noticed Torvik had running playing-time projections for the 2018-19 season, so I asked him to give me the numbers both before and after Vick's return to see how the two compared.
Torvik admits up front that coming up with these numbers is a difficult challenge, though that hasn't stopped him from creating a multi-layered process he's developed over time. The short version: He starts with a player projection based on history, age and recruiting ranking, then readjusts numbers to ensure two things:
1. The top rotation guys get the most minutes
2. Lineups make sense based on positions (for example, it wouldn't make sense to project three KU centers to play together at one time)
His projections for each KU player — both before and after Vick's return — are listed below.
Silvio De Sousa
There's enough here that it's worth breaking down into categories.
The big winner
Vick appeared to have few appealing options left this summer after removing his name from the NBA Draft list, so Self's decision to allow him back surely came as a relief to the guard and his family. Though the 77 percent of minutes projection might seem optimistic to some, remember Vick played 82 percent of the time last season and should be a favorite to start again if he's able to get back in Self's good graces following an inconsistent 2017-18.
Those potentially hurt most
K.J. Lawson, David McCormack, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe, Silvio De Sousa
K.J. Lawson ending up on the top of this list is no surprise. He plays the same position as Vick (wing) and likely believed Vick would not be returning for his senior season when he chose to transfer to KU with his brother, Dedric.
McCormack's potential drop makes some sense after additional thought. He's one of KU's biggest unknowns at this point, and if Self is serious about playing 25 percent small ball next season ... well there just won't be much playing time to earn behind probable starters Dedric Lawson and Azubuike.
Garrett is in a similar situation to K.J.: a likely bench guy who plays Vick's position. Cunliffe also projects to go from end of the rotation to deep on the bench, meaning his role could change more than any other Jayhawk based on the Vick news.
De Sousa's playing time projection seems much too low, though it makes sense this would be a blind spot of Torvik's system based on De Sousa being mostly stuck on the bench for the first two months of his KU career. Add a few more minutes there, and KU's lineup logjam only gets worse.
Those who appear mostly unaffected
Charlie Moore, Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike, Quentin Grimes
Moore has received strong praise from KU's coaches this offseason, and the fact that he is a primary ballhandler (Vick is not) could make it so that Vick's return won't impact him much.
Self is unlikely to limit the minutes of Dedric Lawson and Azubuike, the team's two best players. Dedric should be the Big 12 preseason player of the year, while Azubuike could see a small playing-time bump if he improves conditioning and can reduce his fouls with more frontcourt help this season.
Grimes' minutes seem light on this projection as well, especially after Self said earlier this summer that the freshman was "probably as complete a guard as we've ever had." Kelly Oubre (52 percent of KU's minutes) and Josh Jackson (74 percent) are potential lottery-pick-type comparables for Grimes, though, so perhaps that 63-percent number won't be too far off.
Mitch Lightfoot, Ochai Agbaji
Both players failed to show up on either one of Torvik's projections, which could mean their best option would be saving a year of eligibility.
The toughest decision will likely be for Lightfoot, who could just decide to take on a limited role while hoping to be an on-court contributor for a team that'll likely remain No. 1 in many preseason polls. Then again, a Landen Lucas-like red shirt could have benefits too, as Lightfoot would have a much clearer path to playing time in 2019-20 and beyond with likely pro declarations from Azubuike and Dedric Lawson (and potentially De Sousa and McCormack) coming after this season.
An Agbaji sit-out year might be the only certainty for the 2018-19 rotation. The rest will have to be sorted out over the next few months in practices, as a group of 11 guys (or more) will be scrapping for their playing time.
Just like Self likes it.