First, most of next season depends on Cory Joseph, the talented combo guard from Findlay Prep.
He's not the NBA prospect that Bradley was coming out of high school, but he'll fill a bigger need for the Horns next season especially with the questions surrounding Balbay and Ward. More on that in a minute.
Joseph was all but a lock to Texas a few weeks ago, but Villanova has jumped into the picture. The reason is that the Wildcat staff found out that Joseph really isn't all that fond of being reunited with his old teammate Avery Bradley on the basketball court for whatever reason. The bottom line is that Avery Bradley and Cory Joseph don't get along as well as Joseph gets along with his other teammates (and Texas commits), Tristan Thompson and Myck Kabongo.
So Nova has been in Joseph's ear about losing minutes and shots to Avery Bradley should he return to Austin giving CJ a reason to rationalize his feelings about Bradley.
So, as Avery Bradley becomes less of a lock to the NBA, Joseph becomes less of a lock to Texas. So much so that Joseph's family has gone from pro-Texas to pro-Nova with some nudging from Villanova's staff.
The saving grace in all this is Tristan Thompson and Kabongo have been in CJ's ear about Texas, so he'll most likely be a Horn if Bradley goes pro. If Bradley returns, it will probably be too much for Texas to overcome on the Joseph front.
For argument sake, let's say Bradley goes pro and the Horns get Joseph. It's actually a trade I would make in a heartbeat considering the injury status to Ward and Balbay, and J'Covan Brown's lack of dedication to basketball. Brown is really close to eating himself out of the game for what it's worth.
Which means the Horns need ball handlers in a big way and Joseph can handle the ball and shoot it. He's not elite-level quick, but his ability to threaten the arc, handle, and pass make him an ideal ball screen candidate and a player that would have really helped at the end of last season.
Additionally, unlike Brown, Joseph is a seasoned point guard who's played the position at a high level against great competition. He's played second fiddle but he's also been the first option, so decision making and experience are a strength regardless of who CJ is playing with or against.
Did I mention he can shoot, so he won't make fans pine for mid-major guards with this elusive skillset?
So with Joseph in the mix here's my starting five next season:
Lead Guard: Cory Joseph
Two Guard: J'Covan Brown/Jordan Hamilton
Small Forward: Jordan Hamilton/ Shawn Williams
Four: Gary Johnson
Five: Tristan Thompson
Ward is expected back in January, so he'd be your two and Hamilton would slide down to three. Until then, this would be my line up because I'm not into some Barnesian bled for the program lineup.
Balbay is gone. Wangchaphill continue to be a combination of Roberto Duran, hypo-glycemic, and white.
So we'll focus on this core group of six guys that will be the heart and soul of the team. Lord help us.
Ballhandling. Joseph can shoulder most of the ball handling responsibilities so you can check off that category. Brown and Hamilton are very good ball handlers for their positions if teams try to pressure. Johnson and Thompson are pretty good face up players 15 feet from the bucket.
Shooting. Three above average jump shooters with Joseph and Hamilton being elite. Don't be surprised to see Johnson take his shooting beyond the arc. Thompson has nice touch for a big. Williams is a sharpshooter when he's in as well.
Offensive Options. We could run a credible ball screen game with Joseph or even Hamilton on the ball, and then counter off it. We could also run some 4 out or even some high/low with Gary Johnosn getting more accustomed to playing away from the bucket. Tristan Thompson is a really good finisher with both hands, which will be a change of pace for Texas bigs. He's an athletic option on the low block when matchups dictate.
The problem with this squad is staying in front of dribblers and rebounding. If we try to compensate for one of these weaknesses we exacerbate the other.
We could take a page from Baylor and try to zone to hide our inability to defend the dribble but we'd struggle to rebound out of it. You'd almost have to play Hamilton at the two and get Williams in the game and try to just team rebound to cover the deficiency.
Or, if we man to maintain blockout advantages, it's going to be tough on our undersized front court because Brown and Hamilton are such horrible on-ball defenders. Dribble penetration would expose Thompson and Gary Johnson to season-long foul trouble unless we, gasp, learned how to help properly and take a charge.
So, in summary, here's to Jordan Hamilton and J'Covan Brown doing power-slides all summer or kidnapping Jim Boeheim. If not, it could be a tough year.