Monday, March 11, 2013

Early look at next year's Pitt basketball team

It remains to be seen how this season will end, but no matter what happens the rest of the way, at least this season was a major improvement over the 2011-12 season.  And there's plenty of reasons to think that next season will be even better, even without major contributors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor.

PROJECTED STARTERS

PG- James Robinson, So.-  The freshman was every bit as good as I thought he would be in his first season and he will only get better.  His shooting is not great, and will probably never be great, but it should improve next season.  And with Woodall no longer in the backcourt, I suspect that Robinson will look for his shot a little more.  But scoring will never be his forte. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, he uses his strong body, good quickness, and natural instincts to be an excellent defender.  On offense, he is smart already and with more experience he should be even a better quarterback as a sophomore. Bottom line, scoring wasn't always the forte of Mark Jackson when he was at St. John's either. I'm not saying that Robinson will be as good as one of the best point guards in history, but anybody who has his defensive and quarterback skills at the degree he has already, should be a star sooner rather than later. Expect him to be nationally recognized next season as one of the best point guards in the country.

SG- Cameron Wright, Jr.- Looked totally lost many times as a redshirt freshman, but this season he made major strides.  In fact, he's already reached the level that many suspected he wouldn't reach until he was a senior.  I don't seem him ever being a big time player, and he's certainly not the perimeter player that the program has desperately needed year after year, but he's a long 6'4", plays very good defense, has excellent athleticism, and is improving as a scorer. He's played slightly less that Trey Zeigler this season, but Zeigler is terrible with his outside shot and from the free throw line.  With Robinson not a major offensive threat, pairing him with Robinson for long periods of time could be the kiss of death. For that reason, Wright may be the best of a less than scintillating lot.

C-  Steven Adams, So.- I have no doubts at all that Adams would be a first round pick if he decides to leave for the NBA draft after this season, but I also doubt that he is going to leave.  And I think by the way the Panthers are recruiting, they clearly expect him to be back, too.  That's great news for the program because I think the 7'0" New Zealand native is going to make huge strides next season.  He does have some weaknesses that he clearly needs to work on.  I doubt that his 42% free throw shooting will improve enough to be a strength, but the rest of his weaknesses should strengthen a lot in his second season.  A man of his size simply needs to rebound better than 6.2 rpg, but I think that is mostly mental for Adams. He is a very strong young man who usually doesn't play strong. He continually gets pushed around by smaller players and gets stripped way too often.  But when Adams decides to get aggressive, he flashes the greatness he has inside.  But he is not aggressive very often, and I believe that mainly has to do with being new not only to American basketball, but also America itself.  More time getting accumulated to the country, and high level basketball, should do wonders for his game.  Like Robinson, I expect him to become a player who will get a lot of buzz in his sophomore year.

PF-  Talib Zanna, Sr.- Along with Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore, he is the team leader in fan disappointment.  He tantalizes with NBA talent at times, but then disappears at other times.  Zanna has had rebounding games of 19, 12, 10, and 10 this season, and also had 9 rebounds three more times.  Yet he still, at 6'9" and 230 pounds, is averaging only 6.1 rbg.  That means he disappears a lot, too, and as a senior that's going to have to stop. Especially since Taylor will not be there to give him experienced support down low.  At the beginning of this season it looked like Zanna has broken through to another level.  It didn't happen, and now I have serious doubts that it will happen next year either, but as long as he's more consistent as a senior he will be a major help.

SF-  Lamar Patterson, Sr.- The second of the third disappointments, and I say that relatively since all three are obviously solid players.  It's just that Patterson is another player in the program that is not consistent with his aggressiveness and that prevents him from reaching a higher level.  Not an above the rim athlete, but he's a muscular 6'5" and 220 pounds, he can sometimes light it up from the outside, and he is an excellent passer.  Like Zanna, it's becoming apparent that he probably won't be a star, but if he simply plays with consistent aggressiveness, which for him usually displays itself by passing up on open shots, he could be an even better all around role player.


BENCH


F- J.J. Moore, Sr.-  Now a senior, Moore is probably the most underachieving player on the team, but a lot of that is because he is also one of the most naturally talented players on the roster.  An extremely athletic 6'6' and 220 pounds, Moore can flat out shoot at times, but needs to be more consistent as evidenced by his 34% three point shooting this season.  He is also shooting an excellent 81.5% from the line. His numbers have improved every season, but not by a lot, and he's down to his last year to reach the lofty level that was once expected of him.

G- Trey Zeigler, Sr.- Once a star at Central Michigan, but upon his arrival at Pitt, he quickly realized that high level basketball is a different story. He has no outside shot at all, he's a terrible free throw shooter, and he's only average defensively and as a ball handler.  That's a lot of weaknesses.  But he sometimes drives very well and he can score when he is slashing. If he's starting, the Panthers may be in trouble next season, but if he's used in the right way, he could at least not be a detriment to the team. In the last seven games of this season, he never scored more than 2 points so that's not a good sign.

F- Durand Johnson, So.- A 6'6" sharpshooter whose sometimes excellent three point shooting is really all he can contribute.  He is highly athletic so if he adds slashing to his game, his offensive game could be much better.  But he must improve the rest of his game or he will have a career of being just a designated shooter.

G-  Chris Jones, Fr.-  Was redshirted this season, but his potential is intriguing.  He can legitimately play the two at 6'6" which already is a major plus. He has great length and good athleticism,  and he has potential with his shooting, defense, and ball handling even though he has yet to play a game.  Obviously he's a real wildcard for this season and beyond.

F-  Mike Young, Fr.- An incoming 6'8" freshman who will see time.  He can bang in the paint, but he has expanded his game recently to be a legitimate three point threat, which obviously is a major plus for a power forward.  I don't expect him to make a major impact, but he will likely show flashes throughout the season as he learns what it takes to play big time basketball.

G-  Josh Newkirk, Fr.-  A 6'2" combo guard who could see see more time at the two later in his career because of Robinson, but may have to backup Robinson some at the point as a freshman.  That's obviously not ideal to have such youth at the point in the ACC.  But he's a crazy athlete who can dunk on anybody, and has beep beep speed,  while also improving his shot a lot over the past year.  Will see time and should help a little.  


Summary:  With four starters returning, one would have to be excited about next year.  Woodall and Taylor will be losses, but neither are indispensable.  There are weaknesses.  Transfers have done a number on the program and there are question marks at shooting guard and backup point guard.  Two more players are possibly being added in this class, but it's unlikely that either will be a player who could make a huge difference next season.  

There are two things that have to happen for Pitt to be a power next season.  One, Zanna, Patterson, and Moore have to come up big in their senior season and stop being inconsistent.  I doubt that any will be a breakout star next season but by showing senior leadership in effort and consistency, the team will be much better.

The second major thing that has to happen is that Adams and Robinson have to make major strides as  sophomores.  The good news is that it would be more surprising if they didn't make that jump.  But neither will probably score a lot next season.  And with nobody else likely to be a big scorer, the Panthers are going to have to win next year like they do this year, with rebounding and defense.  If Adams and Robinson make that jump, then the defense and rebounding will be even better next year because both have great potential on defense and Adams could be a 10 rpg player if he realizes that he has that ability.  And if you have a strong center and point guard, you are going to win a lot of games.  What may prevent the team from being one of the best in the nation, however, could once again be the lack of a consistently explosive scorer.  Past Panther teams could overcome that to a certain extent because they were so consistent in defense and rebounding, and had an efficient offense. This bunch, however, has not yet shown that they can play at that same level.  Consistent seniors and Adams and Robinson turning into stars is the best, possible scenario for the Panthers next season.




48 comments:

  1. Any idea on who they are targeting with their last scholarship? A big man makes sense but likely very few out there. I have read Severe from NYC as a shooting guard option. Any names that they are on for 2014? I would say center and shooting guard remain the most important positions for that year too, unless Chris Jones in a major surprise.

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  2. The biggest disappointment this year is Zeigler.
    The 2nd biggest disappointment is Patterson.
    JJ is NOT a 4... round hole... square peg.
    Next year is where Pitt will miss Gilbert. Absolutely no depth at the 4 and 5 next year so Pitt can't depend upon rebounding and defense to be a strength in the box.

    Dixon has 2 scholarships to give for 2013... he needs another BIG and a SG/SF that has great ball handling skills.

    How far will Pitt go in NCAA tourney... depends upon which team shows up and how much control Dixon will have. They can be out of it the 1st weekend or make Elite 8 cut. There are not many consistent, dominant teams this year so it is wide open as to how far any team will go.

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    1. theres only one scholarship

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    2. theres 6 players left unsigned in the espn top 100 good luck getting a SG with great ballhandling skills this late

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    3. There are 2 more scholarships to give in 2013...
      Gilbert and Johnson (the philly kid that went to PSU)

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  3. We have two spots left in this class, who would you add? Looks like we're looking at Artis and Severe, not sure who else. Watched Severe yesterday and think he could be a good third guard. Decent athlete who can shoot, could basically take Johnsons spot.

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  4. " major contributor ... Dante Taylor." Who would've thought we'd see that written a year ago. Just goes to show that players aren't finished products until their senior season (assuming they stay that long) and patience with them as learn the game has paid off for Dixon. Even when it's maddening for fans to watch them grow up.

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    1. Five years ago i heaard my sons sixth grade basketball coach tell the boys "everyone peaks at different times..." Wise man that coach was and Dante Taylor proves his point.
      If Taylor was not a five star McDonald's all American we would be saying he had a decent career here...

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  5. The biggest hole for next year is the lack of a legitimate scoring threat at the 2. I like Wright as an energy guy of the bench, but not to start. I actually wouldn't mind seeing Durand Johnson getting a shot in that role if, as you suggest, he can add a penetration dimension to his game.

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  6. Any idea who Pitt is targeting with for the last 2 spots

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  7. I think that Zanna will play better in the ACC then the big east because it is not as rough inside. One of his best non confrence games came against Maryland of the ACC. So maybe not getting beat around inside will help him.

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  8. The thing that worries me the most for next year is depth in the frontcourt. Right now, they have 6'6 Moore who is better suited at 3 than 4, and 6'8 Young who is an untested frosh ... and that's it (unles we get a JUCO center or something.)

    I actually see the academic walk-on from Baltimore, who is redshirting this season, as getting a lot of PT next year.

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  9. Not to get too far ahead. But is it me or are we going to really struggle after next year??

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  10. I don't see how Cam gets the starting nod. He is a plus defender but his shot selection and erratic offense play IMO isn't enough for him to be a starter. Perhaps he could start a la I believe Toree Morris (I think Ben started him for the opening tip and pulled him at the first whistle).

    Either way, I think you have to hope Ziegler comes around as the 2. Or possibly put Lamar at the 2 (not ideal) with JJ at the 3 and Zanna 4 and Adams 5. Problem with that lineup is we will need to have a lot coming from Lamar and JJ and they really haven't been able to show they can shoulder that, but then again they are seniors so if not now then when. Also, this limits the front court with all 3 of our capable bodies starting.

    Lets hope they do well in the next few weeks. H2P

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    1. Pitt does not believe that Patterson can defend at the two so that's not going to happen. And Zeigler is not going to suddenly turn all of those weaknesses into strengths as a senior. Especially since he has actually regressed at the end of the season. Wright is their best option unfortunately, and their lack of recruiting at the position continues to be a major problem.

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    2. Do you think the staff wishes Ziegler didn't get the hardship granted to him so that he could have a year's worth of practice to erase all of his bad habits and have him play fresh for one solid year. I think we were all expecting a Mike Cook type of transfer but unfortunately it looks like he is nowhere close to that kind of output.

      How do you see Chris Jones panning out? Everything I remember from him is he is uber athletic but athleticism isn't necessarily going to get you PT in Jamie's defend/rebound pecking order. I will assume that Newkirk and Young both have a chance to play but won't be given the same looks that Robinson/Adams did this year because they aren't as nearly polished.

      I think we really exceeded expectations this year and next year possibly we could do the same with the amount of experience returning. In 2 years with those seniors leaving; JJ, Lamar, Zanna and possibly Adams turning pro. We could have another CBI-type year.

      DT

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    3. I'm really disappointed in the way JD handled Gilbert. He really screwed that up. Could have had help for Adams in the front court. Now we are screwed next year. After next year this team's prospects look dim. I hope Jaime find some front court gold fast.

      And for awhile Zigs looked like a player. It lasted 5 games. Now, he's the worst guy on the team. What happened? Did JD reel him in when he started driving the lane all the time before the ball was passed around 30x before the shot clock read 2? Seems strange.

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  11. If JJ Moore isnt starting then that's just ludicrous, patterson has had so many opportunities to be "the guy" on this team and he hasnt been it.....moore never even got a chance to start let alone play more than 19 min a game

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  12. u dont have to have all 13 scholarships filled out every year and pitt isnt even recruiting any players that would have an impact for next year from the 2013 class cause all the good recruits have committed to play somewhere else or arent considering pitt this late in the recruiting process.....anyone they would bring in would eiter A. redshirt or B. get limited playing time to the point where they wouldnt have any impact AKA they be a developmental project

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    1. Would you rather get 2 more players for 2013 class...
      or
      6 players for 2014 class???

      There will be 4 scholarships for 2014 if you land 2 more players for 2013 (replacements for gilbert + Johnson).... and Dixon/Pitt hasn't had much luck with juco's!!

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    2. U dont have to get six players for 2014? U don't have to have all 13 scholarships filled? There's no rule that says u do u can have only 11 scholarship players....I don't understand why u feel like there has to be 13 scholarship players

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    3. apparently jamel artis has committed to pitt but the commitment is contingent on his act scores. I like artis, as he has excellent 6'6" size, rebounds, defends, and from his video he appears to be a good passer and finisher around the basket. He would likely red shirt next year and then see significant minutes in 2014

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    4. why the hell would you not use all your available scholarships? that makes next to no sense

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    5. Anonymous...
      That is the dumbest thing I ever heard... and not worthy of a response.
      no wonder you are anonymous.

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    6. joe d u check this site like once every 30 min.....enoughh said

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    7. Im pretty sure kentucky won a national championship with only 7 scholarship players...yeah ur right there has to be 13 players on scholarship

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    8. Joe D if thats the dumbest thing you've ever heard then
      apparently you don't read what you write on here

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    9. Anonymous...
      Calipari ALWAYS starts the season with 13 scholarships...
      whether they got kicked off the team, quit, grades, injured...
      that is why you start with 13.
      Look at Syracuse this year... they are down to 8 scholarship players... but they started with 13. Pitt started with 13 and are down to 10 + 1 taking RS.

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    10. Syracuse did not start with 13 ur wrong and Kentucky does not always start with thirteen get ur facts straight....and if it was such a dumb comment not worthy of a response why did u respond?

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    11. Syracuse started with 12 scholarship players and was down to 7 when they played Pitt.... they lost 5 of them. I added a link to a post with the story of how they lost 5.
      Just another dumb comment by anonymous that all you had to do is google!! And yes, Kentucky always starts with 13... may not have 13 for game 1 or game 20.

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    12. MCW, Trevor Cooney, DaJuan Coleman, Jerami Grant, CJ Fair, Baye Keita, Brandon Triche, Rakeen Christmas, James Southerland...count em thats the nine they started the year with

      MKG, T. Jones, D. Lamb, Anthony Davis, Kyle Wiltjer, Teague, And D. Miller thats the seven players on scholarship Kentucky had when they won it....ur making numbers up and providing no evidence

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    13. and u never added a link another false statement

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    14. Anonymous..
      I did provide link... it didn't post.
      Here is the link to the article... Read and weep!!

      http://www.syracuse.com/orangebasketball/index.ssf/2013/01/dajuan_colemans_injury_leaves.html

      Dokes... please post this so knucklehead above can read.

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    15. the article clearly states they COULD have had 12 scholarship players this year not that they started with 12.....and i proved u wrong about kentucky too

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    16. Your an idiot anonymous...
      They started with 12... and the article states how each one was lost before the season began.
      Tired of playing games with a little little boy... with a pea sized brain.

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    17. you just proved my point BEFORE the season began dunce they didnt start the year with those players on the team they were already gone....and thats the last im responding because i know im right and ur just an old guy who checks this site 50x a day

      http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9vzd2fD5z7o/TQFFc-dqbLI/AAAAAAAAAxs/p_WHoOjm3Vo/s1600/southpark.jpg

      ^thats joe d and please post this dovish cause u know thats what he looks like

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    18. Duh...
      tooo late to recruit for the season when they left before it started...
      The spring of last season... they had 12 scholarship players.
      Duh!!!
      By the time December rolled around... they had 7!!!

      You are such an idiot.. really you are.
      And if Syracuse had 13 scholarship players in the spring of last year... they would have had 8 players when they played Pitt!!

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  13. I honestly think JJ would be a better 2 than Zeigler, but he is orced to play the 4 because there is nobody else

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  14. Durand Johnson flashed an ability to drive to the basket in Saturday's game when he drove the baseline and flushed one with authority. Maybe he shows more than three point shooting ability next season.

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  15. If I were Jamie Dixon, I might talk to Zeigler about moving on to his life's work a year early in order to clear a roster spot for a badly-needed big man. Dude's a waste of a scholarship, he reminds me a lot of a shorter poor-man's Nasir Robinson: a near-automatic foul & turnover machine.

    I agree that Steve Adams should come back. I just hope he does, that's a lot of money for a former homeless guy to pass up. God help us if he's surrounded himself with peeps (ala, Chris Taft) who talk him out of it.

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    1. How many times does Adams have to tell us and everyone else that he has no intention of entering the NBA draft before some of us finally believe him?

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    2. That in itself means nothing. After the season he will get people around him who will advise him, and many may tell him to go. It happens every year. But I do think he'll stay for one more year. In this case, that's the best option, though if he stays beyond next year, that's probably not good for his NBA aspirations.

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    3. Of course, some will advise him to go pro for the immediate money. No one is denying that. All I'm saying is this kid has gone out of his way to make it clear he wants to stay. He could do an "about face" at the last minute, but a lot of people seem obsessed with this as though it is fact. At this point, his comments could not be any more positive about staying.

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  16. Dixon prefers to use all available scholarships so I think you're going to see that.

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  17. I hope Steven Adams reads mike decourcey's retweet of zag's blog where Charles Barkley talks about how the Kentucky players that left school early last year should have stayed another year in achool because they are not helping their NBA teams. he says Anthony Davis has decent numbers but he has been injured so much because "these kids don't realize how physical the NBA is" and all the other guys are spending a lot of time in the D league.
    Yes, Charles Barkley is a blow hard and a big mouth but one thing he does know is how rough and physical the NBA is. I think right now NBA veterans would break Adams in half.
    If he comes back for anothwr year of school I think pitt is a legitamite final four contender (with Robinson manning the point). If he goes crazy and tests the draft I think both Pitt and Adams are in for a long season.

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    1. Rich great response. Couldn't agree more. Just not alot of turnover in the nba like nfl so leaving early and not getting drafted is not as bad situation as the nba

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  18. >> "A man of his size simply needs to rebound better than 6.2 rpg..."

    You need to remember he's only averaging 23 min/game. Adjust this to say Nerlens Noel's minutes (who was getting 32 mins/game before his injury), and Steve's numbers go to 9.9 pts and 8.6 rebs. These then are not so far off of Noel's averages of 10.5 pts and 9.5 rebounds.

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    1. In the 11 games that Adams had over 25 minutes, he averaged 6.4 rpg, so your theory doesn't hold up.

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