By Chris Dokish
Just for fun, this would be my ideal lineup next season.
Starting PG- Travon Woodall. I was never one who thought he would be excellent at Pitt, and I still don't, but he is the closest thing to a real point guard they have right now. He needs to shoot less and distribute more, and he needs to get more steals because he is capable of getting two steals a game if he has his mind set on it. But most of all, he needs to be more in control. It's time for him to mature as a player.
Starting SG- Ashton Gibbs. Obviously this is a no brainer. Hopefully he realizes that he won't make it in the NBA and that he's going to live 40 more years after he retires from playing overseas, so he should get in as much education as he can.
Starting SF- J.J. Moore. I have heard straight from the staff's mouths that while Moore is the most talented SF in the program, he was not ready to see the floor much as a freshman. With a year under his belt, hopefully he learns the nuances of being a Panther, especially on the defensive front. If he's not ready, then replace him as a starter with Lamar Patterson.
Starting PF- Khem Birch. This is another no brainer. His length, quickness, shot blocking, and rebounding are lottery pick caliber. True, he has no moves on offense, but neither does Nasir Robinson and he can score. Birch will score the same way, by hustling, put backs, and sheer athleticism. He is by far the most talented player on the team and if he sits behind Robinson then Jamie Dixon will get the criticism he deserves.
Starting C- Dante Taylor. The time has come for Taylor to show that he is a good player. Even though Pitt fans wildly overhyped him (despite many warnings), Taylor can be a good player, and should be a big upgrade over Gary McGhee on the offensive end. He is also a better rebounder than McGhee, and he needs to be aggressive in that department. He needs to play at least adequately on defense, however, or the offensive upgrade will be negated.
Top four off the bench:
Nasir Robinson- No way, no how should he be starting, but that doesn't mean he isn't a huge plus for the team. At the three and the four, Robinson can be a huge spark plug with his hustle and enthusiasm. He will get many minutes and on one of his good days, he can stay in the game and help a lot.
Lamar Patterson- The jack-of-all-trades type that Dixon loves. He can do a little bit of everything, and has great potential as an outside shooter. Must improve on defense, though, and keep his weight down. Will definitely see time at the three, and could even start, but it would be ideal if he could be an effective sub at both the three and the two, especially since there is a huge experience void at the latter.
Talib Zanna- He obviously has the potential at the four to be a good player, but it hasn't come together for him yet. Rebounding is his forte and if he is focused on that aspect of his game, he will get minutes.
J.J. Richardson- I know this will surprise many Panthers fans because most have him transferring, but as far as I know he will be back next season. In fact, if you talk to Pitt coaches, they never fail to mention him when talking about the front line next season. Ideally, Birch and Zanna are effective enough at the four to stay primarily there. Birch can see some minutes at the five, but Richardson can also suck up some minutes down low. He's not great, and at 6'8" he's not tall, but for a few minutes a game he can use his big body to be effective enough.
Cameron Wright- The most likely on this list to see time, but only because of the need for a SG reserve. If Robinson stays at that four, then Patterson will have to stay at the three. When Woodall sits down, Gibbs will probably have to take over the point, and when Gibbs sits down, somebody else has to take his place. Wright is not ready to make a big impact but he's long and athletic so at least he can provide something.
Isaiah Epps- Ideally he would be the back up PG for the Panthers this season but that may be asking a lot for player who was a huge disappointment for most of last season. If he sticks around, then he should get minutes early in the season to see how well he can do.
Durand Johnson- He was brought in for mainly one reason- he can flat out shoot the three. If he proves in practice that he can translate that skill immediately to this level, then he could see time this year. Otherwise, he is a redshirt candidate.
Malcolm Gilbert- Has little offensive game but is a legit 6'11" kid who can rebound. His best attribute, however, is his shot blocking which is at an NBA all-star level. Ideally, he can redshirt, but his shot blocking is so good that he may have to play. Don't count him out. He could be a factor this season.
John Johnson- Maybe the heir apparent to Woodall at the point but grades are a major issue. Even if he does somehow become eligible, he needs to be coached up a lot. No matter how you look at it, he is a major candidate to prep.