In 2018, the Kansas Jayhawks Basketball team reached the Final Four for the first time in six years. Head coach Bill Self did one of his best coaching jobs. Kansas overcame an NCAA suspension to freshman Billy Preston and was able to reach the Final Four with a slim rotation.
In the 2018-19 season, Kansas will have to replace three starters. Seniors Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk graduated, while redshirt sophomore Malik Newman hired an agent and turned pro. Those three players will be difficult to replace. Graham, Mykhialiuk, and Newman were three of the team’s four best three-point shooters and combined to average 48.1 points per game last season. They accounted for over 56 percent of the team’s points and over 79 percent of the team’s three-point makes last year.
Who will replace those players? To answer that question, here is a look at the projected rotation for the Jayhawks’ guards and wings.
The starting point guard job is currently up for grabs. Two players, Charlie Moore and Devon Dotson, will compete for the job in the offseason and preseason. Moore has the edge because he has experience playing college basketball. He averaged 12.2 points and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman at the University of California in the 2016-17 season. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he was able to practice with the team.
Dotson is a highly-touted freshman who has already made an impression on the coaching staff. He was ranked 24th in the 2018 recruiting class by ESPN and was ranked 20th by Rivals. Dotson, who was a McDonald’s All-American last season, will be a big part of the team, but he will probably not start right away. Self is notorious for not starting some of his freshmen in the opening month of the season. Even top-of-the-line recruits such as Joel Embiid and Kelly Oubre did not start in the month of November when they played for the Jayhawks. Dotson will play meaningful minutes throughout the season and will certainly be in the rotation by the time March rolls around.
Quentin Grimes will certainly be one of the starting wing players when the regular season begins. Grimes, a McDonald’s All-American, is considered to be one of the ten best freshmen in the country. He could be one of Self’s final one-and-done players, and he has the potential to be a high first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Grimes has a diverse skillset and can bring the ball up the floor and play point guard if he has to. It will be difficult to replace three starting guards, but Grimes will be able to step in right away and make an impact.
In June, Grimes played for Self on the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team. Grimes was named MVP of the Tournament as the USA took home the gold medal. His experience playing for Self in the 2018 U18 FIBA Americas Tournament will help him because he responded well to Self’s coaching.
Lagerald Vick originally declared for the NBA Draft, but he pulled his name out at the last second and decided to return to Kansas. Self, who allowed Vick to return, has said that Vick will have to earn a spot in the starting lineup on this deep team. Vick gives KU some much needed shooting and experience. If Vick had not returned, Kansas would have lost 94 percent of its three-point makes and 71 percent of its total scoring. He will be the only scholarship senior on KU’s roster next season.
Before Vick’s return, Marcus Garrett was the favorite to start opposite Grimes on the wing. Garrett was a key player coming off the bench last season. He is a defensive specialist who has been working on his jump shot in the offseason. Kansas fans can’t expect Garrett to be a prolific shooter right away, but they can expect to see improvement. There will always be a place for Garrett in the rotation if he continues to provide hustle, defense, and rebounding.
K.J. Lawson will get significant minutes throughout the season. Lawson averaged 12.3 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Memphis in the 2016-17 season. He sat out last season because of the NCAA’s transfer rules. He stands at six-foot-eight, which means he could play as a forward in a small-ball lineup. Lawson will give the Jayhawks some versatility and depth.
Sam Cunliffe and Ochai Agbaji will also vie for minutes on the wings. Cunliffe became eligible midway through last season, but he did not play well enough to get consistent minutes. He averaged just 1.9 points per game in 15 games last season. Cunliffe started several games at Arizona State as a freshman, and he can impact the game with his athleticism and versatility. Agbaji has been compared to former Jayhawk Travis Releford because of his high motor. It will be difficult for Agbaji to make the rotation as a freshman, but he will probably get some minutes early in the season.