Greetings! The Georgia Bulldogs open up their basketball slate tonight against Wofford, and with that, it’s about time to preview the season. Let’s get it going with the particulars on the roster.
Before we get going on the guys who remain in Athens, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and that is the loss of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “KCP” was drafted in the lottery by the Detroit Pistons after being the SEC Player of the Year last season, and his loss on both ends will be immeasurable. With that out of the way, there are a few guys with experience that can be counted on to take the next step.
Nemanja Djurisic is the top returning scorer for Georgia, and the 6-foot-8 junior from Montenegro should have an increased role. He wasn’t wildly efficient last season (39.5% shooting from the field) but Djurisic does have a varied skill set that should allow last year’s type of production (7.9 points, 4.3 rebounds per game) to be the absolute floor for this season.
The backcourt should be a combination of Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, and both players saw significant time as freshman last season. Mann’s shooting numbers (are we sensing a theme yet?) were dreadful last season when he shot less than 35% from the field, but at 6-foot-5, he does present an interesting match-up issue from the point guard spot. The main focus (for me) will be on his turnovers, however, as Mann averaged 2.7 turnovers per game (versus 2.9 assists) in just under 22 minutes per night last season, and that is far too high at this level.
In the case of Gaines, he’s the “replacement” for Caldwell-Pope, but we saw far less of him (10.3 minutes per game) last season. He, too, struggled from the field in shooting less than 37% overall, but there’s talent there, and the entire reins of the Caldwell-Pope spot shouldn’t fall directly on him.
My favorite player on the UGA roster is probably Donte’ Williams. He was the anchor of an above-average defense last season when he averaged 1.2 blocks per contest in about 22 minutes, and the 6-foot-9 senior should see a greater role this year. He does have a fouling problem, but that kind of issue could evaporate with experience, and he certainly has it.
Marcus Thornton is a former top-flight recruit that has languished due to knee injuries, but if Mark Fox and company can keep him on the floor and in the rotation, he’ll help. Finally, Brandon Morris and Cameron Forte each bring interesting skillsets to the table, and hopefully, that’ll be enough to make up a reasonably effective offensive system.
Losing a player like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from a 15-17 team can be disastrous, but the talent cupboard isn’t empty in Athens. It won’t be an utter collapse, but it’s difficult to project anything resembling league-average (or better) offense in the SEC, and that is enough to keep them off the radar as a sleeper for me. When forced to make a pick, I would go with a 14-19 overall mark that includes a 7-11 finish in the SEC. Let’s hope I’m wrong!