Many Georgia Tech fans might have been surprised last season when Josh Pastner gave the vast majority of the team’s minutes to only seven players. Some might have attributed this to the lack of depth that last year’s team had. But, Pastner kept very short lineups during his career at Memphis as well. This season I expect much the same, especially with another low depth Yellow Jackets team. So who is going to be in this year’s 7/8? I examine the options.
C - Ben Lammers
Well this seems obvious, but last year’s team MVP and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Ben Lammers is back and he looks like he could repeat last season’s 35 minutes per game. He is looking like the most important player on this year’s team once again and should be the anchor at the 5-spot.
SF - Josh Okogie
Last season’s breakout star is back and will start this season with some real expectations. He ended last season averaging just over 30 minutes per game, but in the final 13 games last year, he only played less than 32 minutes once. This season he is probably going to be the most important scorer, and will play as minutes as Pastner can possibly wring out of him.
SG - Tadric Jackson
Last season Tadric took a huge step forward, both in his offensive volume and efficiency. Despite that he often spent far longer than fans would have liked on the bench. This season, with the departure of Quinton Stephens, Jackson looks likely to bump up his minutes from the 24 minutes he averaged last season to over 30 minutes this year.
Likely Rotation Players
PG - Jose Alvarado
This four star recruit has huge potential and a lot of believers in the Georgia Tech fan base. Alvarado is a true floor general, but it’s hard to imagine a freshman point guard taking over the team and playing 30+ minutes. I expect him to split minutes at point guard and play around 20 minutes per game splitting the position with...
PG - Justin Moore
To be fair, Justin Moore was not as highly rated as Alvarado, but he did show the perils of relying on a freshman point guard to play big minutes. He played just under 20 minutes per game last season, but he struggled for decent portions of it as a backup to Josh Heath. Now Moore is the more experienced point guard and should play quite a few minutes as an improved sophomore.
SG/SF - Brandon Alston
I’m much higher on this transfer wing than many others are. He has struggled with injuries during his career to Lehigh, including missing the entire 2015-16 season and affecting his 2016-17 productivity. Last year, he played just under 20 minutes a game and he should replicate that number this year as this team really lacks wing depth. Alston struggled to score some last season, but he has shot 35% from 3 during his career and that is a talent that is in high demand on this team.
Freshmen and Big Men
PF/C - Abdoulaye Gueye
Gueye played a lot in the first couple of games last season, but eventually settled into a role as Lammer’s backup. He got hurt and missed the last half of the season. He looked totally lost at many times, but the fact that he was playing over Sylvester Ogbonda implies that Pastner believes that Gueye is the best option at center. Who knows how he ranks the rotation this year though.
C - Sylvester Ogbonda
Ogbonda replaced Gueye as Lammer’s backup and did...ok. Obviously he couldn’t replace Tech’s best player, but he struggled to do much offensively and was unable to replicate his rim protection. Ogbonda has the athelticism and ability to be a solid center, but it would take some improvement to get into the lineup this season.
PF - Evan Cole
Cole was a late commit to Georgia Tech. He was originally committed to UNC-Wilmington, but with head coach Kevin Keatts moving to NC State, Cole opened up his recruitment and found a lot of major conference teams after him. Cole is big, athletic, and can shoot from distance, but he was considered a very raw prospect before advancing tremendously his senior year. I’m still not expecting him to play too much, but maybe Pastner can pull some freshman magic much like he did with Okogie.
SF - Curtis Haywood II
Haywood has a fantastic shot, which might bring some comparisons to last season’s freshman wing Christian Matthews. I think those comparisons are misguided. First, Matthews’ shot worked, but it was very ugly. He sort of slung the ball towards the hoop. Haywood has a silky smooth stroke with a quick release which should translate to the college level. He also has a very long wingspan which gives him a massive advantage on defense. I put Alston above Haywood, but that’s largely because I value experience more than many in the college basketball community. Some fans envision Haywood as playing a role similar to Josh Okogie last season, while Alston looks more similar to, say, Kellen McCormick. I don’t totally buy it, but Pastner has already exceeded expectations with his player development.
SF/PF - Moses Wright
Moses has a ton of potential, but is very raw. If he takes a huge step forward this year, then maybe he could see some play time this season. I would hope that if Wright isn’t ready then Pastner is willing to keep him on the bench for the whole season. Hopefully we see quality play in front of Wright so his services aren’t needed this year. I expect big things from Wright, but those expectations start in 2018.