First of all, I hope everyone is enjoying Memorial Day and have taken the time to remember those who fought for out country.
But back to Husky basketball…
In the comment section of the write up I did on the possible starting lineup next season, the idea of the three guard lineup being used by the Huskies was raised by a reader by the name of Paul.
Paul brings up an interesting point because, as many Husky fans know, Lorenzo Romar tends to experiment with his lineups throughout the game. While most coaches would tend to want the traditional two guards, two forwards, and a center lineup to begin the game, coach Romar could go against the grain and favor a more potent scoring lineup than the traditional lineup he could have if he started Abdul Gaddy, Isaiah Thomas, Quincy Pondexter, Darnell Gant, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
If Romar did use the three guard lineup, there are already three players that are known to be locks for any starting lineup. The three guard lineup would see Gaddy at point guard (he is the most logical for that position in any lineup), Thomas in the role of the shooting guard, and Pondexter being moved from his usual role as a small forward into the power forward slot.
Gaddy will have to make no adjustment to his game should this lineup be implemented by Romar. In fact, he could thrive in this lineup even more than playing in the traditional lineup because this lineup offers more capable offensive weapons. But in any lineup Gaddy will be viewed as the primary distributor, even if Romar decided to put all guards out on the floor along with the talented freshman.
Thomas will make the same adjustment that he would have had to make in the traditional lineup as a shooting guard. The only thing that could impact his style of play would be the selection of the third guard in the lineup and how that player would change how Romar would want Thomas to utilize his talents. In the traditional lineup I proposed, Thomas would likely be inclined to shoot more three pointers as there would be no one else in the lineup to pose as a deep ball threat. Depending on the selection of the third guard, Thomas may have to stick to this or see more opportunities to drive to the basket.
Pondexter is the one player who would see the most change as he would shift to a position where he would face opponents that would be much bigger than him. His 6’6″, 215 pound frame would be diminutive at times, but this would always raise the possibility of a miss-match on the offensive attack. Pondexter could utilize his quicker game and perhaps draw the defender out a bit further than usual for a pull up jumper. Pondexter has never been much of a three point shooter (took only 14 attempts last season), but his range is still deeper than most power forwards.
In terms of who would start as the third guard in the lineup, the most obvious selection would seem to be Elston Turner. Last season Turner was the best shooter on the team, providing some key three point shots in critical games such as Stanford, Arizona, and a beautiful shot against Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. Turner would immediately create an impact on the lineup because of his shooting ability, allowing Thomas to drive more often without the pressure of being the #1 deep ball threat (and also a kick out option should Thomas run into strong pressure beneath the basket, although knowing Isaiah’s game, he will probably convert a circus shot and draw the foul). With just a little bit of ball movement, have Pondexter set a screen for Turner on the perimeter for a long two or three ball, and this will allow plays for Thomas to become much easier throughout the game.
Turner will add more versatility to a lineup that would be almost completely focused on driving to the basket. Having a constant deep ball threat in Turner should keep the opposing defenses honest and away from constantly collapsing the defense onto a Husky player driving to the basket.
I have high expectations for Turner for the rest of his Washington career, he seems like the ideal four year basketball player who could be the difference in trying to win a National Championship. Someone who can have a big difference on the outcome of games while not garnering all of the attention, someone like a Will Conroy. There might be no better lineup than the three guard for Turner to make that type of an impact.
The more interesting aspect of this three guard lineup would be who would see the most playing time as the post. I regard Gant as a starter in the traditional lineup, but his chances of receiving more playing time would be unlikely in the three guard lineup. I would believe that Romar would want someone with a strong defensive presence because of the emphasis on offense with the rest of the lineup. Tyreese Breshers is just too short to be a starter in a already short lineup, and Gant is not the type of offensive style needed. Because of the rest of the lineup Romar would probably want someone who possesses strong post moves to create a strong low post scoring threat.
That leaves two options in MBA or Charles Garcia Jr. to be the lone “true” big man in the lineup.
I would consider MBA the favorite because he has some extraordinary post moves, but has just had a problem of finishing his shot after making his defender look foolish. It should be expected that MBA takes a significant step in this area now that he is entering his junior year, otherwise the chances of him starting in this lineup is unlikely.
MBA could also create a lot of hesitation for opposing offenses because of his strong shot blocking ability. While he is not the post or face-to-face defender Gant is, MBA can create some serious havoc on the defensive side.
Garcia will be able to provide incredible rebounding ability, and also has the size (6’10”) that Romar could covet for the final spot in the lineup. While MBA would provide a more polished scoring option, because of the scoring capabilities in the rest of the lineup, it is not needed for the post to score on a consistent basis. It would be nice, but not necessary. Without the pressure to score it should allow Garcia to focus on creating good angles for an offensive rebound to create second opportunities for the Huskies.
With the three guard starting lineup the Huskies would see offensive production unlike any other team in the conference. Should this be considered the starting lineup, Romar would never force the lineup to be used at all times so players such as Pondexter can play their normal positions during games. But it will be an interesting option whenever the Huskies find themselves in a hole or scoring slump.
I’d still expect a more traditional starting lineup at the beginning of the season, but there is no doubt that the three guard lineup could play to the Huskies favor at times. Especially against defensive minded teams such as Oregon State and UCLA.
Romar will do whatever will translate to the most victories, and the three guard lineup could offer that. We’ll just have to wait till November to see what happens.