2017-18 Arizona State roster overview
Sitting out season post-transfer: G: Rob Edwards (averaged 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds at Cleveland State last year as sophomore); F: Zylan Cheatham (averaged 9.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last year as a third-year sophomore at San Diego State. The Phoenix native will petition NCAA for hardship waiver due to his grandmother illness and if granted will have two season of eligibility after sitting out 2017-18.)
Unfinished roster: ASU has one more scholarship to give for 2017-18 and the most likely recipient at this time is John Walker, a 6-foot-8 combo forward who visited the school officially over the weekend. Walker is long and reasonably athletic but needs to add a lot of size and strength, weighing just 175 pounds. He could be a good redshirt and long-term developmental prospect. The Sun Devils are also involved with Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg, a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds last year as a sophomore. ASU could be putting together a full background of Bragg to make sure he's a fit for the program. Bragg was suspended for team rules violations by Kansas and had several since-dismissed court cases.
In landing well regarded Division I transfers Rob Edwards and Zylan Cheatham, Arizona State's coaching staff has done a very good job at ensuring roster stability over the next two years and increased the odds that it won't suffer much of a drop off in 2018-19 following the departures of senior guards Shannon Evans, Tra Holder and Kodi Justice.
The likelihood of the Sun Devils landing an impact post-graduate transfer in late April were relatively low -- those players are so highly coveted that the competition is huge, particularly where ASU needs it most, in the post. Mindful of that, ASU coach Bobby Hurley and his staff went with the next best option with the additions of Edwards and Cheatham.
Edwards and Cheatham both have to sit out this coming season post-transfer, so they won't be pieces that move ASU into better positioning for a possible NCAA Tournament bid next March. But they'll both be able to step into starting roles immediately thereafter. ASU has no other returning guards on its roster for the coming year and also didn't have a lot of minutes to award in the background.
Signing the 6-foot-4, 200 pound Edwards resolves that conundrum. He was a 16.5 points-per-game scorer last season at Cleveland State and a second-team Horizon League selection. The Sun Devils will be able to get four-star point guard addition Remy Martin backup minutes this season, so he's poised to step into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2018-19 alongside Edwards, who will have spent a year assimilating and helping the program on the practice court.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-9, 220 pound Cheatham will also be sitting out the upcoming season after averaging 9.1 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore last season at San Diego State. An athletic run and jump face-up combo forward, Cheatham's availability in 2018-19 would seemingly allow Top-100 recruit Kimani Lawrence to slide to his more natural small forward position, giving ASU a potential starting five of Martin, Edwards, Lawrence, Cheatham and Romello White that year (yes, we know it's still very early for such a projection).
By taking Edwards and Cheatham, ASU may be a bit thin with backcourt depth, but it likely won't be nearly as shorthanded in the frontcourt. Importantly, it will only go a maximum of 10 deep with players who will factor into the rotation, which mitigates potential problems with players who are unhappy with their role. Only one or two frontcourt players will end up playing less than they would expect or hope for.
So overall, these were savvy moves by Hurley and his staff and we've been saying for some years that the secondary market in the spring is where the Sun Devils could really improve their roster. ASU will likely have no senior starters in 2018-19 (unless Cheatham's hardship claim is denied -- or De'Quon Lake becomes a starter at center -- or ASU adds an impact post-grad transfer) and a very competitive team. These moves are continuity-inducing to a program that's had a lot of roster turnover in recent years, and also brings well established players into the fold who are easy to project to how they'll impact the roster.
Edwards is a rugged and controlled shooting guard, powerfully put together with a bench press of nearly 400 pounds. At times the Detroit native was forced to be a volume scorer for a bad team in which he was the defense's focus on a nightly basis. He showed up in big games though, including a 28 point performance against Kentucky within two weeks of ASU's loss to the Wildcats in which no player had more than half that total.
A three-level scorer, Edwards is a better set up player off the bounce than his team was able to fully take advantage of at Cleveland State, and he is crafty working off ball screens on the perimeter. He sees the floor setting up in advance, and is creative and poised enough off the bounce to be able to take advantage of it. But teammates frankly weren't able to complete plays enough and he probably didn't pass the ball in some instances in which he otherwise would have if surrounded by better talent.
The combination of strength and toughness for a scorer like Edwards is something we haven't seen at ASU in recent years because of how he can impact the game in a variety of ways on both ends of the floor.
With Cheatham, ASU is getting a transition run-and-jump athlete who is prone to acrobatic highlight reel short drive dunks, lob dunks, and put back dunks. He's efficient offensively because he limits himself to high percentage two-point field goals and scores most of his baskets around the hoop. He's good at cleaning up on the offensive end and being a lanky defender and rebounder on the defensive end.
Cheatham's weakness as a prospect is his perimeter shooting, with a .172 career mark behind the arc. But he rarely even takes threes, at just under one-half of an attempt per game. Still, he's not a back-to-the-basket type player as a combo forward, so his overall skill base isn't particularly broad. A lot of coaches would prefer to not play him on the wing because of how teams can defend the floor, but in a fast-tempo offense as a power forward when surrounded by shooters in the lineup.
Cheatham has good value even when moving up to the Pac-12. He's not a go-to weapon on the offensive end, but as an ancillary player is fine. Defensively he can be a lock down player against opponents' best forward due to his length and activity when he wants to be, and he's disruptive as a team defender in zone and as a help side player because he's also capable of getting up and being a presence at the rim from the weak side.
Last season Cheatham had the team's highest full-season PER rating at 21.4 (and second in league games at 19.0). At Cleveland State, Edwards had a full season PER of 18.0 -- when the team played some tough non-league games -- and it increased to 18.6 in league games. For comparison's sake the highest PER for ASU last season was Torian Graham at 19.2, and Graham finished second in the league in scoring.
The Sun Devils have one more scholarship to award for 2017-18 and that will likely either go to Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg or Houston-area high school forward John Walker.