Basketball season may have ended only a few months ago, but it is never too early to look ahead. In this series of articles, we will be breaking down every position and taking a look at what the future holds.
Arizona was dealt a huge blow when junior Nick Johnson decided it was time for his pro career to begin. The shooting guard was the best player on the team and in the conference, as he won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. Johnson led the team in scoring and came up clutch in a several big moments throughout the season.
Johnson was backed up by Gabe York for a majority of the season and even more so once power forward Brandon Ashley was lost for the season due to injury. At that point, York stepped into the shooting guard role, while Johnson moved to a role as a third guard.
Returning as a junior, it may seem at first glance that York would be the frontrunner to start for the Wildcats, but there are so many question marks, that the position remains wide open. The first being whether or not York can improve his defense considerably while becoming a more reliable scorer off the dribble.
Returning alongside York is sophomore Elliott Pitts, who struggled to crack the lineup early in the year thanks to an injured wrist and an illness. To his credit, Pitts recovered substantially and was able to force his way into the game, taking minutes from Jordin Mayes down the stretch. The guard showed his shooting touch at times, but at others he played tentatively and was not a threat on the court.
Pitts has defensive skills that can get him playing time, but it would be tough to crack the starting lineup without a substantial increase in his offensive skill set.
With Pitts and York as the incumbents, Arizona also added a junior college shooting guard that brings plenty of question marks of his own. Hutchinson (Kan.) CC shooting guard Kadeem Allen comes to Tucson after rising to the top of The Dragons' all-time scoring list and winning the NJCAA Player of the Year Award.
Even though Allen is highly touted, it remains to be seen as to whether he can adjust to a higher level of play.Of course, while those options may be the most natural at shooting guard, the easy choice is probably incoming freshman Stanley Johnson.
Sure, Johnson does not invoke thoughts of what a prototypical shooting guard is like, especially defensively, but Arizona's best lineup may be with him at the two.
Offensively, Johnson is going to be a complete nightmare for opposing defenses. There are not going to be a lot of opposing shooting guards that will be able to guard Johnson and Arizona's lineup as a whole may be the biggest in the country.
There are certainly concerns about what Johnson can do defensively, but Sean Miller has shown the ability to get the most out of his teams on that side of the ball.
No matter what happens, we know that Arizona has answers at shooting guard and although Johnson is no longer here, the Wildcats will have enough options to have success.