Team Preview Part 2

Arizona is loaded, which makes Lute Olson's job of juggling line-ups very easy this upcoming season. The players will battle for time, and Olson will go beyond his normal eight man rotationgeting all of his players minutes.

Jason Gardner
Estimated Playing Time: 30-35 Minutes

The floor general for the Wildcats is their biggest strength. Guard play is the difference between good college teams and great college teams, and the Cats have the best point guard in the business in Jason Gardner. There is no substitute for experience and there is no one  in the country the Wildcats rather have at the helm. Thus, Gardner is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Gardner had a spectacular season last year and led a team that with starting freshman at two positions from unranked to the Sweet 16. Gardner led the team in scoring, averaging 20.4 points per game, and will probably do the same in the upcoming season. The major difference in Gardner's play this season will be that he will only be on the floor about 30 minutes per game as opposed the roughly 38 minutes per game Gardner averaged last season. Gardner will not only be the anchor on the offense he will be the heart of the "40 minutes of hell" full-court press defense. Gardner's season this year will also serve the purpose of showcasing him as a talent worthy of NBA status and to do so Gardner has worked hard to improve his passing ability. In the preseason games, as well as in practices, Gardner has looked almost perfect with the ball and has thrown very few poor passes. I expect Gardner's point production to be about the same, or maybe even decrease, but I assume his assist numbers will be much better this year, specifically his assist-to-turnover ratio. Gardner could possibly even flirt with a double-double average with assists and points if the team can get their shots to fall consistently.

Andre Iguodala
Estimated Playing Time: 12 Minutes

Throughout practices Andre Iguodala stands out for his freak athleticism and his ability to finish. In high school, as a Junior, Andre finished second in state in the high jump with a mark of 6'7'' and he makes no secret of the fact that he can get above the rim. Igoudala is very quick and can hold his own on either end of the floor. At any other PAC-10 school Iguodala would compete for PAC-10 freshman honors, but with a log jam of minutes, his time on the floor will be inconsistent. There will be games where ‘Dre gets 20 or even 25 minutes on the floor, and others where his playing time is sparse. The only area of Andre's game that needs fine-tuning is his outside jumper. If Andre can develop his jumper to be a more consistent threat from the perimeter he will cause major problems for opposing defense because he already has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

Dennis Lattimore
Estimated Playing Time: 10 Minutes

Dennis Lattimore's time on the court this season is yet to be determined in my opinion. Lattimore has definitely improved a great deal over the summer, and his build is an indication of the energy that he committed. Defensively, the Arizona press looks the best when Lattimore is pressuring the ball off of the inbounds, however he is not big enough to play without Fox or Frye on the floor and thus will probably get less minutes than his play deserves this season. Dennis is very quick inside and has been developing his inside game to make him a scoring threat. He is yet to put together any sort of midrange game, but if he pursues that could make himself much more versatile on the offensive side of the floor. Lattimore creates a defensive presence because not only is he big, he is fast enough to get down the floor and to help trap point guards. There is not another big man on the team that I would rather have running a trap then Lattimore.

Chris Rodgers
Estimated Playing Time: Sparse

Chris Rodgers is going to be a very good guard for Arizona at some point, but this is probably not his year to shine. However, Rodgers will benefit greatly from practicing behind one of the best, if not the best, backcourt in the nation. In practices Rodgers has shown that he is a potent outside shooter, and although his stroke is a little unconventional, is arguably as good at the free throw line as Salim. Chris is a spot up shooter who can also run the point and effectively drive and dish. Hopefully the Cats will blow out enough opponents that Rodgers will get some quality time on the floor to get comfortable. Overall, he will benefit greatly from the competition in practice and should be an impact player on next year's squad.

Salim Stoudamire
Estimated Playing Time: 25 Minutes

The value of a spot up shooter in college basketball is greater than on any other level of basketball and the Cats return one of the best in the business in Salim Stoudamire. The most impressive thing about Salim last year was that he seemed to improve every single game over the year. That improvement transitioned into the off-season and on the Cats expedition to Australia, Salim averaged 24 points per contest on 54% shooting from the field over the last four games. Salim is arguably the best on ball defender on the team and will be an important part of the team's half court defense.

Salim told me that he worked all summer on his ball handling skills and added a midrange jump shot to his arsenal. If this is the case then he will add another dimension to the Wildcat offensive attack. Whereas last year he would catch the ball in the corner and simply knock down the three, this year expect him to sometimes fake the three and put the ball on the floor to get a midrange jumper. Salim's ability to get the midrange jump shot will stretch the defense because they will not only have to worry about Salim shooting the three, but of him putting it on the floor and going to the hoop also.

Luke Walton
Estimated Playing Time: 30 Minutes

The heart of the Wildcat team is the Walton-Gardner tandem, and this is their season to shine. Luke worked to perfect his outside jumper over the offseason and is now arguably the most well-rounded player in all of college basketball. Walton could very well get many triple doubles this year with his great passing, rebounding, and scoring abilities. Although Walton is not one of the best athletes on the team, his craftiness and basketball knowledge are of immeasurable value. During practices Walton showed off a barrage of new post moves and has added an extremely effective fall away jumper that he uses on the baselines and can hit all the way out to around 15 feet consistently. Walton will probably distribute the basketball in the set half court offense, and is one of the best passers in the game, regardless of his position and size. Walton is clearly one of the major leaders on the team who has assumed a quiet confidence and plays with the swagger of a champion.


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