JaJuan Smith was a sensational sixth man as a sophomore in 2005-06 - averaging 9.5 points per game - before starting his last two seasons. Josh Tabb provided a lift, especially on defense, in 2006-07. J.P. Prince proved to be a spectacular sixth man in 2007-08 before passing the torch to Cameron Tatum, who capably filled the role in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Now that Tatum is starting in 2010-11, however, there appears to be no successor as the super sub. Moreover, the Vols aren't getting much of a cumulative contribution from their bench, either.
Consider the paltry production of Big Orange reserves over the past three outings:
- They went 3 for 9 from the field and scored 10 points in an 89-82 loss to Oakland.
- They went 4 for 12 from the field and scored 11 points in a 49-48 loss to Charlotte.
- They went 4 for 13 from the field and scored 11 points in a 65-64 loss to Southern Cal.
One possible solution to Tennessee's bench woes might be switching the roles of transfer Jeronne Maymon and Steven Pearl. Pearl did some quality work as a backup at the 4 (power forward) earlier but moved to the 3 (small forward) when Maymon became eligible last week.
Maymon's minutes are limited by the fact he's stuck behind Tennessee's best player, freshman power forward Tobias Harris. Thus, moving Maymon from the 4 to the 3 (behind Tatum) would give him more minutes and more opportunities to utilize his offensive creativity. The move also would free Pearl to return to the 4, where his shortcomings as a scorer would not be as significant.
Bruce Pearl hints that a rotation change may be coming.
"We might make an adjustment during the (holiday) break," the coach said. "Right now I'm obviously not happy with the production we're getting off the bench."
Maymon showed signs of emerging as a super sub in his Vol debut, producing 6 points and 8 rebounds (4 of them offensive) in 16 relief minutes vs. Charlotte. He was a bit reckless vs. USC, however, recording 4 points, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 9 minutes.
"When Jeronne Maymon comes in at the 4, he moves Steven Pearl over to the 3," Bruce Pearl noted. "Steven is not a good offensive player at the 3, so it's a challenge for us offensively."
In addition, moving Maymon to the 3 would enable him to be used in tandem with Harris.
"It's possible to get them together," Pearl said. "But Jeronne's got to play better to garner more minutes. He had three turnovers tonight in nine minutes. He played aggressively and he did some things but three turnovers in nine minutes is a lot of turnovers."
Of course, those turnovers may be a worthwhile trade-off if Maymon can provide that spark off the bench the Vols currently are missing.