Inside Texas Blog: What Now?

Kevin Durant will announce his intentions to enter the NBA Draft this afternoon at a 4 p.m. press conference, according to multiple reports. So where does that leave Rick Barnes' Horns heading into the 2007-08 season?

Well, the cupboard is certainly not as bare as heading into this past season when Barnes had to replace all five starters and the vast majority of the 2005-06 Elite Eight team's scoring and rebounding, but Durant's defection, although expected and totally understandable, leaves a huge hole in every statistical category.

Kevin Durant accounted for 25.8 points per game (32% of UT's offensive output), 11.1 rebounds (28%), 66 steals (25%) and 67 blocks (34%).

Texas returns four starters: sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin (14.4 points, 6.7 assists), top three-point threat junior A.J. Abrams (15.5 points), sophomore Justin Mason (7.6 points) and sophomore Damion James (7.6 points, 7.1 boards). Plus, the entire bench aside from late-season contributor Craig Winder also returns, including top sub junior Connor Atchley (3.9 points, 3.9 rebounds in 18 minutes per game) and sophomore big men Dexter Pittman and Matt Hill.

Expect a bit of shake-up in next season's line-up, though. Augustin is a definite starter at the point, with Abrams the probable starter at two guard, although Mason could be in the mix for the start as well (and, worst case, will be the first man off the bench at guard). With potential newcomer back-up point guard Dogus Balbay's fall status still up in the air, little-used senior J.D. Lewis and sophomore Harrison Smith are the only known commodities off the bench at guard, and neither currently projects to play more than a minimal role, which means Augustin could again be asked to play close to 40 minutes a night.

Damion James will remain in the starting line-up, but he'll move from down low to more of a wing, three position, and will be expected to take over some of the scoring load vacated by Durant, which means a long off-season of ball handling and jump shot practice. Aldine's Gary Johnson brings low post scoring ability and rebounding and looks to crack the starting five immediately as a true freshman at the four spot, with Pittman, despite his relative lack of playing time as a true freshman last season (he averaged just 5.3 minutes per game as a freshman while working himself into a reasonable playing weight and conditioning), the projected starter at center. Atchley and true freshmen Alex Wangmene project as the top depth in the paint, with true freshman Clint Chapman and sophomore Matt Hill fighting for minutes.

Although Durant's decision takes Texas out of the pre-season conversation for next year's national championship, the Horns could -- I repeat, could -- have a team capable of reaching the second weekend of the tourney unlike the Durant-led group. It will probably play bigger than this past group, and it will certainly have more experience, and hopefully more depth (at least at the three through five spots), which are reasons for optimism despite the loss of a once-in-a-generation talent.

What do you think?

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