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Arizona basketball: A breakdown of what the starting five may look like

The center and power forward positions are the only two that we are nearly certain of who will start

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Miller mentioned that the Arizona Wildcats were only looking to add one more player after the departure of Stanley Johnson. A day later, the Wildcats landed graduate transfer Mark Tollefsen, which means we can assume that the roster is now set for the new year.

Three things come to my mind when I think of the 2015-2016 roster. Shooting, experience, and backcourt depth. The Wildcats will no longer be called a team that "struggles to hit jump shots". The additions of Allonzo Trier and Mark Tollefsen plus the replacement of T.J. McConnell with Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with pretty much anyone (let's face it, any player will provide more perimeter shooting than Rondae did) should make Arizona a lethal team from behind the arc.

What might be the most interesting thing though, is to see how Sean Miller manages the backcourt.

You have:

  • Gabe York - a senior that hit 40% of his threes this past year, and has continued to develop defensively.
  • Kadeem Allen - the 2013 Junior College Player of the Year. Teammates have said that he's a nightmare to guard. I have to admit though, I haven't seen much of him but a couple highlight videos on YouTube. Either way, he's known to be a combo guard that can light up the scoreboard.
  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright -  a smart high assist, low turnover point guard that can shoot the three and create off the dribble. Does his size limit his ceiling though?
  • Justin Simon - the 32nd-ranked high school player in the country. A tall, athletic guard that can guard multiple positions and can get to the rim at will. Despite his size, his natural position is point guard, but he can play the 2 too, and even the 3 because of his long wingspan.
  • Allonzo Trier - the 12th-ranked high school player in the country. A little undersized for a 2-guard at 6'3", but is a dynamic scorer. Terrific shooter, good athlete, and a crafty finisher. Can create his own shot with ease. Strong chance that he'll be the team's leading scorer.
  • Elliott Pitts - a dependable defensive-minded player that is an above average shooter. Curious to see how much he'll improve from last season. He'll likely play more 3 than 2 because of the logjam in the backcourt.
In my mind, the depth chart looks something like this:

PG - PJC/Simon/Allen

SG - York/Trier/Allen/Simon/Pitts

SF - Smith/Tollefsen/Simon/Allen/Pitts

PF - Anderson/Tollefsen/Smith/Ristic

C - Tarczewski/Ristic/Anderson/Tollefsen

Obviously this is just my opinion though. That being said, here are some of the starting lineups we might see this year:

PG - Parker Jackson-Cartwright - SG Gabe York - SF Ray Smith - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

This is a pretty conventional lineup. The senior shooting guard starts and the returning point guard is alongside him. Ray Smith starts at three because he's pretty much the only natural small forward on the roster. Zeus and Anderson seem to be locks as the starters in the front court. This would probably be my early guess as to what the starting lineup will be when the season starts in November. And if you're wondering about Ray Smith's health, he told me last week that he's "about 100%".

PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Ray Smith - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

Same lineup as above, but with Trier taking York's spot in the starting lineup. We know how well York performed down the stretch last year in the sixth man role, so maybe Miller feels more comfortable with him there than in the starting lineup. There's also a pretty good chance that Trier is just flat out better than York. I think this is the second-most likely starting lineup that we'll see on opening night.

PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright - SG Gabe York - SF Mark Tollefsen - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

A great shooting lineup. PJC, York, and Tollefsen should all hover around 40% from downtown. They'd also provide formidable spacing for Anderson and Tarczewski down low. I would be a little skeptical about this lineup's perimeter defense though.

I think Tollefsen is more of a 4 than a 3, but offensively, he definitely has the skills to play small forward. It's on the defensive end where Tollefsen playing the three concerns me a bit.

PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Mark Tollefsen - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

Same lineup as above, but with Trier starting and Gabe York in the sixth man role. This lineup would be lethal from the perimeter as well, and also has a nice balance of youth and experience. Again though, defensively there could be some issues.

PG Kadeem Allen - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Mark Tollefsen - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

This lineup idea is really growing on me. 'Cats would have great length in the frontcourt and although Kadeem Allen is only listed at 6'3", he reportedly has a 6'9" wingspan. That would give them above-average length at 4 of 5 positions, so defensively they could wreck some havoc. Offensively, they could be even better. Slasher in Allen, two likely 40% three point shooters on the wing, and then two solid big men in the middle.

PG Kadeem Allen - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Justin Simon - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

In this instance, Simon would kind of be in the Kyle Anderson point forward role. Guard 3's, yet can also run the offense. If not, combo guard Kadeem Allen is capable of running the offense too. This lineup also allows York to stay in the sixth man role, which is where I like him best.

Perimeter shooting could be an issue with this lineup, however. Allen and Simon aren't known to be great three-point shooters, although Trier certainly is.

PG Justin Simon - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Ray Smith - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

Three freshmen and two seniors. It's also the same lineup as above but with Ray Smith, a conventional small forward, instead of Kadeem Allen. The size of the lineup is like those that Miller has used in the past couple years. In my mind, this lineup has the best combination of fit and talent. Each player is in their natural position, and each are likely the most talented at their position on the team. That being said, experience and seniority are things that come into play when crafting a starting lineup, so I don't think we'd see this one until later in the year.

PG Kadeem Allen - SG Gabe York - SF Mark Tollefsen - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

You want an insanely experienced lineup? Here you go. This one has two four-year seniors (Zeus and York), a fourth-year junior (Allen), and two fifth-year seniors (Tollefsen and Anderson). The frontcourt of this lineup is absolutely massive too since you'd have two 6-9 forwards and a 7-foot center. Plus there would be adequate spacing since Tollefsen is an above average shooter.

This lineup doesn't have a "true point guard", so to speak, but Allen is combo guard and Miller did trust York as the backup point guard this past season over PJC at times, so it wouldn't be that surprising if Allen plays some point guard.

PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright - SG Gabe York - SF Allonzo Trier - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

Zeus would absolutely love this lineup. With three dead-eye shooters in the backcourt, he'd have a ton of space to operate in the low post. Same with Anderson too. But as much fun as this lineup would be on offense, it would worry me on the defensive end. I just think they'd be way too small to be a dominant defensive lineup.

PG Kadeem Allen - SG Allonzo Trier - SF Ray Smith - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

While Smith likely isn't as good of a shooter as Tollefsen, his length and athleticism with this backcourt and frontcourt seems like an ideal fit.

PG Kadeem Allen - SG Gabe York - SF Ray Smith - PF Ryan Anderson - C Kaleb Tarczewski

Same lineup as above, but with York starting over Trier.


As you have probably noticed by now, Elliott Pitts has not shown up in any of these lineups and the 4 and 5 spots haven't changed. Well that's basically because I don't see any scenario where Pitts starts or where Anderson and Zeus don't start. There are a lot of uncertainties with this year's team, but these aren't some of them.


The lineup possibilities are nearly endless for this team. So many players can play multiple positions and are capable of starting.

But also, keep in mind that the lineups listed above are projected starting lineups. There's no doubt we'll see at least a few of these during the course of a game, plus things like Ray Smith at the 4, or Ryan Anderson at the 5.

Also, comment below if there are other starting lineups that you think are possible. (Maybe a twin tower lineup with Zeus and Ristic, perhaps?)