The Arizona Wildcats are set to lose three starters in Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson, and Gabe York, plus a key reserve in Mark Tollefsen as they transition to the 2016-17 season. However, the program is also bringing in more than its fair share of talent, as it currently holds the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, boasting four commitments from 5-star prospects -- Kobi Simmons, Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins, and Terrance Ferguson.
Still, anytime you lose three starters as Arizona is, it makes the depth chart rather unclear. But here's a way-too-early view of what it might look like when we get closer to the start of the season.
For the second-straight year, the Wildcat will have a competition for the starting point guard spot. This past season, the point guard play was decent, but certainly a sizable drop-off from what T.J. McConnell provided. Kadeem Allen, while he was the team's best perimeter defender, is definitely more of a combo guard than a true point guard, and his floor game is okay, but it's probably not good enough to make you feel content in him being the team's primary orchestrator. Not to mention that he doesn't space the floor either since he's a below average shooter.
On the other hand, Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a true point guard, but is simply limited because of size. He shot just 44 percent at the rim this season, and defensively he can only guard one position, and can be considered as an average defender. He does have value as a spot-up shooter, however, as he converted on 37.7 percent of his 3-point attempts this past season. Overall, he doesn't stand out on either end of the floor, but can be useful in spurts off the bench, especially as a change of pace guard.
Enter Kobi Simmons, the No. 21 recruit in the country. Simmons, like Allen, is listed as a combo guard, but his point guard skills seem more advanced than Allen's, and is likely at least a comparable shooter. The 6-foot-5 guard could very well provide the balance Arizona needs at the point guard spot, which is the ability to defend and distribute. Because this season, Sean Miller essentially had to pick one or the other.
I made this category "wing players" instead of making separate categories for shooting guards and small forwards because many of Arizona's wings are interchangeable at both positions.
Terrance Ferguson, at 6-foot-7, can certainly play both the 2 and the 3, and so can Allonzo Trier, who did so as a freshman. Rawle Alkins is probably more of a 2 than a 3, but even he (since he's 6-foot-5 and known to be a solid defender) could fill in at the 3 from time to time. Then there's 6-foot-8 Ray Smith who's more of your traditionally-sized small forward, plus Kobi Simmons might be able to play three positions at his size.
There's Elliott Pitts, too, who could possibly be back with the team for the upcoming season (though I wouldn't expect it). At worst, he'd provide above-average shooting with decent defensive skills.
Also, don't forget about Kadeem Allen here, because if Simmons shines at point guard, Allen can move off-the-ball, which is more of a natural fit for him.
All in all, the Wildcats have a terrific combination of wing players. They have good shooters (Trier and Ferguson), athletic players (Alkins, Ferguson, Simmons, Allen, and Smith), and just an overall ridiculous talent level there.
The possibilities on the wing for Sean Miller are going to be endless and certainly improved from what they were this past season, that's for sure.
Ah, we have reached the perceived weakness of the team -- the front court. Even after Ferguson's commitment, the Wildcats still have a couple of scholarships left, and undoubtedly they'll be used to shore up the front court, whether that be through recruiting or landing a graduate transfer or two.
Because as it stands now, the team basically has four front court options -- Dusan Ristic, Lauri Markkanen, Chance Comanche, and Ray Smith.
The concerning thing is that none of them are proven. Ristic is an outstanding scorer, but struggles as a defender and on the glass. Plus, he didn't quite develop as a sophomore as it had been hoped he would. Comanche hardly played as a freshman, while Markkanen and Smith haven't played a single minute of college basketball yet.
That doesn't mean it can't be a good front court though. Ristic could be one of the conference's best centers if he improves as a defender and rebounder. Markkanen profiles as a stretch-four (maybe even stretch-five), but also boasts some athleticism too. Comanche will likely be the team's best front court defender, given his length and athleticism. Meanwhile, there's no telling what type of player Ray Smith could be. During this past offseason (before he tore his ACL), there were reports that Smith was the Wildcats' best player during summer practices. He could turn out to be a dominant 4.
So far, the team has a good mix of talent here, but Miller and company definitely need to add a player or two. Because even though there's talent in the front court and players with different skill-sets, it's the farthest thing from being proven. Therefore, the more options Miller has, the less risk there is if one or two of the players don't pan out or develop as expected.
Here's a rough estimation of what the team's depth chart may look like.
Basically, the order of each position is nearly impossible to predict at this stage. Simmons could very well start at point guard, Trier or Smith may start at the 3, and someone like Comanche or Markkanen could start at the 4.
So, what I focused on was trying to outline every lineup possibility the team has at its disposal, rather than what the starting lineup might be. The perceived talent level and versatility is rather awing, but you can definitely see why the front court needs another body or two.