Washington Week’s Burning Question: How To Replace A Pair Of First Round Draftees?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 14th, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler is once again back to assist with our Burning Question, along with Washington basketball insider Ben Knibbe of UW Dawg Pound. Here’s our question of the week:

In this “one-and-done” era of college basketball (or two-and-queue, or even three-and-leave), it is pivotal for upper-tier teams like Washington to reload, not rebuild, after losing two guards to the NBA Draft. It looks as if the Huskies have the pieces in place to do just that, as Abdul Gaddy and C.J. Wilcox return, Scott Suggs comes back from injury, and newcomers Andrew Andrews and Mark McLaughlin are there to back them up. But of course, replacing a pair of first-rounders is much more difficult than it may seem. Do you think the Dawgs will be able to make a smooth transition that leads to a fourth NCAA Tournament bid in five years, or will they be relegated to the NIT in back-to-back seasons?

Terrence Ross (right) and Tony Wroten, Jr. (left) were selected eighth and 25th in the 2012 NBA Draft, respectively. (credit: Ted S. Warren)

Connor Pelton: By the end of the season I expect the Huskies to be right on the NCAA bubble, and most likely on the good side of it. But while I do expect them to put out a solid group of guards night in and night out come January, there are bound to be struggles early on after replacing Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross. I don’t think they will miss a beat at shooting guard, as C.J. Wilcox has ridiculous range, and although he isn’t as great a rebounder (which is why Ross went in the top 10), the Huskies have enough bigs in Aziz N’Diaye, Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp, Jr., and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to take care of those loose boards. Even if Wilcox is having an off night, Lorenzo Romar can pull the Mark McLaughlin lever, who just happened to lead all junior college players in scoring last season, or even go to Scott Suggs, who sat out last year with a stress fracture in his foot. The problem lies at the one spot. Wroten was solid in all three phases of the game — scoring, rebounding, and passing — so replacing him is going to be a much tougher task. Abdul Gaddy may be a more pure point guard, but his ability to take the ball into the lane and consistently put it in the hoop is nowhere near Wroten’s; at least it wasn’t last year. Wroten’s ability to force his way into the paint also clogged things down low, constantly leaving Ross open. Overall, the Dawgs have a fine group of guards, but the one thing missing is that special take-over ability, and that could lead to a few extra losses. Losses that were turned into wins by Wroten last season.

Adam Butler: I’ll be quick to admit that I’ve been down on the forthcoming Huskies. Not necessarily because of what’s left, but what’s gone. I’m a huge Ross fan and while Tony Wroten may not have been much of a shooter, he was just plain tough. But they’re indeed gone and in the wake of their talent, I think we’ve been quick to dismiss that C.J. Wilcox scored 14.2 PPG despite spending a good chunk of the season hurt. He’s good, like, legit good. I’m not entirely sold on what Abdul Gaddy can bring to the table after what has to been disappointing career to date. I’ll be interested to see how he bounces back now with a full season under his replaced ACL and with a lot more of the spotlight on him. The newbies – Andrews and McLaughlin – are intriguing in that every Husky fan I’ve spoken to raves about Andrews, and McLaughlin, despite his traveled past, can fill it up. I’m also curious that if you can’t trust a man with two first names, how should we feel about a man with two of the same first name?

But the biggest step toward filling the shoes of the departed first rounders lies in the progress of Scott Suggs. The senior co-captain was a projected starter before sitting out last year with a bum foot. He’s a terrific shooter and will thrive if any of these other guards are able to get into the lane with regularity, or if Aziz N’Diaye can be a lane clogging big. The Huskies no doubt have some pieces but some of those pieces look a lot like question marks in project wrapping.

Ben Knibbe: The Huskies have the pieces to replace and reload the losses of Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross. Mentioned was Andrew Andrews, who will bring the slashing ability that Wroten provided last season, along with a passable jump shot. C.J. Wilcox was very limited last year, only able to take 50 jump shots per day while not allowed to practice due to a stress fracture. The return of a healthy Wilcox and a healthy Gaddy (Gaddy was not 100% confident in his knee last season) will replace much of the lost production. Probably the biggest key to replacing the points of Wroten and Ross: senior Scott Suggs. Suggs injured his foot before last season and decided to redshirt instead of returning halfway through the season. He is a dead-eye shooter who can handle point guard duties in a pinch. He will be the biggest key in replacing the production lost by the graduation of Wroten and Ross to the NBA, and will be key in helping to lead the Dawgs back to the Big Dance.

Andrew Murawa: The Huskies are going to be an interesting team this season, one that tests the importance of star players versus the importance of a cohesive team. Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross were, without question, the Huskies two most electric players last season, but it is no secret that the team suffered from chemistry problems, with confusion over who the go-to scorer and primary ball-handler was. And, at times, there didn’t seem to be enough shots to go around for Wroten, Ross and C.J. Wilcox. All of those problems could be resolved before Thanksgiving even rolls around with this team, but there could be a fundamental lack of offensive firepower that dooms them to once again be on the outside looking in. Last season, Abdul Gaddy got caught in the Wroten undertow and, coupled with his recovery from his knee injury at the end of his sophomore season, had problems playing up to his ability. But he is capable of being among the best floor generals in the country in his senior season and will help guys like C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs, Andrew Andrews and Mark McLaughlin get the ball in scoring position. Wilcox is the only proven scorer of that bunch at this level, but he is more of a spot-up shooter who needs someone to create looks for him. The others all have potential for breakout seasons, but none are known quantities just yet.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Huskies is frontcourt scoring because, despite a couple of talented bigs, none of them have yet shown the ability to regularly score the ball. They can rebound and defend, but there is not a guy on this team who has shown the ability to score in the post. And, with the level of competition in the Pac-12 ready to take a big jump forward, Washington could be left behind again.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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