As Maryland awaits word from former Memphis point guard Antonio Barton regarding his possible transfer to College Park, it might be interesting to look at the lineups Mark Turgeon could put on the floor next season with or without the 6-2 senior from Baltimore.
His three-season stats at Memphis might not accurately reflect how important a piece Barton could be for the Terps. How do you measure a player’s basketball IQ, leadership and maturity? Think of what Logan Aronhalt gave Turgeon’s team last season, but with Barton playing a much bigger role at a more key position.
I have to assume Turgeon is bringing Barton in with the intention of starting him, or at least giving him every opportunity to start. That said, Barton and incoming freshman Roddy Peters should share a majority of the minutes at point guard.
Barton certainly gives the Terps something that they didn’t have with Pe’Shon Howard: a point guard who actually looks to shoot. Barton shot better than 47 percent from the field (and 42 percent on 3-pointers) his first two seasons before falling to around 40 percent his junior year when his minutes decreased.
Barton's arrival changes the roles and minutes for several of Maryland's perimeter players.
How is Turgeon going to keep the players happy at his team’s deepest position? Nick Faust, who will be a junior, started nearly every game his first two years, but Dez Wells, also a junior, is clearly Maryland’s best player and Seth Allen had flashes as a freshman (the second half of the Duke win, for example) when he was nearly unguardable.
It’s not going to be as easy for Turgeon to go to his three-guard lineup as much this year because of what he has in the frontcourt. With his first legitimate long-range shooting big forward – a "stretch 4" as they’re now called – in junior transfer Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman the team’s most improved player by the end of his freshman year, Turgeon will also have to find plenty of minutes for arguably his best 3-point shooters.
That leaves the three post players – sophomores Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, as well as freshman Damonte Dodd. With the trend in basketball to smaller lineups, I am curious as to how Turgeon is going to split up the playing time for the three of them.
Cleare was the odd man out last season because of Alex Len, so with Len leaving early for the NBA, you have to think that the 6-9 Cleare will get a chance to live up to the hype that followed him out of high school.
Mitchell was at times Maryland’s most productive inside player – Len included – last season, so I expect him to get his share of minutes in the rotation. Dodd, who played at a prep school in Virginia last season, is something of an unknown, but all the reports indicate that he might not be as big a project as he was coming out of high school on the Eastern Shore.
If I had to pick a starting lineup right now – a little less than six months from the opener – I would have to say Barton at point guard, Faust and Wells on the wings, Smotrycz at power forward and Cleare at center. Turgeon would have a bench consisting of Peters at the point, Allen at one of the wing guard spots, Layman at more of a small forward role, with either Mitchell or Dodd inside.
I still think Barton is going to wind up in College Park, but should he choose either Texas A&M (which he also visited) or Syracuse (which he has not as of yet), that’s going to change Turgeon’s plans for next season dramatically. While he still has time to bring in another point guard, the pool of potential one-year players like Barton is pretty limited.
If the former Lake Clifton standout doesn’t become a Terp, I think Turgeon would be forced to go back to Allen until Peters is ready to take over. Despite his lapses as a freshman last season, Allen is certainly more of a true point than Faust, who was forced to play the position because of Howard’s injuries two years ago and inconsistencies last season.
Allen’s stats as a freshman are not that much different than Barton’s were three years ago. Allen averaged 7.6 points in a little over 22 minutes a game, mostly as a reserve. Barton averaged a career-high 8.2 points in a little under 25 minutes. Their assist-to-turnover ratio was also about the same: 2.3-1.9 for Allen, 1.7-1.3 for Barton.
The biggest difference is that Allen’s shot selection was not always the best, and that brought his shooting percentage down below 40 percent overall and 31.2 percent on 3s. With a year’s experience – and for Turgeon’s sake, maturity – Allen’s decision-making and playmaking should improve. Athletically, only Wells and Faust are close to Allen among the current Terps.
With Allen at the point, the lineup doesn’t change much – Faust and Wells at the wings, Smotrycz and Cleare inside. But the rotation does, and without Allen’s scoring ability off the bench, Turgeon would likely have to keep either Smotrycz or Wells on the court for longer stretches. (That’s not a bad thing, since I think Wells should be at least a 30-minute a night player.)
But the Terps would be missing Barton’s intangibles. Nobody on Turgeon’s team has close to Barton’s experience in big games, having been to the NCAA tournament all three years with the Tigers, or from what I know about Barton and have seen from the Terps, his off-court maturity and basketball IQ.
I think Wells is the closest, at least from what I’ve seen. Wells showed last season that he has NBA talent and I think Turgeon would certainly be comfortable with the 6-5 junior taking a much bigger leadership role moving forward – with or without Barton.