Breaking down the 2021-22 Kansas basketball roster as things stand today
If all of the activity surrounding the Kansas men’s basketball program of late has your head spinning a bit, you’re definitely not alone.
I can’t tell you the number of KU fans who have reached out to me in the past couple of weeks in search of some insight into the state of KU’s current roster.
At least on paper, it looks to me like the Jayhawks have gotten better. A lot better.
That’s not a knock on the guys who left, rather praise for the fact that the players who KU signed to replace them are more proven and have shown that they can play consistent and key roles at the college level.
Here’s the crazy thing: KU’s still not done. Depending on what happens with the NBA draft decisions of Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson — and we likely won’t know the answer to that until July — Kansas coach Bill Self still has anywhere from one to three scholarships to hand out before the team reports for summer workouts on June 6.
Because of the transfer portal and the recent passage of the NCAA’s one-time transfer exemption, there are still plenty of options out there, regardless of how many spots the Jayhawks need to fill.
A lot could change in the coming months. Or even in the coming days.
But all we have to go on is what we know today. So, putting Agbaji and Wilson aside (you already know what adding those two to the roster would bring), here’s a look at where KU’s roster and depth chart currently sit.
Despite losing Marcus Garrett and Bryce Thompson from last year’s roster, the Jayhawks are poised to enter the offseason with even better depth at the lead guard position.
Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu is capable of playing the position and brings explosive athleticism, elite play-making ability and experience to the floor. Add to that the fact that returner Dajuan Harris was just starting to hit his stride over the final few weeks of last season, and you’re looking at a pretty solid 1-2 punch there.
There’s more, though. Freshmen-to-be Bobby Pettiford Jr., and Kyle Cuffe Jr., both have point guard prowess, and it’s safe to assume that at least one of the two will develop as a point guard as his college career progresses.
The smart money there is on Cuffe, as Pettiford projects as the type of player who easily can play both on and off the ball.
The Jayhawks also recently made the final six for four-star prep point guard Tyty Washington, and if he picks KU this position becomes even more stacked.
On paper, this may be the thinnest of the five starting positions to date, but a lot of that will depend on how quickly Cuffe and/or Pettiford develop.
Beyond that, the idea of playing two point guards is something Self has always liked and wants to get back to. Rather than fielding a team with a point guard and a secondary ball handler the way he has the past couple of seasons, Self wants to get back to putting multiple play-making guards on the floor at the same time.
The belief there is that the move will allow KU to play faster and be more athletic.
As a result, Harris, now with a year of experience under his belt, could find extended playing time at this spot alongside a player like Yesufu or Washington (if KU gets him).
If the Jayhawks do land Washington, both Yesufu and Harris could share time at the 2, with depth coming from Cuffe and Pettiford. If they don’t land Washington, look for KU to continue to prioritize a play-making guard who can shoot and score.
This is Agbaji’s position, so if he returns KU immediately plugs in a player who has started 77 consecutive games (12th longest streak in school history) and was the team’s leading scorer a season ago.
If he doesn’t, this one seems to have Braun written all over it.
Braun is versatile enough to play a number of different roles for the Jayhawks, and, entering his third season in Lawrence, he now has plenty of experience to be counted on as one of the team’s leaders and key contributors.
Newcomer KJ Adams, at 6-foot-7, 200 pounds and athletic and strong enough to play inside and out, is another intriguing option for minutes here, but Adams’ size, strength and versatility give him potential at the 3, 4 and even 5 positions depending on who’s out there with him.
Wilson, if he returns, also could be an option at the 3 next season if/when KU elects to play big at the 4 and 5 spots.
THE 4 SPOT
Like Agbaji at the 3, this spot is made for Wilson. But unlike last season, when Wilson led the Jayhawks in rebounding and was at the 4 in KU’s best lineups, the 2021-22 Jayhawks appear to have other options.
That provides both insurance against Wilson staying in the draft and flexibility for Self if Wilson does return.
Cam Martin and Zach Clemence are the two most intriguing options at this spot, largely because of their ability to shoot the basketball as true stretch 4s.
Both have shown good touch and the ability to get hot from the outside and both are big enough to play down low, as well. Depending on how well they guard on the perimeter, both players, along with veteran Mitch Lightfoot, could play the 4 next to another true big man.
Adams is also a viable candidate at the 4 — his true position in today’s college game — and he has the potential to be the best perimeter defender of that bunch.
THE 5 SPOT
Even with offseason surgery on his foot that will require 12 weeks of recovery, KU’s David McCormack is the unquestioned starter at the 5 for the Jayhawks heading into next season.
After a rough start to the 2020-21 season, McCormack turned it around and delivered some pretty steady play from January to the end.
He finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding and also earned second-team all-Big 12 honors. His journey through a season with high expectations and a rough patch should only make him more prepared for the 2021-22 season.
It won’t hurt that he will have some legitimate help inside, as well. If KU elects to play small, with four guards most of the time, McCormack figures to man most of the minutes at the 5. When he sits, juco transfer Syndey Curry (6-8, 260) along with Lightfoot and Martin provide the Jayhawks legitimate depth inside.
While it may take the Jayhawks a little time to piece it all together, this team should have better depth and versatility at all five positions.
Add to that the fact that this team’s core is actually a pretty experienced group — experience becomes a bona fide strength if Agbaji and Wilson return — and it quickly starts to make sense why most college basketball analysts have KU in or around the top five entering the offseason.