We have less than a week before the basketball season starts. The Colorado Buffaloes will return all but three significant contributors, and though George King’s shooting and Dallas Walton’s size will be missed, this 2018-19 team is set up to the best CU squad in the past several years. We don’t know yet what the starting lineup will look like, but we can project what we expect.
Point Guard — McKinley Wright IV (So.)
The Buffaloes’ success will begin and end with McKinley Wright. Tad Boyle always needs an electric point guard to lead them to victory and Wright looks capable of replicating what Spencer Dinwiddie and Derrick White brought to his teams. To start, Wright is lightning quick, has terrific handles, and flat out just knows how to play. With his ability to crack the defense, his playmaking skills make everyone else a threat, and should he improve his finishing, he himself is a dangerous scorer. On defense, he’s intelligent, has quick hands and a ridiculous wingspan. More importantly, he’s a warrior with an endless motor. If he ever finds consistency in his jump shot, he’s going to be one of the best guards in the country.
Projection: 16.4 points per game, 5.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 53% effective shooting, 22.8 player efficiency rating
Shooting Guard — Namon Wright (Sr.)
After McKinley, Namon Wright will be the largest source of offense for the Buffs. He’s been injury plagued and inconsistent in his career — both with Colorado and before at Missouri — and he will be asked to be a veteran rock on this team. When he’s on, he’s both a dangerous shooter and slasher, and those compliment each other to make him a dynamic scorer. As Jack Barsch noticed in his season outlook, “His angles and looping shots are always a thing of beauty, and his unorthodox release timing on layups and pull-ups helps draw a lot of fouls.” Namon also contributes as a secondary playmaker and is a superb rebounder for his size. If he finds consistency, the Buffs have their second star.
Projection: 13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 55% EFG, 16.7 PER
Small Forward — D’Shawn Schwartz (So.)
It’s uncertain if Schwartz will start or if Evan Battey or Shane Gatling will push him to the bench (more on the bench tomorrow). But if Schwartz starts, he’s a promising player who projects as an excellent scorer who contributes with the little things elsewhere. He probably won’t unlock his potential just yet, but for now, he will be most valuable as a dangerous spot-up shooter and versatile wing defender. Even as a tertiary player, watch for his confidence to grow. Once he plays with aggressiveness, he will begin to put it all together.
Projection: 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 58% EFG, 11.4 PER
Power Forward — Tyler Bey (So.)
On a team as small as the Buffs, Tyler Bey will have to become a defensive star. Even if he never has an Andre Roberson-like impact, he should be invaluable as a hard-nosed forward whose intelligence and length make him a nightmare to score on. In a fast-paced Pac-12 with dynamic scorers on every team, Bey can be switched onto guards and bigs alike, and should the Buffs resume their zone defense, he’s exactly who should be in the middle of that. With Dallas Walton out with an ACL tear (get well, Dallas), Bey will have to do his best to additionally protect the rim and secure boards, especially when Tad inevitably goes super-small. Offensively, Bey is still limited, but his jumper is showing signs of development that suggest that he will at least spread the floor.
Projection: 8.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.3 blocks, 52% EFG, 15.6 PER
Center — Lucas Siewert (Jr.)
Like Schwartz, we don’t know for sure if Siewert is starting, but Colorado doesn’t really have another body. Siewert is very much a finesse player, and as frustrating as his interior defense and defensive rebounding can be, he’s quite valuable on offense as a stretch-5. With him out on the floor as a dangerous shooter, it will mean CU has no big to clog the lane, which will result in massive amounts of space for Kin and Namon to drive. Tad just needs Siewert to be confident. Last year, Siewert struggled through much of the early season before he regained his confidence and became CU’s most reliable shooter. If he retains his hot shooting and makes up for his lack of athleticism and strength with smart and effortful defense, he will be a fine starter who makes an even bigger impact on the players around him.
Projection: 10.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 61% EFG, 17.6 PER