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Starting lineups for Duke Blue Devils Kentucky Wildcats Kansas Jayhawks

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A month ago, after Lagerald Vick withdrew from the NBA draft, Kansas coach Bill Self said Vick’s return was “probably not probable” because the veteran guard might “mess things up” for a Jayhawks team welcoming in a top-10 recruiting class, three key transfers (Charlie Moore, Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson) and key returnee Udoka Azubuike.

That changed, however, and Vick’s return for 2018-19 is a major moment for Kansas, one of the top three teams in our Way-Too-Early Top 25. Kansas, Duke and Kentucky comprise a trio of squads with the most intriguing lineup possibilities.

Kentucky added a top-three recruiting class, brought back PJ Washington and added Reid Travis, a Stanford grad transfer and double-double machine.

Duke lost its entire starting five but signed the top recruiting class in the country, including highlight reel Zion Williamson and projected top NBA draft pick R.J. Barrett.

Each team boasts a glittering array of talent, giving Self, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari plenty of options when it comes to putting five players on the court.

Here are some of the possible lineups Duke, Kansas and Kentucky could put together this season:

The Lawrence Five lineup

G Devon Dotson
G Quentin Grimes
G Lagerald Vick
G/F K.J. Lawson
F Dedric Lawson

KU’s version of the Hamptons Five (the four Golden State Warriors players who met in the Hamptons to recruit Kevin Durant in 2016, plus Durant himself). This lineup features a versatile collection of interchangeable players who could create defensive nightmares for their opponents.

With this lineup, Self would have the 6-foot-8 K.J. Lawson and 6-foot-10 Dedric Lawson as the bigs in a lineup that could put any of the five players on the perimeter, or instantly switch to a more traditional arrangement with the Lawson brothers playing around the rim.

This would create more room for Vick, who emerged as a significant component of KU’s Final Four run, to penetrate and score through traffic. Few teams boast the personnel to match up with a lineup that contains this level of variation.

The small-ball lineup

G Devon Dotson
G Quentin Grimes
G Lagerald Vick
G Marcus Garrett
F Dedric Lawson

This could be the new version of the four-guard lineup Self frequently employed during last season’s Final Four run with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Vick and center Udoka Azubuike.

Self has sent multiple elite wings to the NBA during his tenure at Kansas. Five-star freshman Grimes could be the most complete Self has ever signed. “He’s a 1, he’s a 2, he’s a 3,” Self said of Grimes during training camp for the under-18 team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last month.

With Vick, Dotson, Garrett and Dedric Lawson on the court at the same time, KU would possess enough size to defend big, more traditional lineups while maintaining the capacity to spread the floor on offense.

The let’s get crazy lineup

G Dedric Lawson
G Quentin Grimes
G Lagerald Vick
F K.J. Lawson
C Udoka Azubuike

Self has enough talent to experiment with personnel and lineups, and this crew would feature 6-foot-10 Dedric Lawson playing as a point guard while leading a high-powered offense that could disrupt any defensive scheme.

Self recently told ESPN that Dedric Lawson “is our best passer by far.” He expects to play through Lawson, who is capable of pounding the ball in the paint with his lengthy frame or settling into a role as a distributor when necessary. That’s why this lineup, as wild as it might look, could work next season for Self.

The future NBA stars lineup

G Tre Jones
G R.J. Barrett
G Cam Reddish
F Zion Williamson
C Marques Bolden

This lineup would feature three players who are projected top-10 picks in ESPN’s 2019 NBA mock draft (No. 1 Barrett, No. 3 Reddish and No. 7 Williamson); Jones, the younger brother of 2015 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Tyus Jones; and Bolden, a veteran big man.

The 2015 squad had a more traditional look, with Tyus Jones at point guard, Jahlil Okafor in the paint and Justise Winslow doing a little bit of everything. Duke’s current group is more potent, however, because Barrett, Reddish and Williamson can call play inside and outside.

Bolden could be the rim-protector and finisher for the best offense in America in 2018-19.

The oh my god Zion is playing center lineup

G Tre Jones
G Alex O’Connell
G R.J. Barrett
G Cam Reddish
F Zion Williamson

This is a scary group that would challenge opponents to contend with Williamson, a 6-foot-6 terror, on the block and a pair of versatile wings, Barrett and Reddish, who could do damage anywhere on the floor.

If Williamson acts as a cleanup man for Reddish and Barrett without showcasing an ability to score 15 feet from the rim and beyond, he will do little to impress NBA scouts.

But if the athletic marvel proves he can defend 3s, 4s and 5s while stretching the floor and becoming something more than a putback artist, he could become the missing piece for a Duke national-title team with this lineup.

The let’s get crazy lineup

G Cam Reddish
G R.J. Barrett
G Zion Williamson
F Javin DeLaurier
C Marques Bolden

Calipari used Reddish at point guard for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Egypt last year, underlining the freshman’s “positionless” attributes and diverse game, which could help Krzyzewski build a starting rotation around a 6-foot-8 floor general.

Barrett is the reason America failed to win gold in that tournament. He finished with 38 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists for Canada in its 99-87 upset of Team USA in the semifinals. No team in the country has the guard depth to match up against a Reddish-Barrett backcourt.

The two-PG lineup

G Quade Green
G Immanuel Quickley
G Keldon Johnson
F PJ Washington
F Reid Travis

This is a group that gives Calipari two capable ball handlers (Green, Quickley), a five-star wing (Johnson) and a pair of forwards who can dominate around the rim.

We’ll see if he has enough shooters to extend defenses, but Kentucky has only had two teams under Calipari that finished a season shooting above 37 percent from the 3-point line. Where Kentucky hurts you is with its ability to dominate inside the arc, and this group is equipped to do that.

The long and athletic lineup

G Immanuel Quickley
G Keldon Johnson
F PJ Washington
F E.J. Montgomery
F Nick Richards

This crew puts two 6-foot-11 athletes in the paint for Kentucky and then makes Washington a lengthy, athletic small forward who could still help on the offensive glass and help Quickley and Johnson capitalize on those second-chance opportunities.

The let’s get crazy lineup

G Immanuel Quickley
G Keldon Johnson
F E.J. Montgomery
F PJ Washington
F Reid Travis

This is probably Calipari’s most physically intimidating lineup, a group that features two five-star guards, the Washington-Travis paint force and Montgomery, a 6-foot-11 big man with the athleticism to excel inside and outside, playing small forward.

Who wants to deal with that? Travis and Washington are both physical players who could rent out the lane for the season. And Quickley and Johnson would both benefit as opponents tried to figure out how they’d deal with Montgomery.



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