Aubserver Mailbag 97: This One's Mostly About Basketball
This week: Starting lineup + rotation projections, the most impactful newcomer, the UAH exhibition, Zep Jasper, #ADwatch, candy corn and foreign countries
PG/SG Zep Jasper (Matthew Shannon/Auburn Athletics)
Each week, the Mailbag is a good look into what Auburn fans are thinking about right now.
And this week, it’s very clear: A lot of you have already moved on to basketball season. There are only two or three football-related questions in this week’s Mailbag — even with the player departures of the week and a winnable game coming off the bye week — and there’s a whole lot of hoops.
That’s fine by me, by the way. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several weeks writing, talking and learning as much as I can about Bruce Pearl’s team ahead of what should be a fascinating 2022-23 season. My goal at The Observer has always been to cover Auburn men’s basketball as thoroughly as I cover Auburn football. Based on what you guys are clicking and asking, that’s definitely a good strategy.
This week’s Mailbag looks at the roster ahead of next week’s exhibition against UAH, tries to do some projection on a team-wide and individual basis and takes a look at how the NBA is influencing Auburn — and vice versa. After a few football questions that have nothing to do with the Arkansas game, we wrap up with a lightning round focused on breakfast, lunch and candy corn.
Thanks again for your time and your questions. Let’s go.
Which basketball players will be limited due to injury at the start of the season, and what is their timetable to return to full health? How will this impact the rotation? I understand if you are not allowed to answer this question.
The only major injury concern Auburn basketball has right now is freshman guard Chance Westry, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 6.
When Westry had surgery, Auburn announced that he would be out “the next three-to-four weeks.” Thursday was the start of the three-week mark for Westry. Earlier this week, Bruce Pearl told Jon Rothstein that Westry is “questionable” for the season opener on Nov. 7.
Right now, I wouldn’t bank on seeing Westry in the exhibition against UAH next Wednesday night. He might be good to go for the George Mason opener a week from Monday, but I would also expect his minutes to be limited early in the season, as he will have missed virtually a month of basketball.
How will this impact the rotation? Westry was already a wild card of sorts for Auburn this season, as someone who could float between the 1, 2 and 3, as we saw from him in Israel. Auburn has at least two players at all three of those positions without Westry, and Pearl said earlier this month that “where he plays may be a reflection on where (Auburn’s) roster is the weakest at that position, or doesn't have the most depth.”
Pearl likes the 6-foot-6 Westry as a plus-sized point guard, but he’s also said he likes his value as a secondary playmaker at either the 2 or the 3. Auburn is going to most likely figure out its rotation as it goes through a favorable early portion of the non-conference schedule, and Westry’s recovery and best fit will play big roles in that. Without him, I would expect the Tigers to be two-deep at every spot.
Other than Westry, though, Auburn’s roster is healthy heading into the final days before the start of the season. There were some practice absences due to illness, but those have cleared up. Westry is the only real injury concern moving forward, and the hope is that he returns to full action soon.
Basketball starting 5?
Who would you like to see in the rotation in basketball
As I’ve written recently, the only lock right now in the starting lineup for opening night is Wendell Green Jr. at the 1. Outside of him, there are plenty of possible combos.
I think Auburn’s lineup and rotation are both going to evolve early in the season because of Westry’s injury, Allen Flanigan’s missed practice time and the development of newcomers such as Yohan Traore and Johni Broome in the schemes.
I wouldn’t be surprised either way between K.D. Johnson or Zep Jasper starting at the 2. The same goes, right now, for Flanigan or Chris Moore at the 3. (Moore might even have the edge right now.) The frontcourt could lean on the newcomers, the returners or go half-and-half.
But here’s my projection for a longterm starting lineup and rotation: