SPOKANE, Wash — On Monday, I tweeted that I was going to do a sportscast about Gonzaga's starters and how their rotation will look. In that tweet, I asked for people’s starting five.
As of the time of this article posting, I had 25 submissions with ten different rosters and no roster combination had more than five votes. Translation: This is going to be a crazy battle this year between a lot of very capable players. Let's get down to it.
GONZAGA'S STARTING FIVE
Let’s just get this out of the way: We all know Andrew Nembhard, Chet Holmgren, and Drew Timme will start. The two question marks are who starts at the two and the three.
There are six players who are candidates for those two starting spots: Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris, Anton Watson, transfer Rasir Bolton, and Class of 2021 commits Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis.
One of the requirements for starting at either the two or three spots will be the ability to shoot the three. Although I expect Watson to work on his three this offseason, he only went one for three from behind the arc this year. I just don’t see him getting to a level from three where he’s ready to start at a traditional guard spot, and I think Few will want him to backup Timme and Holmgren. Because of those two things, Anton is coming off the bench in my mind.
I also expect Hickman to be off the bench as I think Few will want him to learn and watch Andrew Nembhard this year as Hickman gets ready to take over the point guard position next year. Yes, Andrew did end up starting at the 2 this year, but he’s different than Nolan as he already had extensive DI experience.
That leads me to Bolton. I also think he’s off the bench as he will be a solid leader for that second squad. They’ll need someone out there who can run the show in that unit, and that’s Bolton to me.
That leaves us with Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris, and Hunter Sallis. I’m going with Julian and Hunter for the starting spots. Here's why:
Julian is a prototypical Zags “three”. He’s the same size as Corey Kispert and has a similar shooting range. I have heard that the staff is very high on Julian and think he could be their next big star. Getting him starter minutes this year could help groom him for a huge junior season.
As for Sallis, I am intrigued by his bounciness, his length, and his big play ability. I will say this though: The competition for the two guard spot I believe will be the fiercest as Sallis, Harris, and Bolton all have a shot at it. That position will be loaded.
FIRST OFF THE BENCH
Okay, so if we’re going with the premise of a Nembhard, Sallis, Strawther, Holmgren, Timme starting five, then the next question is who’s the first off the bench.
I’m just going to be frank: I’m going to kind of cheat here.
I’m picking the guard and forward I think will be first off the bench because I think they’ll be pretty even in terms of playing time.
For the guard, I’m going with Rasir Bolton. I think his experience and ability to score will be undeniable for the Zags. He’ll be an important piece in the second unit to keep the level of play up and also to lead.
For the forwards, it’s gotta be Anton Watson. I don’t foresee Ben Gregg or Kaden Perry getting big minutes next year, so that means it’ll be a rotation down low between Watson, Holmgren, and Timme.
BREAKING DOWN THE MINUTES
Alright, so that’s seven players already established in the rotation, and I think ultimately Few goes with 8-9 guys playing consistent minutes. We’re going to go with nine for this exercise. Remember there are 200 playing minutes in a contest, and we’re going to assume this is a high level contest and not against a no-name team.
Here’s how I think the minutes break down: First off, I think Nembhard, Timme, and Holmgren all play around 35 minutes per game. That’s 105 minutes off the board, poof.
I think Strawther and Sallis each get 20 as the starters. That leaves us with 55 minutes up for grabs.
I have Watson, Harris, and Bolton all slated at 15.
You may think well how does Watson get to 15 if he’s backing up two guys playing 70 of 80 minutes at the 4/5? I think Watson plays a few minutes extra minutes with either him at the three, or Holmgren at the 3 and Timme at the 5.
As for Rasir and Harris, I think them each playing 15 is pretty explainable.
That leaves Hickman with 10, which I think is perfect for the role I talked about earlier with him learning from Nembhard.
So there you have it.
I think this is Few’s most talented roster top to bottom that he’s ever had, and I certainly don’t think we’ll be seeing a six or seven man rotation come the Final Four like we did this past year.
What I know for sure is this: There’s a lot to look forward to, Gonzaga fans.