The offseason is in full swing, and that means that the coaching staff is up to their necks in tape, looking at all the available options to fill out the roster for next season. The Aztecs will be losing up to five seniors, which means they have a lot of holes to fill. Most people will be focusing on positions that need to be filled. For example, “The Aztecs need a shooting Guard,” or “the Aztecs need a backup center.”
As basketball becomes more positionless though, these distinctions mean less. Does the team really need a shooting guard, or do they just need someone who is accurate from behind the arc? If the team acquired a center who could shoot the ball from deep, would the team still need a shooting guard? Sometimes that answer will be no, and in those cases the team never actually needed a shooting guard.
Due to this evolution, rather than looking at positions of need, these articles will look at skills or attributes of need.
First off is playmaking. Coach Dutcher is a coach that likes to run the offense through the pick and roll. He wants a dominant player who can come off a screen, break the defense, and make the decision to attack the basket, pass to the roll man, or kick out to a shooter. Lamont Butler may be ready for that role as a starter in his sophomore season, but the Aztecs need more. No other player currently on the roster can consistently create a shot for themselves let alone for someone else.
Coach Dutcher’s best teams have all featured more than one player who could create for themselves, or others, or both. The ’21 season featured Mitchell, who could create for himself and occasionally others, Schakel, who could sometimes create for himself, and Pulliam, who by the end of the season was creating for himself and others. It was a tournament team. The ’20 team had one of the best creators in the nation in Malachi Flynn, plus KJ Feagin, Trey Pulliam, and Yanni Wetzell to create shots for themselves or others. That was a team capable of winning a national championship. The ’18 team had Trey Kell take over as a facilitator, plus Jeremy Hemsley and Devin Watson creating for themselves and sometimes others. That was a tournament team. The only team Dutcher has coached that didn’t make the tournament was the ’19 team. They had Devin Watson, who created for himself but less for others, Hemsley, who was similar, and McDaniels, who also didn’t create much for others.
The Aztecs will always be good on defense. They need someone who can run the offense, and even more so someone who can break the defense. There are a multitude of ways to break a defense, but the way that suit’s Dutcher’s system best is a player who can run the pick and roll and make those decisions. The Aztecs will need at least one, and ideally two players who are capable of doing that.
So far the Aztecs haven’t been reported to be in contact with anyone who fits that profile. One player to keep an eye on is Timmy Allen out of Utah. He is not a traditional guard, he is more of a wing, but he can run the pick and roll as well as contribute in other ways. The Aztecs made his top 5 coming out of high school, so there is a chance he comes to San Diego.
The coaching staff will go through the tape and find a guy to fill the role, whether it’s Allen or someone else. The coaches ultimately finding a guy or a couple guys who can create for themselves and others will determine the ceiling of the team next season.