Bruce Pearl said he might think about changing Auburn’s starting five and rotations following Auburn’s double overtime win at Ole Miss.
Pearl probably wants to fix Auburn’s slow starts and lulls as much as anyone, and messing with the rotations might help.
Thinking about what Auburn’s new starting five and rotation could look like creates some interesting thoughts. They might not be realistic, but they’re fun.
The most obvious: start Anfernee McLemore
McLemore has started 57 games at Auburn and did some incredible things in those games.
One of the things he did exceptionally well, even playing alongside great scorers like Bryce Brown, Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke and Mustapha Heron, is make the first shot and, or three of the game.
McLemore has been a run starter and drought stopper throughout his career.
McLemore made a three in 21 games last season. In 10 of those 21 games, he was either the first Auburn player to score and, or the first Auburn player to make a three.
McLemore showed the same spark at Ole Miss when he drained five threes and did most of his work in the second half.
So, starting McLemore at center could give the Tigers some much needed early game scoring, and it let’s Auburn control the opening tip off nearly every game. That gives Auburn the option of running an opening tip play, which can be very effective and may help get the offense going.
It also allows Auburn to keep Austin Wiley fresh and let him go to work once the opponents big men are tired of chasing McLemore around the perimeter and up and down the court.
Similar, but different: start McLemore at power forward
McLemore could give Auburn another option to stretch the floor at power forward, but Danjel Purifoy has seemed to be slowly coming back to form at times.
Personally, I think finding a way to get Purifoy looking for his shot more aggressively, while getting him and McLemore more three point attempts, does just as much for Auburn than starting McLemore at power forward.
Purifoy could be a spark plug off the bench, but his defense has been good (at times) and his ball handling and shooting has been extremely good for Auburn at times.
It’s an option, but I think McLemore and Wiley helping keep each other fresh and out of foul trouble is more productive.
If you want to bring Purifoy off the bench: move Isaac Okoro to power forward and start Jamal Johnson at small forward.
Okoro can guard nearly any power forward in college basketball and has a three point shot that seems to be gaining consistency, but I still think finding a way to get max production out of Purifoy is too important for this team.
— OR —
Move Doughty to starting point guard.
This is one of the most interesting rotation changes I can imagine, because of all of the ways you can manipulate the roster.
This would allow McCormick and Doughty to spell each other. We see it at times already. Doughty will run the point and Auburn plays Johnson, Allen Flanigan or Devan Cambridge in the open spot.
The problem with this is unless Johnson or Cambridge catch fire, Auburn doesn’t do much to improve its scoring with this move. Both have shown flashes, but neither have been consistent.
It’s an option that could be worth looking into to help McCormick get a breather when the turnovers start to pile up.
Tyrell Jones doesn’t seem ready for the job yet, after an injured offseason left him without the time a true freshman needs. So, Auburn doesn’t have much of a point guard rotation, but the Tigers haven’t really needed one yet … for the most part.
Like with the Purifoy option, Auburn has been giving McCormick a lot of minutes. Not only because he has deserved them (at times) but because he needed them to get accustomed to his new role.
Auburn needs McCormick to play well to reach their ceiling, and McCormick has shown he can do that by scoring 28 points at Mississippi State among other things. Pearl’s style of coaching also relies on letting players play through mistakes and bad streaks, so I don’t expect us to see much more of these rotations unless they become necessary.
At the end of the day, I don’t think anything dramatic needs to be done. Starting McLemore at center makes sense to me. He’s a high energy guy who lets you win every opening tip, isn’t afraid to take (and make) threes early in the game and has a lot of experience starting.