Auburn basketball head coach Bruce Pearl is siphoning inspiration from a very interesting source this offseason.
Having sent three players to the NBA in recent seasons, it makes sense that Pearl checks in on the pro game from time to time. Chuma Okeke and Isaac Okoro are primary contributors for downtrodden franchises in Orlando and Cleveland, respectively, and represent a beacon of hope for both lottery-bound teams featuring former Tigers.
Jared Harper made the postseason with the New York Knicks, but he was glued to the bench. His backcourt mate on the Plains, Bryce Brown, was a member of the Westchester Knicks, but he now faces a road back to the NBA that goes through Team War Ready this summer.
The Knicks provide familiar Auburn family entertainment, but Pearl watches a different team in the hopes of emulating their rotation patterns and style of play on the floor.
The still-defending NBA Champions–though they were recently dethroned in the ongoing NBA Postseason–are the apple of Pearl’s eye instead. The reason why the Auburn basketball HC subjects himself to incessant LeBron James referee call complaints is to see how Frank Vogel manages a rotation with so many big men (Via the Montgomery Advertiser’s Josh Vitale):
…this is a different kind of roster than the Tigers have had. When they went to the Final Four in 2019, they rotated 6-7 Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore; 6-8 Chuma Okeke and Horace Spencer; and 6-10 Austin Wiley in the frontcourt. That was the same group they played with for most of 2020, with 6-6 Isaac Okoro taking the place of the departed Okeke and Spencer.
Williams, Smith, Akingbola, Cardwell and Kessler stand 6-8, 6-10, 6-10, 6-11 and 7-1, respectively.
So Pearl is watching film of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jabari Smith (who recently defended Lakers star LeBron James) is like Anthony Davis, who has elite athleticism at the power forward position and possesses guard-like handles and a lightning-quick burst to the rim. Walker Kessler profiles as a floor-stretching seven-footer in the vein of Marc Gasol, Stretch Akingbola is a physical specimen like Andre Drummond, and…well, no one quite equates to the chaotic character that is Kyle Kuzma.
Either way, it’s interesting to see how far Pearl will go to figure out the best combination on the floor.