Yesterday we started with our position previews of the 2015-2016 Missouri Tigers with the point guards. Today we're focusing on the guys that are playing off the ball in the guard position, a group skilled with the ball in their hands and could be counted on to run the show, but are more likely suited to being an initial outlet for the point guards.
As we did yesterday, we've gotten input from Belegcam, Jaeger, Sam Snelling and Chris Turner. The group we've identified as the combo guards are Wes Clark, Tramaine Isabell and newcomer Martavian Payne.
There’s no way Wes Clark isn’t in the starting lineup somewhere, and I like him here with Terrance Phillips as the distributor. I think it will free him up to do what he does best: find a way to score. TI and Payne will play, but it will be coming off the bench.
Who starts this season is almost entirely based on how quickly Terrance Phillips develops. If Kim Anderson hands him the keys to the offense in game one, then it’s going to be Wes Clark. Clark is the leader of this team and as long as he’s able to be on the floor he’s gonna be out there, I’m guessing around 30 minutes. Once Phillips develops I think we’ll see Clark move to the off guard position as he played primarily last year when Keith Shamburger was running the offense. Who splits the minutes behind TI (all that SWAG) and Payne is up in the air at this point with my lean going to TI just because he’s been on the team longer and is more aware of what Kim Anderson wants from his offense. That all being said, as we’ll discuss in tomorrow’s post, this could be where KJ Walton ends up playing primarily, which could eat into everyone else’s minutes. What I’m hoping to see from these guys is a lot of slashing to the rim which was severely lacking in last year’s squad. So head in to the paint combo guards, and stay safe among the trees of the SEC.
Based on usage in the exhibition game, I think the staff’s initial rankings at this spot went Clark - Payne - Isabell. After the game, I have to think that Isabell is going to spend most of his time backing up Phillips at the 1, which leaves Clark and Payne. as the primary 2 guards, as well as K.J. Walton, who sits somewhere between the 2 and 3 positions. Clark is an improving version of who he’s always been; great in transition, solid ball handling and shooting, and sneaky athleticism and defense. Payne didn’t actually make a huge impression. He was fine - he had a nice steal, and played some solid defense - but didn’t leave the same impression that Isabell and Walton did. I do think Isabell gets some reps at the 2 spot, but probably not a ton, because he seems to do better running the show. He was playing off guard for most of his early minutes, and only really started scoring when they let him run the offense.
Clark will start here unless circumstances dictate otherwise - in other words, unless he has to take over at the 1 spot because something goes wrong with Phillips - and Payne will probably back him up all year.
With Clark likely getting close to 30 minutes a game, I could see him getting maybe 10 or so of those minutes at the point position by getting Terrence Phillips a break at point, and sharing minutes there with Tramaine Isabell. I’m not sure how much Martavian Payne gets the point, I think he’s more exclusively at the off guard spot. Who gets more minutes between Payne and Isabell will be an interesting matchup to watch, particularly because Namon Wright didn’t play in the exhibition game, which could create even less minutes to spread around on the perimeter. So do KJ Walton, Namon Wright and Cullen VanLeer impact the minutes on the other guys as well? It’s likely to happen.
If Wes isn't starting at the one, he's the first option as the combo guard, and will more than likely get the most minutes here. He can get open off the ball quickly, and score points effectively as the two. I'm very interested to see the floor combo between him and Terrance Phillips. Tramaine is the first option off the bench, again, if he stays out of Anderson’s doghouse, he can contribute on the boards and in the field. And finally, Payne. Like I've said, we’re not sure of what he's completely capable of, but if he can show he can produce off the bench, his minutes can definitely grow throughout then.
And that will do it for the Combo Guards, come back tomorrow as we look at the Wing and the potential logjam that Mizzou will have this year, in a good way!