We’re 8 days away from the return of Mizzou basketball, folks. And hey, if you don’t want to count today, we’re only 7 days away, which means we’re one week away! (We’re not one week away, but no one would fault you for getting overzealous.)
As part of our continuing preview of the upcoming season, we’re breaking down Mizzou’s roster, one position group at a time. A week ago, we started with the point guards. On Tuesday, we tackled the combo guards. Next Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll take on the combo forwards and post players. But today? Today we’re talking about the wings. No, not these wings. And no, not these Wings - although we wouldn’t fault you for getting overzealous about those topics either.
Senior - Jordan Barnett
Statistical Profile (2016-2017; 23 games)
|True Shooting %||54.6|
|Effective FG %||51.5|
|Total Rebound %||11.1|
Freshman - Michael Porter, Jr.*
*Michael Porter, Jr. will also be a part of our “Combo forwards” preview next week since he fits well into both categories. You will likely see several players fit into multiple groups for the rest of the series.
1. In this group, Mizzou has (A) arguably it’s best returning player (B) unquestionably, it’s best player overall. With all that talent, how often does Cuonzo Martin end up starting both Porter, Jr. and Barnett?
Sam Snelling - Technically you need two guys on the wing on even the most basic of offenses, but also I think the flexibility of having two guys who are capable and athletic enough to play inside means you can get away with one at the three and the other at the four most of the time. I like what Porter Jr brings on the wing, but I really like him as the "small ball four.” That lineup gives you four perimeter players and really spaces the floor offensively.
Chris Bohkay - I think they're starting every game, and it's not even a question. With the lack of depth in the combo guard area, you have to maximize your talent and that means running a wing heavy group out there every game. Kevin Puryear is coming off the bench probably first.
Jarrett Sutton - I think your first team has to include Porter Jr. and Barnett, especially in a starting lineup. From there, you can mix and match how you want to structure their minutes and what lineups you want to use them in. Jordan Barnett is at his best when he’s not the focus point of an opponent’s defense, thus the case this season with the spotlight on Michael Porter Jr. If it’s not Jordan and Michael on the floor at the same time, having Kassius Robertson on the floor with Barnett provides another scoring option that will help off penetration and kick out opportunities.
Josh Matejka - After the fiasco of the past few years, Mizzou fans have learned talent wins. For Mizzou to maximize this turnaround, they need their most talented players on the floor. Given MPJ and Barnett are probably 2 of the top 3, they’ll be out there every night without a doubt.
Matt Harris - We saw it against Kansas. You play Barnett at the nominal three and slide Porter Jr. into his natural position as a combo forward. It worked pretty well, too. Based on Bill C’s math wizardry, Porter and Barnett were both able to contribute heavily. In some actions, Barnett is going to be working off the ball as a shooter of staggers, elevator screens or AI cuts. There’s no hard rule that he has to loft up 3-pointers, either. There will be gaps Barnett can attack when defenders close out hard. Meanwhile, Porter Jr.’s defender will be put through a jet wash to exploit some switches and get him the ball in his hands on the move. In my mind, the question is how reliable a jump shooter Barnett can be, but he also showed signs of progress down the stretch last season after knocking off some rust.
2. Regardless of how much they’re starting, both Barnett and MPJ will be asked to play a lot - there aren’t many reserve wings unless you use Puryear or VanLeer. How does Martin make sure these two stay rested throughout the year?
Sam - When you have two guys like Barnett and Porter, the depth comes from flexibility. If you have two PGs in the game, your "wing" becomes a combo guard pretty easily. You can role with Blake, Terrence and some combination of Kassius, Cullen, Jordan or CJ Roberts and be fine for short stretches. But ultimately I think you're going to get plenty of those two at the spot and let them play together plenty as well.
Bohkay - This is a tough one, because it's really going to depend more on the growth of the players around them. Can CJ Roberts get up to speed quickly? Can Tilmon and Jontay stay out of foul trouble? Will KP find his shot that disappeared Sunday? But in the meantime when playing the teams you should beat in the noncon (the ones Kim Anderson's teams couldn't), get a big lead and then rest up. I also hear cryotherapy is great for recovery, so get that going, get some KTape and foam rollers for everyone!
Sutton - This is important. Yes, Barnett and Michael need to be rested, but mostly to stay out of foul trouble. Fatigue and extended minutes can get you in trouble, but that’s part of it obviously. To rest Michael and Barnett would be to use them together early and late, while interchanging them into different positions and lineups throughout. You can spare them minutes to keep them fresh, but these two pieces unfortunately can’t sit for long. The three guys that should lead this team in minutes, that have to play smart, and have to be in top conditioning shape, are Michael, Barnett, and Tilmon.
Matejka - This will be one of Cuonzo Martin’s biggest balancing acts all year. On one hand, they’re college kids so they should be pretty fresh all year. On the other, you don’t want to burn out your best players when its not necessary. It’ll be crucial for Mizzou to put lesser teams away as early as possible to get Mike and Jordan off the floor. Because until Mizzou proves it has a 1-2 punch scoring threat close to what these two bring, there’s little justification for keeping them out of the game.
Matt - Maligned as he’s been during his career, Cullen VanLeer can give you minutes. His job isn’t hard: move the ball, be shot ready and knock in the occasional 3-pointer. Often, he was paired up with Kassius Robertson. When Martin sat both Barnett and Porter Jr., he trotted VanLeer and Kevin Puryear, while sliding Jontay Porter to the post. The beauty of this roster is versatility. Rolling out Phillips, Robertson, VanLeer and Jontay Porter, with Harris and Jeremiah Tilmon in reserve offers flexibility.
3. In the past two previews, we’ve noted that Mizzou had problems putting the ball in the hoop last year. How important is this group to the team’s emergence as an offensive threat?
Sam - Simply having someone like MPJ who can generate his own offense and make shots even in the toughest of circumstances should make the rest of the roster rest a little easier. Barnett did a good job being the lead option last year. But there are times this year where he'll be option #3, and that makes scoring so much easier. Defensive matchups get more favorable and, overall, it should help the flow of the offense. Plus, MPJ and Barnett are both dynamic in the open court, which means this team could push pace much easier than past Missouri teams.
Bohkay - The ability for this group to hit from outside, while also being a threat to penetrate and dish, is huge for Mizzou. They are going to be relied upon to be the main scorers outside of Robertson, so being able to stretch the D to open things up for everyone is paramount.
Sutton - It’s no secret, Mizzou has been one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in America over the past 3 years. They were dead last in the SEC in 3-point percentage last year at 30%. And the emergence of our wings, and wings that have size and length, is a huge addition to a completely different offensive system. Michael and Barnett can go get you a bucket, or get to the foul line, in a late shot clock or game clock situation. With this, opportunities present themselves at the rim and from 3-point range with proven talented weapons that can finish plays and make shots.
Matejka - Both guys should get points of their own without question. I’m interested to see how much they can create for other people. As Bohkay mentioned, both of them can get to the hoop, opening things up for Robertson and other shooters. Will they also be able to feed it to open big men when the defense crashes around them? If they can do both those things successfully, Mizzou’s ceiling goes way up.
Matt - Unlike the past two years, Mizzou’s not running an offense that doesn’t match its personnel. Against Kansas, the Tigers created solid looks. They just didn’t convert. Mizzou’s wings are going to be productive. Porter will stuff stat sheets. Barnett can fit alongside him. The real question may be what kind of support they can expect.
4. The wings have a lot of potential this year, but a high ceiling often comes with a low floor. What worries you about this group going into the season?
Sam - With this group there is really only one thing: injury. But also I do worry a little about MPJ putting too much pressure on himself to be this all world player and to make Mizzou an elite team. He just needs to be himself and be good most nights. That should be enough to make Mizzou a threat in the SEC due to the improved depth around him.
Bohkay - Really the only thing that worries me is if they get into foul trouble, because with this many young kids playing important roles this shortens your bench and people are going to potentially step into larger roles than intended.
Sutton - Inexperience will show at different times early on in the season, which we saw against Kansas. There’ll be times when frustration sets in, a shot doesn’t fall, someone gets in foul trouble, or Mizzou gets into a hole. How will they respond is the question. Yes, the wings have a high ceiling, but the low floor to me is getting full or losing sight of the big picture. It’s easy for a college basketball player to look at the numbers, to get consumed with himself, which is human nature. For this group, they must stick together and realize that this year and this team is bigger than any one person. It’s a chance for your group to leave a legacy as the team that brought Mizzou Basketball back to life. You have all the ability and talent to go compete for an SEC Championship, for an NCAA Tournament birth, and for the unknown that follows that tournament bid. It’s a long season, a marathon and not a sprint, so not getting complacent, or full, or caught up in the things that don’t benefit the team is what you have to manage. That to me is the floor and something the coaching staff will have its finger on all season.
Matejka - I’m not sure I’m worried so much about a low floor after Showdown for Relief. After all, MPJ had a bad shooting day and still put 21 on the board. The issue will be making sure he and Barnett are efficient. If they’re taking all the shots and not making any of them, are they willing to defer to other guys with hot hands? We want them to have that killer instinct, but sometimes forcing bad shots is just forcing bad shots.
5. Give us your one-sentence preview for each player.
Sam - Michael Porter Jr is a a bonafide superstar.
While Jordan Barnett is like a suped up street racing car.
Bohkay - Jordan Barnett will be the player Mizzou fans hoped he would be last year right from the start.
Michael Porter, Jr. will do things Mizzou fans haven't seen by a Mizzou player ever and leave after one season.
Sutton - Jordan Barnett is your best returner that can flourish in this system and in his new role this year.
Michael Porter Jr. is a talent that we haven’t seen since Kevin Durant - that’s coming from an NBA Scout and not me.
Matejka - Jordan Barnett will have an All-SEC season cleaning up on lesser defenders.
Michael Porter, Jr. will do what Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could not by getting Mizzou back to the Big Dance.
Thanks for reading y’all. We’ll have the combo forwards preview ready for you next Tuesday.