Pittsburgh Panthers fans are normally clamoring for basketball season to start this time of year. Thankfully, the football team has done an admirable job of holding everyone's attention. Still, it's time to for players to hit the hardwood and for me to return from my extended summer vacation. We posted a general prognosis on the season earlier today, so I don't want to spend a lot of time there. Instead, I'll throw out a few high-level questions that will hopefully be answered over the next few weeks.
Will junior forward Jamel Artis be able to produce at the same efficiency levels, and perhaps more, if he occupies the small forward position predominately? While, I don't want to focus on the numbers, for now, Artis finished last season with an offensive rating of 116.5 - good for 15th overall in the ACC. That put him within arm's reach of North Carolina forward Brice Johnson (117.3) and Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell (117.4). That's not bad company. It stands to reason that Artis has improved his game over the summer and has become more accustom to spending time at small forward, so why the question?
Artis is an offensive mismatch for most opposing power forwards. He has the quickness to get past his defender off the dribble, and his range makes it uncomfortable for bigs on the perimeter. But, Artis is at his best when he's making plays as an above average passer at his position who can distribute from key spots on the floor. He benefited quite a bit by having space to survey the defense and the size to still see over smaller, pesky defenders. With that said, he'll need to continue to be a playmaker that the team can run some offense through to really thrive. I am positive he'll be the one of the best players offensively, just don't discount opposing conference teams having a better gameplan against him with a whole summer of preparation too.
What role will junior forward Sheldon Jeter play? The consensus seems to be that he'll be a trusted reserve who can occasionally start in the right scenario. I can't disagree with that short assessment at all. I do happen to be a rather big believer in that you should try playing your best five players, and based on talent, Jeter is certainly in that mix. The problem is his lack of consistency. If Pitt wants to make a run past 20 wins this season, Jeter will have to find some consistency in year two under head coach Jamie Dixon?
Can fans expect more production out of senior point guard James Robinson? The short answer is no, but I have always felt Robinson to be under appreciated. A little more consistency on when to take a three-pointer and a willingness to make plays in the middle of the paint will actually go a long way to "adding" production to an already steady floor general.
I will definitely tackle some of these issues in greater depth as the season progresses. These just happen to be the first few things that come to my mind as the Panthers get ready to face the Gonzaga Bulldogs later tonight. Please let me know in the comments below if there are other topics you'd like to me to write about or suggestions for the season.
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