Auburn completed a four-game trip to Italy in dominating fashion, outscoring their opponents 413-228. Auburn cleared the benches in every game. While it’s hard to tell how this performance translates into SEC wins, Auburn beat Stella Azzurra worse than Kansas did a week earlier. That has to mean something, right?
What can we glean from Auburn’s depth chart after the trip? Auburn started the following players during the four-game stretch:
- Mustapha Heron (3)
- Danjel Purifoy (3)
- Jared Harper (2)
- Davion Mitchell (2)
- DeSean Murray (2)
- Chuma Okeke (2)
- Horace Spencer (2)
- Bryce Brown (1)
- Samir Doughty (1)
- Malik Dunbar (1)
- Anfernee McLemore (1)
The big take away is this: Heron, Purifoy, and Wiley will start every game barring injuries. The rest of the team will share starts based on matchups and hot hands. Auburn has depth and flexibility at every position.
- Jared Harper
- Davion Mitchell
- Samir Doughty
- Patrick Keim
Jared Harper and true freshman Davion Mitchell split starting duties at point guard on the trip. Each started two games. Each took turns in a starring role. Harper had a double-double with ten points and ten assists against BC Silute. Mitchell scored 10 against Veneto Select and notched five steals against the Italian All Star Team.
This battle is going to be close all season. Right now, Harper I expect Harper to get the majority of the starts simply due to his experience. Doughty will probably get most of his reps at the 2 spot but he was a highly rated point guard in high school and can add needed depth
This is probably the position group I’m the least confident in, but that says more about our depth elsewhere than Harper and Mitchell’s talent.
- Mustapha Heron
- Bryce Brown
- Samir Doughty
Mustapha Heron is a returning starter and looks to hold the spot this winter. Bryce Brown made a compelling case for minutes in Italy. Brown caught fire, scoring 20+ in three straight games. Coach Pearl adjusted the lineup later in the trip, starting Heron at Wing to get Brown more minutes.
We will probably see that lineup some this fall, but Pearl really would like to get Danjel Purifoy more time at the wing as well because it’s a more natural position for him than power forward.
Is this what having depth feels like?
- Danjel Purifoy
- Mustapha Heron
- Malik Dunbar
Thanks to a surprising amount of depth in the post, Auburn hopes to start Danjel Purifoy at wing this year. Danjel is large and strong enough to play power forward, but his game is best outside. He’s a plus three-point shooter and slashes to the rim with authority.
When Purifoy played power forward, Heron played wing.
Malik Dunbar scored in double-digits twice on the trip. At 6’6”, 230 lbs, he’s a very large man to be a small forward. Dunbar is a slasher and crasher, doing most of his damage inside the arc. He’ll add points and rebounds when he’s on the floor.
- Chuma Okeke
- DeSean Murray
- Horace Spencer
Auburn’s situation at power forward is unclear in the best possible way. Purifoy got a few starts at the position and will see heavy playing time. Anfernee McLemore may also see time there. But with Purifoy moving to the wing, the two likely regular starters are freshman Chuma Okeke and junior transfer DeSean Murray.
At 6’8”, 230 lbs, Okeke is a beast. Okeke had three double-doubles on the trip, grabbing twenty rebounds in the last game. He was also in the top 18 to make the Team USA basketball squad before an injury knocked him out of the competition. He will start at some point this season, possibly by November.
DeSean Murray started two games in Italy. Murray is the Tasmanian Devil. At 6’3”, he would be an undersized power forward at Auburn High. But he is incredibly active. He has a nose for the basketball and never stops working for a rebound. He led the Big South in scoring at Presbyterian and is going to be a force in the SEC.
Auburn’s shocking depth and talent places Horace Spencer third on the depth chart. Spencer will add valuable energy and defensive pressure for the Tigers in a significant role.
- Austin Wiley
- Anfernee McLemore
- Horace Spencer
Auburn’s likely starting center didn’t play on the Italy trip due to a stress fracture suffered while playing for Team USA this summer but his starting role is not seriously in doubt. He started 22 of the 23 games he played in last summer and was the breakout star of TEAM USA.
Austin Wiley: a problem, part two. pic.twitter.com/Apd6ADvXV1— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) June 19, 2017
I have Anfernee McLemore ahead of Horace Spencer for second but expect both to see significant minutes.
All in all, this is shaping up to be a promising season. Auburn’s depth and talent keep getting a little better each year. Auburn should expect to see postseason play this year.