Louisville basketball has had to play shorthanded all year long. What will the starting lineup look like when everyone returns?
As of right now, forward Malik Williams is still nursing his foot after he had surgery in the preseason. His timetable seems to be consistent with a return in the middle of February or possibly later. Either way, it is likely that Louisville basketball will be completely healthy again at some point before the season is completed.
That means that Chris Mack will have some difficult decisions to make when it comes to the starting lineup for this basketball team.
Meanwhile, San Francisco graduate transfer Charles Minlend is likely to make his season debut the next time Louisville takes the floor. As of right now, that would be on Wednesday, Jan. 13 against Wake Forest.
How Mack chooses to insert Minlend in to the lineup will be very interesting to observe. Will he start right away? Will he be slowly eased in? Will he ever be a consistent starter?
These are all valuable (and fair) questions to be asking regarding the future of the Cardinals’ starting lineup.
He will be a big contributor in some capacity. But perhaps Mack will like him better as a sixth man.
Perhaps even more interesting is wondering how things shift when Malik Williams returns.
Redshirt freshman Jae’Lyn Withers just had his best game of the year from the center spot with a 16 point, 12 rebound performance against 19th ranked Virginia Tech. It would certainly seem wise to keep giving him all the minutes he deserves.
Regardless, there are plenty of variables to consider.
Let’s dive in on a projected starting lineup once this squad is fully healthy.
G Carlik Jones & G David Johnson
Let’s start with the complete no-brainers of the group. However you want to list them, these are the starting guards that are interchangeable at the “1” (point guard) and the “2” (shooting guard).
These two are the unquestioned most consistent players on the team that have brought the most on a nightly basis for the team. The only way that one of them exits the starting lineup is if one of them comes down with an injury or is held out for Covid-related purposes.
Jones is averaging 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game this season. After coming over as a graduate transfer from Radford, Jones is proving to the nation that he can put together the same kind of impressive performances in the ACC.
Johnson is averaging 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game as a true sophomore during the 2020-21 season. He is shooting a red-hot 46 percent from beyond the arc this year after being a three-point shooting liability as a freshman. He will rightfully be an NBA player as soon as 2021 and he is showing out as an efficient, lethal sophomore.
The duo is the engine that makes this Louisville team go and they will be large components to any kind of postseason run in March. You can sharpie both of them in as guaranteed starters with a completely healthy lineup.