Purdue fans were basic settling down this offseason, assuming the addition of senior transfer Johnny Hill was the last addition to the Boilermakers roster next season. Of course then there was some curiosity when former target Caleb Swanigan decommitted from Michigan State. Curiosity that led to full blown obsession thanks to a certain tweet by Dan Dakich. When everything was said and done, the Boilers ended up landing a coveted recruit in Swanigan, considered to be one of the top recruits from the class of 2015. This led to an avalanche of celebration across the fan base, with Purdue set to bring a loaded frontcourt to the table next season.
Of course that creates an interesting situation within itself. Talk behind the scenes has led to speculation that part of the reason Swanigan landed at Purdue was because of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas, who are firmly planted at the five slot. With two big men at seven feet or taller, Purdue doesn't need a starting center. That of course means Swanigan can play as a power forward, a position he reportedly prefers, instead of being forced to run the five like he might have elsewhere. The move of course means Purdue will have a ton of fire power inside, but it also creates a question as to what will happen to the remaining forwards on the depth chart.
In a roster that utilizes Hammons at the five (with Haas spelling him) and Swanigan at the four, we can assume that Hill or P.J. Thompson will be at the one. That of course leaves two remaining spots on the starting rotation with question as to who will land said spots. It'll be very hard to picture senior leader (and returning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year) Rapheal Davis getting squeezed, with his perimeter defense being a huge asset for the Boilers, as well as a blooming offensive game late last season. There's also a pair of guards in Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias, both three point specialists that will likely be utilized in a more sixth man sort of role. That fills up a solid chunk of the minutes available for the roster, with sophomore Vince Edwards likely seeing a solid amount of minutes as his versatility will be necessary to keep the floor spaced out unless Swanigan randomly develops a three point shot.
The reality is the logjam means we'll likely see a balanced six man rotation including Hammons, Swanigan, Edwards, Davis, Stephens and Hill, with Haas, Mathias and Thompson likely spelling them. With a pair of freshman guards set to come in, it's safe to say that both Ryan Cline and Grant Weatherford could be potential redshirts, while a set of walk-ons will likely be saved for gutter time. That leaves two guys that seem to be the odd men out for Purdue next season: Basil Smotherman and Jacquil Taylor.
When it comes to Jacquil Taylor, the news isn't a huge surprise. The (assuming his medical hardship waiver is approved) redshirt freshman came to West Lafayette with some talent, but was very raw and definitely a project for Matt Painter and company. Injury issues hampered him early on and before you knew it, Taylor was riding the bench in hopes of keeping a year of eligibility. He most likely will retain said year, but he now is so deep on the rotation that seeing any playing time will likely be relegated to non-conference blow-outs and an occasional bench clearing in conference play. Luckily for Taylor, as a freshman, he could actually develop since there is the possibility that Swanigan could be a one-and-done and some spots could open up in the future when he's a sophomore or junior.
What will be even more interesting is what happens to Basil Smotherman, the odd man out with the addition of Swanigan. The 6'6" forward typically plays the four, with the potential to play the three in a bigger lineup. With Swanigan now likely becoming the starting power forward and guys like Vince Edwards and Rapheal Davis likely earning solid minutes each night, Smotherman suddenly becomes the odd man out. His minutes already dipped last season to only about 13 minutes a night, but the forward came in bursts and his ability to run the baseline and get to the rim was able to spark runs for the Boilers. The reality is Smotherman could be relegated to the Bryson Scott role, with the junior buried in the rotation, but occasionally earning solid minutes off the bench and making the occasional contribution.
For the first time in several years Painter now has the issue of having possibly too much depth and not enough minutes to go around, likely leaving several guys originally thought to be major players out of the lineup. It's not a bad problem to have, but when the rotation starts to tighten in January it means that Painter will have to make some tough decisions. The past few years have seen a Purdue team high on inexperience and underclassmen trying to solidify defined roles and expectations. Now Purdue has a balanced roster with few question marks, likely yielding the best roster since all three of the Baby Boilers were still in West Lafayette.
While several guys could see their minutes decline in 2015-16, it'll probably be best for the team when everything is said and done. For the first time in quite some time Purdue enters the season with one of the more experienced programs in the Big Ten. Now Painter just needs to figure out the best rotation to take advantage of the talent at hand.