Ed Cooley isn't a huge believer in standard positions. Last season, Providence ran mostly pick-and-roll and flex on offense, and the current roster does not really have the necessary pieces to be truly effective running the pick-and-roll because Kris Dunn is not a great shooter at this point and there isn't a big four man who can be a dual threat off a pick-and-roll. Tyler Harris can pick and pop, while Ben Bentil can pick and roll.
Carson Desrosiers probably has the ability to pick and pop and pick and roll but was so tentative on offense last season. The other factor in how Ed Cooley will structure his offensive lineups is that Kris Dunn will likely be the only true ball-handler in the starting five. Those factors along with the overall lack of shooting as a team leads me to believe the 2014-15 Providence Friars team will run the flex offense a lot but will also probably be forced to deal with the zone defense a fair amount as well.
There are a few different configurations of the starting lineup that Ed Cooley will consider but here's my take on what it will be on opening night:
Kris Dunn (Guard, RS Sophomore) - Dunn is the key cog for Ed Cooley's Friars for a number of reasons. He is one of the best defenders in the Big East Conference when healthy and is the only true ball-handler on the roster other than incoming freshman Kyron Cartwright. If Dunn gets hurt again, the season is basically a wash for Cooley's club. Dunn has played 29 career games with 25 of them coming his freshman campaign after missing the first nine games of the 2012-13 season.
In early November 2013, he injured the same shoulder that he had surgery on prior to enrolling at Providence and would attempt to play through the injury. He only lasted four games and was shut down for another surgery. Dunn and Providence are applying for a medical redshirt to get the 2013-14 season's eligibility back. That is expected to be approved.
Cooley will take it slow with Dunn and not play him at all in the team's upcoming trip to Italy in August. He will be asked to play heavy minutes eventually, but freshman Kyron Cartwright will get a lot of minutes and reps in Italy. So Cartwright may get some more early season minutes than if Dunn wasn't coming off a second shoulder surgery.
Junior Lomomba (Guard/Forward, RS Sophomore) - This is where there could be some shuffling and difference of opinion. Outgoing transfer Josh Fortune's 33 minutes per game last season are now up for grabs and with Cooley and his staff unable to bring in any guards this spring since Kyron Cartwright in early April, this is a spot that is in flux at the moment.
Junior Lomomba sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules after transferring from Cleveland State. The Montreal, Quebec native played 25 games in the 2012-13 season for Cleveland State of the Horizon League and averaged 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He is regarded as a good athlete who is a plus defender but still needs development on his offensive game. The other option here is for Cooley to go with senior LaDontae Henton who has been working on his guard skills because at 6-foot-4-6-foot-5, Henton will have to play guard at the next level.
Cooley could opt to go with Henton here and slide either Rodney Bullock, Jalen Lindsey or Ben Bentil into the starting lineup at one of the forward positions. But I will go with Lomomba because I think this is the lineup that makes the most sense for the suffocating defense Cooley wants to play this season. During his radio show on April 26th prior to the end of the season banquet, Cooley discussed what the 2014-15 team's identity will be: "I think [our identity is] going to be our defensive length and quickness." To me, Lomomba as the 2nd guard makes more sense for that identity.
Tyler Harris (Guard/Forward, RS Junior) - Tyler Harris was inconsistent during his first year in Providence, Rhode Island. He is clearly a matchup problem because of his size and length but he still needs to learn how to hone his game and play more crafty. He attended the Kevin Durant Skills Academy for the second straight year, so hopefully he learned a few tricks of the trade that he can implement into his game for this upcoming season.
Harris is the second leading returning scorer at 11.6 points per game and had a better rebounding year than I expected him to have for someone who is only weighs 215 pounds at 6-foot-9. If Harris improves his shot selection and plays more under control to avoid the copious amount of charges he was called for last season, he has a chance to be a featured scorer on this team which is lacking in the scoring department.
LaDontae Henton (Guard/Forward, Sr.) - As I mentioned above, Henton could be starting at the other guard position instead of Lomomba which would mean this spot would likely go to one of freshmen Jalen Lindsey, Rodney Bullock or Ben Bentil. Lindsey is a wing player which would mean Harris would be playing the four which I do not love. Bullock is a slightly taller version of Henton in that he is a banger for rebounds and can shoot the ball though he lacks the 3-point shooting prowess that Henton has in his game.
Bentil would likely be the guy I would want starting here if Henton doesn't because it would be a more traditional power forward to allow Desrosiers to patrol the paint looking to block shots. But I have Henton in this spot because he is one of the best rebounders in the Big East with his long arms and reach and in the flex I don't think it matters if he plays the two, three or four. He may be needed more on the perimeter on offense because he is the best returning shooter, but I think this configuration makes the most sense for what Cooley wants.
Carson Desrosiers (Center, Rs Sr.) - Desrosiers had a really solid year last season and was the only player that played any significant minutes off the bench for the "Iron Six" unit. While a 7-footer who grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game may not look great, you have to realize he did that in under 20 minutes per game. His rebounds per 40 minutes stats put him ahead of Henton last year so with increased minutes, likely in the 27-30 minute range, his rebounding numbers should be solid. He also finished second in the Big East in blocks per game (2.4) in his inaugural season playing for the Friars.
7-foot-1 freshman Paschal Chukwu will be Desrosiers backup but I wouldn't expect him to play more than 10-15 minutes per game this season because he needs to add a lot of strength. He can contribute as a rim protector because of his length but he will get pushed off his spot and needs to develop his offense before playing any significant minutes at the Big East level. Cooley spoke highly of Desrosiers during that same April 26th radio show: "Carson is better than he thinks he is...His role will change. He'll touch the ball in different areas, he'll play more...The more confident he is, the more focused he is, I think the more success that he'll have. For us to be successful Carson's role is vital."