SAN FRANCISCO — Dana Altman began his opening remarks of the 2017 Pac-12 media day with one of the most obvious statements of the day.
“We have a lot of new faces on our ball team this year,” Altman said. “Got big shoes to fill.”
If anything, it was an understatement.
Oregon enters the 2017-18 season without the likes of Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Tyler Dorsey, Casey Benson and Dylan Ennis, a core of players who combined to score 69 out of the 79 points that the Ducks averaged per game last year. The group lead Oregon to its first Final Four in almost 80 years. It may take some time before Oregon fields a core that talented again.
But Oregon’s rebuilding effort is off to a solid start. The Ducks hauled in the No. 12 recruiting class in the country, featuring NBA first round draft caliber player Troy Brown, and they added two experienced and talented transfers in Elijah Brown and MiKyle McIntosh.
And while many questions swirl about this team as the season nears, now only a month away, one thing has become clear: the new personnel will change the identity of how this team plays.
A season ago, Altman discussed the fact that Oregon lacked wing players, specifically 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 players who bring more dimension to a team’s offense and defense. Last year, Oregon was guard and forward heavy, and would often play three guards alongside shot blockers like Bell and Boucher.
Now, it seems Oregon is loaded with wing players, but lacks depth at forward and guard. Six of Oregon’s 11 scholarship players are 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-9 inches tall, what you would consider a wing in college, three of them are 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-2, while only two are above 6-foot-9.
Remember all those blocked shots records that Bell and Boucher set the last two seasons? Those records will be safe this year.
One positive of this new-look roster, though, is the explosive and versatile potential it has.
“I see us as a team that’s extremely athletic, a lot of length too,” Elijah Brown said. “Not necessarily a ton of 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 guys, but there are a lot of 6-foot-5 [to] 6-foot-8 guys where we can be versatile.”
That versatility could come in the form of some wings running at the point. Brown is a player that Altman said will probably take some minutes at point guard. That versatility may also take the form of some unconventional lineups this season.
“We can play four guards, sometimes even five guards with a couple more bigger guards play at the four or the five or something like that,” Elijah said. “I just feel like our versatility is something that we’re going to be able to use this year.”
Basketball as a whole seems to be moving towards a more wing-heavy game. Oregon appears to be buying in, but at a cost. Altman called the lack of depth at guard “a problem.” The same issue persists at forward, where Oregon will be without a bonafide shot-blocking presence for the first time in a while.
All things considered, Payton Pritchard, the lone returning starter, still thinks this team can hold its own with any in the country. They’re a talented and versatile group, but the experience of playing together is invaluable and something that can’t be manufactured overnight.
“Definitely, the pieces are there to make a run,” Pritchard said. “But we gotta come together as a team and a lot of that is playing right and playing good at the right time.”
Altman’s teams traditionally play better at the end of the season and there’s no reason to think this group will be different. The only question is what will this team be until then.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris