There are not too many times in Florida State basketball history where the team loses two players to the NBA Draft, yet is still expected to make the NCAA Tournament the next year. Typically, the Seminoles have cycles of contention and rebuilding, and five years ago, that may have been true with the 2019-20 squad.
Not anymore. Leonard Hamilton’s recruiting and team management strategy means that Florida State still has enough pieces to make a run this coming season. Consider that the Seminoles lost leading rebounder Terance Mann and leading scorer Mfiondu Kabengele to the draft, starters Phil Cofer and Christ Koumadje, and contributors P.J. Savoy and David Nichols. The fact that they’re in this position is incredible.
It also means that this season’s team is going to look completely different.
This season’s team might not have a primary lineup until halfway through the year. Even then, it’s very possible that they rotate so frequently that there is no meaningful “starting” lineup.
We’ve highlighted two of the lineups that we think are the best options, after looking at what the team currently has available on roster.
Option 1: Traditional
Wing: Trent Forrest
Wing: M.J. Walker
Wing/Post: Malik Osborne
Post: RaiQuan Gray
Post: Dominik Olejniczak
This lineup is closest to what FSU has had the past couple of years. Trent Forrest is the only 100 percent guaranteed starter, and chances are he will assume the role of the point guard. His style isn’t all that similar to Mann’s, but their scoring abilities are — though Forrest probably has more raw ability than Mann.
The size of this lineup is what sticks out. Walker maintaining a spot at shooting guard gives you the size that you would miss with Mann. Transfer Malik Osborne measures in at 6-foot-9, so despite probably having the duties of a wing player, he can contribute a fair amount inside the key. It would also give him a mismatch advantage over most lineups.
Meanwhile, RaiQuan Gray can continue to grow into the stretch-forward role that he began to assume last season. The improvements in his game became more visible with each passing week.
Finally, Ole Miss transfer Dominik Olejniczak can become the spiritual successor to Boris Bojanovski, whose main role was (or should have been) shot blocking and the occasional offensive burst. Olejniczak is a bit of a wild card, but at 7-foot and 260 pounds, he figures to at least have bright spots throughout the year.
Option 2: Small(-ish) Ball
Wing: Trent Forrest
Wing: Devin Vassell
Wing: Patrick Williams
Post: Malik Osborne
Post: RaiQuan Gray
The biggest change here is the absence of Walker in favor of sophomore Devin Vassell, who came on strong at the end of last season with strong shooting performance. It’s completely fair to say that Walker is in his make-or-break year. He simply hasn’t improved much from his freshman season, and it looks like he is still trying to rely on physical talent, which won’t work in the ACC. If he shows up as the same player we saw last season (and the season before that), Hamilton might make the executive decision to have him coming off the bench.
Another new name appears with incoming 5-star recruit Patrick Williams. Prior to his senior season, Williams was not a popular pick to start immediately. But he gained his fifth star after putting together an impressive year, which saw him improve in virtually every aspect of his game. Most notably, he became a well-rounded scorer who didn’t just rely on attacking the rim. He will have a fair shot at cracking the rotation early.
Osborne and Gray as a post duo is slightly undersized, but it might be the best possible pairing when it comes to big men. They both have fluid styles and solid passing abilities. Watching them together would be quite fun.