The Big 12 conference has produced some of the most dominant talent to ever grace the NBA hardwood. With current big names like Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid to the more household names such as Wilt Chamberlain and Paul Pierce, the Big 12’s contribution to the NBA is irrefutable.
With that said, I present Head to Head in the Big 12, where I will be analyzing current player matchups for Texas against their contemporaries in the Big 12 conference. NOTE: I set the starting five for the opposition based off overall talent, and then I assemble the Longhorn five based off matchups.
This week we’ll look at former Jayhawks in the NBA against former Longhorns in the NBA.
C- Joel Embiid
PF- Marcus Morris
SF- Andrew Wiggins
SG- Kelly Oubre Jr.
PG- Devonte’ Graham
C- LaMarcus Aldridge
PF- P.J. Tucker
SF- Kevin Durant
SG- Avery Bradley
PG- D.J. Augustin
The hardest part about setting the Longhorns’ lineup was my incapability to bench LaMarcus Aldridge in favor of Jarrett Allen. I gave Aldridge a slight edge over Allen because of his scoring versatility. Although Aldridge has a heavier frame than Embiid, I don’t believe he’ll be able to use this to his complete advantage as he relies more on bank shots and his midrange as opposed to establishing a consistent presence in the post.
Center Advantage: Kansas
At the four, Marcus Morris is having a career season averaging career highs in both points and rebounds for the New York Knicks. In 19 starts, Morris has already established himself as a leader and the guy Knicks can confidently entrust their offense in. I think P.J. Tucker and Morris bring very similar dynamics to whatever team they’re suiting up for as they both bring exceeding levels of tenacity and toughness to their respective lineups.
Power Forward Advantage: Kansas
Adding Kevin Durant to any lineup works in the Longhorn’s favor against almost any forward tandem that the Big 12 can offer. Wiggins is having a career season that will put him in the conversation for most improved player. Obviously, we can’t predict who Durant will be coming off such a serious injury as he’s not expected to suit up for the Brooklyn Nets this season. However, I cannot put Wiggins remotely close to Durant’s skill level — even coming off an Achilles tendon surgery.
Small Forward Advantage: Longhorns
The shooting guard position presents a situation where we have the savvy two-way veteran in Avery Bradley going up against Kelly Oubre Jr. who is having a very solid season for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have given Oubre an enormous opportunity this season, and he’s made the most of it averaging almost 18 points a game as the third-leading scorer on the team. Bradley, on the other hand, is a finished product.
Shooting Guard Advantage: Longhorns
Kansas has a clear advantage in this department with the biggest point guard off measures that the Longhorns have to offer is Cory Joseph. Meanwhile, Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham has also emerged as an early favorite for most improved player. I remember watching him and former Kansas teammates Malik Newman and current Detroit Pistons guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk run the Big 12 during the 2017-18 college season, and I think Graham can have a similar impact for an up and coming Charlotte Hornets team moving forward.
Point Guard Advantage: Kansas
Verdict: I have the Kansas starting five taking this one. Kansas’ has a tangible size advantage in this matchup against the Longhorns. I wouldn’t expect the Jayhawks to have their complete way on both sides of the ball because of this advantage, but I do believe the disparity presented here is significant enough to hinder the Longhorns. Sure, Kevin Durant is the best player out of both lineups, but until Durant proves he can elevate an undermatched team on his own and successfully recover from his Achilles tendon injury I can’t consider this Texas team a favorite.