Key Departures: Moses Wright (Grad); Jose Alvarado (Grad);
New In Town: Deivon Smith (<–Miss St); Deebo Coleman (#66); Miles Kelly (#121); Jalon Moore (#212)
State of the Program:
Josh Pastner finally looks to have something going with Georgia Tech after his 5th season finally resulted in a tournament appearance and an ACC tournament victory. They lost leading scorer Moses Wright in that Championship game and subsequently lost in the 1st round in the big dance but it was a giant step forward for Pastner and the Yellow Jackets. Wright and second leading scorer Jose Alvarado are both gone after graduating and signing as undrafted FA’s in the NBA, but the entire rest of the rotation is back giving Pastner a ton of experience. Michael Devoe (SR) leads the returning group after averaging 15 ppg and he’ll have starters Jordan Usher (SR) and Bubba Parham (SR) back with him alongside role players Khalid Moore (SR), Kyle Sturdivant (JR) and Rodney Howard (JR). To get 6 returning contributors back is incredibly rare in this day and age and on that alone GA Tech will have an advantage with chemistry and culture over their peers. Combine that with a nice incoming class and expectations have to be as high as they’ve ever been in the Pastner era, with eyes on their first tourney win since 2010.
One transfer comes into the program via Mississippi St in G Deivon Smith (SO), who was a top-70 recruit in last season’s class and played a lot off the bench for the Bulldogs. He comes in as an elite athlete that excels when on the attack, especially in transition where he is dynamic. His jumper was the knock on him coming out of HS and that was issue a season ago, shooting 28% from 3 and 34% overall. He will need to improve his efficiency but has a chance to battle for a starting gig in the backcourt. The best of the Freshman coming in is Dallan “Deebo” Coleman (#66) who is one of the best pure shooters in the class. He is not an explosive athlete but is strong and uses his creativity to create space and get his shot off. He’s 6’6” and with his strength and frame he could become an elite player if he improves his playmaking ability, and this season will undoubtedly contribute off the bench given his jumper and physicality. Also incoming is G Miles Kelly (#121) who is a lanky athlete who has deep range as his jumper is his best weapon, similar to Coleman. He’s smaller and more athletic than Coleman, but both of them have great potential as both scorers and defenders, exactly what Pastner looks for in wings. Kelly doesn’t attack much but his ability to create space and shoot off the dribble separate him from others in the class and gives him a chance to be a high volume scorer one day. The last freshman coming to town is wing Jalon Moore (#212) who has 3 and D potential as he’s a great athlete and is developing a nice looking outside shot. He has a ways to go in the skill development department but with his length and athleticism could be a force in a couple of seasons for the Yellow Jackets.
Most people seem to have dismissed the Yellow Jackets this season due to the loss of their 2 leading scorers, and while that is a concern they have, in my opinion, enough talent left and incoming to make it back to the tournament. Devoe can be a star and Parham and Usher showed they have the ability to elevate their games. Throw in the young talents of Smith and Coleman in the backcourt and I don’t think the Yellow Jackets fall off as much as people think. The biggest concern is going to be in the frontcourt, as they will need Rodney Howard to step up and provide an inside presence, as they struggled rebounding on both ends and lost their leading rebounder in Wright. The lack of ability to end possessions with a defensive rebound and no shot blocking presence hurt the defensive numbers which Pastner typically hangs his hat on. They were one of the best teams at forcing turnovers and getting steals, but the weakness inside hurt. That is more the story to watch for me, as I think the offense can make up for the losses of Wright and Alvarado, but defensively they need to shore up the frontcourt and will likely lean on Howard to do so. Despite that weakness Pastner should still have enough firepower and a good enough defense on the perimeter to get this team a 2nd trip in a row to the big dance and maybe break through with a win or 2.