Projecting breakout potential on the 2020-21 Kansas basketball roster

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) elevates to the bucket against TCU forward Diante Smith (10) during the second half, Wednesday, March 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Now that we’re less than a month out from the official start of the 2020-21 college basketball season (practice, that is), I figured it was time to start taking a closer look at the Kansas basketball roster and to set a few expectations for the upcoming season.

By expectations, we’re not talking number of wins, finish in the Big 12 standings, NCAA Tournament seed or where KU will finish when it’s all said and done.

Those things rarely change, with Lawrence being one of the world’s hubs for the win-it-all-or-bust mentality from the fan base and the program.

So instead of talking about the team’s potential as a whole, I figured it would be a little more interesting and fun to dive in at the individual level.

First up: Breakout players.

Because Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson are both gone, there will be plenty of opportunity for at least a couple of Jayhawks to fill those roles and break out in a big way during the 2020-21 season.

Here’s my list of the five Jayhawks most likely to do that.

1 – Christian Braun – Bigger, stronger, more experienced and more comfortable from Day 1. Braun was solid as a freshman last season, but his potential for the 2020-21 season is off the charts. Already plugged in as one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, Braun’s ability as a defender and his fearless demeanor when attacking the rim make him a complete player who should be a handful for opponents on both ends of the floor during his sophomore season. While he won’t exactly be one of the team’s primary leaders, Braun figures to feel more ownership in this year’s squad and that can only help, as well.

2 – Marcus Garrett – I get it. Garrett’s already a star in his own right, but I’m betting the best is yet to come. The reigning Naismith defensive player of the year will have all kinds of freedom to do more than he ever has on offense and he’ll also be the team’s unquestioned leader and most experienced player. Improved 3-point shooting would make Garrett a lock for the 2021 NBA draft, but even without major strides in that department, I think he’ll be in the conversation for Big 12 Player of the Year and All-American honors this season.

3 – David McCormack – It’s easy to look at McCormack’s size and position and expect for him to fill the Azubuike role in the KU lineup. But that’s not exactly a given. First off, he’s still got some work to do as a perimeter defender and, second, he’s not nearly the immovable force in the paint on offense that Dok was (who is?) and tends to enjoy hanging around the perimeter as much as he likes to battle inside. He’ll get every opportunity to fill Azubuike’s shoes, though, and that puts him in double-double range on a nightly basis and puts his potential at an all-Big 12/All-American type level.

4 – Dajuan Harris – Harris won’t have to do much to be considered a breakout performer because I don’t think many people are expecting too much from him. You should be, though. Harris is going to play significant minutes and should play a key role in making life easier for the rest of the Jayhawks on the floor. Fans will love him and his teammates will love him even more. Remember a couple of years ago when Charlie Moore played in 35 games and averaged 13.1 minutes per game for KU? Give Harris that kind of a role and he’ll produce at a much higher rate than Moore did.

5 – Tyon Grant-Foster – With no time to waste, eligibility-wise, and a couple of years of maturity on the other newcomers, Grant-Foster should be as motivated as any player on KU’s roster to deliver a monster season. It’ll only come, of course, if he commits to playing defense and plays within the system. Offensively, he should be able to provide the Jayhawks with something they have not had since Josh Jackson left town. He plays above the rim, can get his own shot, is comfortable in transition and should be able to steal possessions and points by hitting the offensive glass. His versatility and ability to create matchup problems on both ends will be valuable weapons for the 2020-21 Jayhawks.

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