How does a team that already struggles offensively replace over five assists per game?
With Florida starting point guard Andrew Nembhard transferring, this is the question that coach Mike White and his staff must answer. The former-five star recruit has been solid for UF since his freshman season, averaging 9.6 points per game over the course of his two seasons in orange and blue. But more importantly, he has averaged over five assists per game, and that is what the Gators will miss the most.
A plethora of names: Cleveland State transfer Tyree Appleby, Tre Mann (should he return from the NBA draft pool), Ques Glover, Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson will all need to pick up the slack offensively.
Out of this group, Appleby has the best chance to mimic what Nembhard did as a point guard. Sitting out this past season due to ineligibility, his last basketball came in the 2018-19 season at Cleveland State.
He averaged 5.6 assists per game, to go with improved scoring as a sophomore - averaging 17.2 points per game and shooting 38.9% from beyond the arc (74 of 190). Granted, that came mostly against significantly weaker competition in the Horizon League than he will face in the SEC. But, he is still the only player of that group that has shown an assist average that could actually impact a game.
While Appleby could mimic Nembhard the most, he is the biggest wildcard of this entire group since he has not played in a Florida uniform yet. A name that is not so much of a wildcard, however, is Johnson.
At 14 points per game last year, Johnson was unquestionably Florida's best scorer. However, the second-year forward was rarely a facilitator, averaging just 1.6 assists per game.
But for Johnson to prove to NBA scouts that he can play at the next level, this is as good an opportunity as any for him to diversify his game. With so much defensive attention on him in the coming year, opportunities will be there to hit open guys.
Furthermore, without a more traditional point guard leading the offense, White's group should speed up significantly in 2020-21. The 2019-20 season was an awkward mix of half court guys in Nembhard and graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr, and fast paced guys like Lewis, Johnson, Mann and Glover.
But this year, the transition players are back, and the half-court guys are not. Defensively, with Johnson and Lewis leading the charge, the 2020-21 squad should return to the form of a typical team coached by White.
That ideally would lead to turnovers and transition buckets with all the athleticism that the Gators will have on the court. Without a floor general like Nembhard to piece together a half court offense, that seems to be the only way that this UF team could be dangerous offensively.