Remember Khem Birch? Before Steven Adams, Birch was the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by Jamie Dixon. Birch didn’t last long at Pitt. He left the team last fall after 10 games and transferred to UNLV, where he played his first game of the season Monday night.
Birch scored four points and had three rebounds off the bench in UNLV’s 62-60 win over UTEP. Birch became eligible after sitting out a year under NCAA transfer rules. It’s quite possible he will be more productive for the Runnin’ Rebels as the season progresses, but he’s not exactly off to a great start.
In fact, it was the type of unspectacular performance that many Pitt fans had come to expect from Birch when he played for the Panthers last season.
Which brings us to this question: Are the Panthers better off without him?
Forget about the fact that Birch did not mesh well with teammates and was not well-received by teammates. It is well-documented that he was not a good fit for the locker room and adversely affected team chemistry.
I am looking at this strictly from an on-court basketball perspective.
One of Pitt’s best players this season has been Talib Zanna, the starting power forward. If Birch was still at Pitt, Zanna likely would be the role of backup power forward and center. Even though Birch is talented it’s hard to imagine him doing better than Zanna, who is averaging 12.6 and 5.8 per game.
It also means J.J. Moore’s role on the team would be different. Moore has been productive as Zanna’s backup, averaging 10.2 points per game.
If Birch was still with the team Moore likely would still be the backup small forward behind Lamar Patterson, a spot where Moore had a difficult time finding a rhythm last season. He has been much-better suited for his role as a power forward because he is getting more minutes and is a matchup problem for opposing teams.
I have written before how Birch’s decision to reclassify greatly impacted Dixon’s recruiting and the construction of his roster. But after the year without Birch it appears the Panthers are in a pretty good spot because of Zanna and Moore.
|< Prev||Next >|