While Vanderbilt's backcourt is filled with young, unproven talent, the Commodores have plenty of veterans who can lead this team from the paint.
Seniors James Siakam and Shelby Moats will give Kevin Stallings some muscle up front, but the ever-growing Luke Kornet could be the key to spacing this team's offense and making room for Vandy's big men to thrive in the paint. The sophomore's soft scoring touch and ability to shoot over defenders make him a solid compliment for Siakam and Moats's rim-centric games. If Kornet can develop into a reliable pick-and-pop shooter at seven feet tall, he'll give the Commodores a weapon that few SEC teams can account for.
That versatility would be a huge asset. Kornet got thrown into the fire last winter as a skinny and inexperienced freshman and struggled to make a significant impact. Since then, he's added muscle and played in enough league games to understand what it takes to be a power forward in the SEC. He'll also have the chance to learn from Siakam, a tenacious rebounder and defender who has developed the skills to play bigger than his 6'7" frame would allow. Both players have the potential to steal the spotlight in Vandy games this winter - let's take a closer look.
James Siakam (6'7", 225 lbs), Senior: Siakam emerged as a reliable starter at power forward last season to post career highs in points (7.2), rebounds (5.3), assists (1.2), and blocks (1.3) per game. He shot a blistering 58.9 percent in his breakout season, but that was mostly a function of taking most of his shots at the rim. Many of those came on second chance opportunities; Siakam developed into a reliable offensive rebounder who would rip the ball down in traffic and then put it back up for easy points for the 'Dores.
He seems likely to retain his starting spot this winter despite the presence of seven-footer Kornet behind him. Siakam may be undersized, but he's a tenacious and efficient player who brings an added dimension of toughness to the court. A healthy Josh Henderson could help drag opponents out of the paint and give the veteran forward more space with which to operate in 2014-15. A little extra room around the rim could equate to an even bigger season for Siakam in his senior year.
Shelby Moats (6'8", 221 lbs), Senior: Moats won't set the court on fire with his high-flying dunks or lights-out shooting, but he's a reliable frontcourt presence who plays hard, bodies up opposing big men in the paint, and provides an occasional scoring punch around the rim. His three-point shooting came on late in the 2013-14 season when he made six of his last 11 shots from long range, but it's difficult to suggest that he'll be a floor-spacing big man for the 'Dores this fall.
Moats saw his minutes drop from 16.6 to 10.7 in a year where Vandy had only seven healthy or eligible scholarship players. While that number may go up now that Rod Odom has graduated, it seems unlikely that he'll play a major role for the team this winter.
Luke Kornet (7'0", 240 lbs), Sophomore: The younger Kornet - his father played for the 'Dores from 1985 to 1989 - came to Vandy as an under-the-radar prospect after growing approximately four feet in his senior year of high school. He now stands an even seven feet tall and will give Kevin Stallings a massive shooting presence through which he can stretch the floor.
Kornet made just 23.6% of his three-pointers last season but showed enough of a shooting touch for Stallings to keep giving him the green light from long range. He's a strong enough shooter to pull his defender out of the lane and out to the perimeter, and that skill should help slashing ballhandlers like Wade Baldwin and Jeff Roberson get to the rim with less drama when Kornet is on the floor. He's still adding weight, but the extra muscle he packed on over the past year should help him develop into a more complete rebounder and rim protector on the defensive end. It may still be a bit soon to predict a breakout year for the sophomore, but he has the skill and size to be a special player in Nashville.