Which players should Kevin Kruger keep at UNLV?

With Kevin Kruger being elevated to head coach, UNLV might be able to keep the roster mostly intact going into next season. Which is something UNLV hasn’t done in nearly a decade. 

Ken Pom tracks minute continuity – or the percentage of minutes from one season to stick around for the following year. For the last nine seasons UNLV has ranked outside the top 200 in minute continuity. 

Nine straight years of significant roster turnover. 

Kevin Kruger can change that, but he’ll have to be smart about who he keeps because it was clear last season, UNLV needed better players. 

“We have had ongoing discussions and we’ll continue to do that,” Kruger said at his introductory press conference. “We’ll meet with the guys coming up here this week individually and just kind of see where they are at. This is going to be a program that is about the players. We want to make sure that they are happy that they are comfortable. That everything they want to do, not only in basketball but also in life, that we’re doing whatever we can to help them along that way.”

Here is the ranking of UNLV players Kevin Kruger should try to keep:

1 Arthur Kaluma

A top 50 recruit in the 2021 class that has surely heard from other schools since Otzelberger left. Kaluma could be a difference maker as a freshmen and will represent Kruger’s first big recruiting test as head coach.

2 Nick Blake

The best player in UNLV’s 2020 recruiting class had an up and down freshman season. But the highs showed he has talent to be a playmaker in the Mountain West. 

3 Caleb Grill (In transfer portal)

A great role player as a shooter and defender. UNLV just needs two legitimate stars to break down the defense and open up shots for Grill.

4 David Jenkins

Jenkins would be a spectacular offensive weapon on a team with two players than can breakdown a defense. Rather than being relied upon to create open shots, Jenkins could push 50 percent from three if he is pushed down the pecking order.

5 Bryce Hamilton

Pending UNLV’s success in the portal, Hamilton could rocket up or down this list. He was UNLV’s highest usage player the last two seasons. And keeping Hamilton would give UNLV a solid Mountain West scorer. But we have seen two Bryce Hamilton led teams fall short of the NCAA Tournament. And I am not sure he would be as useful as a second option.

6 Marvin Coleman

Ideally, UNLV has a starting point guard better than Marvin Coleman. But Coleman is a safe play at point guard and a player everyone in the program loves. He is someone you want on the team.

7 Moses Wood

Like Grill, Wood can be a solid role player as a shooter. While he doesn’t profile as a great defender, he made some of the highest effort plays on that end of the floor this season. 

8 Devin Tillis

He lacks the athleticism to be a true difference maker in the Mountain West. But Tillis is smart enough to have a role on a good team. Keeping him around would be helpful for years to come. 

9 Mbacke Diong

Diong comes in lower than Wood and Tillis simply because he only has one year left. He too fills a role as a defensive big. But like Coleman at point guard, ideally UNLV has a better starting center.

10 Keshon Gilbert

The other member of the 2021 recruiting class. Gilbert would be a freshman guard next season. He might prove this ranking wrong with a strong season. But for now, we’ll go off his recruiting ranking (3 star, 209th best player in the country by 247 Sports).

11 Edoardo Del Cadia (In transfer portal)

The junior college transfer did not play a ton of minutes last season. But he was fairly efficient on offense (1029 offensive rating, fifth best on the team).

12 Reece Brown

A freshman that UNLV likely would have preferred never played last season. But he was forced into action when UNLV got in foul trouble. He actually finished around the rim really well in his limited time.

13 Jhaylon Martinez (In transfer portal)

He didn’t play the entire season. So there isn’t much to go on here. But he did profile as a center that can shoot coming out of high school. So there could be some untapped positional value. 

14 Isaac Lindsey (In transfer portal)

An injury forced Lindsey to miss his freshman season. 

15 Donavan Yap (In transfer portal)

Yap played a total of 19 minutes last season. UNLV didn’t have a point guard all season and Otzelberger never turned to Yap to fill that hole.

Hopefully the biggest takeaway from that roster recap was the high amount of role players and lack of true difference makers. Kaluma and Blake are the only players with any potential to be better playmakers than Bryce Hamilton. 

Kruger needs to find a couple of difference makers. If (and it is a massive if) UNLV can land two transfers that are better than Bryce Hamilton, the rest of the roster actually looks pretty good. 

If the best player next season is Hamilton (or someone worse), it will be hard to imagine UNLV competing in the Mountain West. 

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