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He Will, He Won't, He Might 2018: K.J. Lawson

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Kansas guard K.J. Lawson (13) talks with Kansas head coach Bill Self during a break from action in the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard K.J. Lawson (13) talks with Kansas head coach Bill Self during a break from action in the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It’s been an interesting start to his Kansas career for K.J. Lawson, who played a monster role at Memphis alongside his brother, Dedric, before transferring to KU in April of 2017.

From living in the shadow of Dedric, who has received a ton of preseason praise and was talked about a lot even while he sat out during the 2017-18 season, to being the best player on the floor in small spurts and leading the team in rebounding during an exhibition trip to Italy last summer, Lawson has been a tough book to read so far.

And it certainly appears to be that way heading into the regular season.

Depending on who you’re talking to, a case could be made both ways for Lawson. Some believe he should play big minutes and possibly even in the mix to start. Others believe he’s an end-of-the-bench kind of contributor and still more land somewhere in between those two extremes.

Time will tell exactly how it all shakes out for Lawson. And it’s entirely possible that some unexpected factors could change and/or contribute to his role, which could change often throughout his KU career.

But from all indications, Lawson fits in well with this team and his teammates and is a hard worker who has a ton of confidence. That can only help his cause.

Here’s a look at a few other predictions for Lawson’s hard-to-project season.

He Will – Have the hardest time finding a regular spot in the rotation

Azubuike, Dedric, McCormack, Lightfoot and potentially De Sousa. Those are your KU big men and it’s hard to see Lawson, who is a good rebounder and can play big, finding minutes in the front court ahead of any of those guys.

Dotson, Grimes, Garrett, Vick, Moore. Those are your KU guards (not even counting potential redshirt Ochai Agbaji) and all of them bring things to the program that warrant consistent minutes.

So where does Lawson, who considers himself a guard, fit in that mix?

It’s so hard to say. And it likely will be heavily dependent on circumstances surrounding the entire bunch.

Lose a guy to injury for a couple of games or weeks? Lawson could see an uptick in playing time. Have one of those nights where nobody brings good energy, nothing’s going right and KU just doesn’t have it? Lawson could be a spark off the bench who brings critical energy and scoring to the court.

Outside of those kinds of scenarios, though, it’s hard to envision a steady, 15-minutes-a-game type of role for the older of the two Lawson brothers who is younger in terms of eligibility because of past injuries and redshirts.

He Won’t – Approach the numbers he averaged at Memphis

For all the reasons mentioned above and the overall talent on the Kansas roster, it’s next to impossible to imagine Lawson coming anywhere close to the numbers he put up at Memphis, which were so solid.

In 42 career games for the Tigers, Lawson averaged 11.5 points and 7 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per game from 2015-17.

That included totals of 12 points and 8 boards a game in 34 minutes during the 2016-17 season.

It’s the minutes as much as anything that will make it hard for Lawson to pick up those kinds of statistics. It’s just not at all likely that the 6-8, 210-pound sophomore will play 30-plus minutes a game at KU.

He Might – Be one of the bigger matchup problems in the Big 12

If there’s one reason for Lawson — in spite of all that was written above — to lobby for real playing time, it’s because of the matchup problem he poses for opponents.

He’s super comfortable on the perimeter, which can be tough for guys six, seven or eight inches shorter than him, and also isn’t afraid to crash the glass and do what he has to do to play inside.

Like his brother, who has a great shooting stroke and benefits from his 6-9 frame on the perimeter, Lawson also has no trouble getting shots off from behind the arc because very few guys who can challenge his shot are quick enough to check him on the perimeter.

That might not merit 20 minutes a game but it could come in handy in spurts and may make Lawson a very valuable situational player for this loaded Kansas team.

He Will, He Won't, He Might 2018:

• Senior guard Lagerald Vick

• Junior forward Mitch Lightfoot

• Junior center Udoka Azubuike

• Junior forward Dedric Lawson

• Sophomore guard Marcus Garrett

• Freshman guard Devon Dotson

• Freshman guard Quentin Grimes

• Freshman forward David McCormack

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