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AUBURN — Bruce Pearl and his staff at Auburn will be without the instant offense of the Walker Kessler pick-and-roll or the Jabari Smith isolation plays during the 2022 season, and while Yohan Traore and Johni Broome could fill the void in some capacity, Pearl and his staff will need other players to step up.
One position that was underwhelming during Auburn’s historic season last year was small forward.
The 2019 season saw freshman sensation Isaac Okoro explode onto the season and really take that team to the next level, and it was Allen Flanigan leading the offense in the 2020 behind 14.5 points per game on 45% shooting for the sophomore forward.
Last season, a combination of Flanigan and Devan Cambridge struggled, especially from beyond the arc. Flanigan, who suffered an Achilles heel injury before the season that almost certainly affected him through the year, struggled with 6.3 points per game on just 39% from the field and 20% from the three-point line.
Cambridge continued his three-point shooting decline and finished the 2021 season making just 21% of his shots from beyond the arc.
The issues at the position did not come up much during the team’s 28-6 regular season campaign, but it did hurt the Tigers in postseason play as Texas A&M and Miami both locked in on the pick-and-roll and put pressure on the guards. The lack of shot creation from other positions cost Auburn in both games and ended the season earlier than many expected.
The key to the Bruce Pearl offense has been three-point shooting and shot creators at several positions, dating back to the Final Four run and again in 2019.
The small forward position could be the key to opening the offense up in 2022 and, like the rest of the roster, Bruce Pearl has yet to name the starter.
“I couldn’t say right now who would start. I’d probably give Chris [Moore] the nod because he’s been out there the whole time,” said Pearl.
Moore, a former four-star, according to 247Sports, took a backseat behind Cambridge and Flanigan last season, but has an opportunity to take charge at the wing with Cambridge transferring, an injury to Chance Westry and Allen Flanigan leaving the team for a short time last month.
Westry was a highly touted recruit from Compass Prep in Arizona and seemed poised to take over the position due to his versatility and three-point shooting, but he had arthroscopic knee surgery in early October and was expected to be out 3-4 weeks.
With that, Moore has stepped up to the plate and come a long way in his third season on the Plains.
“At the end of the summer, Chris was right there having a chance to start the position. He's still right there,” Pearl said. “He had a great summer. He did have a great summer.”
Despite this, Pearl is still leaving the position up in the air, pointing again to the team’s depth and the talent at all five positions.
“[Moore] is getting pushed by Lior, he'll get pushed by Al, Chance will be back in a few weeks," Pearl said at the team’s Pro Day. “And so it'll probably be a moving target.”
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