Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers

Clemson basketball looks to build off an impressive 2020-21 season that saw the Tigers ranked as high as 12th in the AP Poll.

Clemson basketball will say goodbye to the Aamir Simms era and hello to the Al-Amir Dawes and Nick Honor era. Naz Bohannon comes in as a grad transfer to help cover the bruise of losing two starters. The ACC will be a tough conference as always, but the Tigers are built to compete hard.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Al-Amir Dawes (6-2, 180, Jr.)

2021 stats: 9.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 39.4 3P%

Projected stats: 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 40.5 3P%

SG: Nick Honor (5-10, 205, Jr.)

2021 stats: 8.1 points, 2.2 assists, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 36.7 3P%

Projected stats: 11.5 points, 2.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 38.0 3P%

SF: Naz Bohannon (6-6, 230, Gr.-Sr.)

2021 stats: 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists (Youngstown State)

Projected stats: 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists

PF: Hunter Tyson (6-8, 215, Sr.)

2021 stats: 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 43.1 3P%

Projected stats: 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 42.0 3P%

C: PJ Hall (6-10, 235, So.)

2021 stats: 3.5 points, 2.0 rebounds

Projected stats: 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

6: David Collins (6-4, 220, Gr.-Sr.)

2021 stats: 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 37.3 3p% (South Florida)

Projected stats: 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 36.5 3P%

7: Alex Hemenway (6-3, 185, Jr.)

2021 stats: 4.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, 38.7 3P%

Projected stats: 5.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 39.5 3P%

8: Ian Schieffelin (6-8, 225, Fr.)

247Sports 3-star recruit

Projected stats: 2.5 points, 1.5 rebounds

9: Ben Middlebrooks (6-10, 190, Fr.)

247Sports 3-star recruit

Projected stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds

10: Chase Hunter (6-3, 204, Rs.-So.)

2021 stats: 2.9 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists

Projected stats: 3.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists

Team MVP: Al-Amir Dawes

Losing Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp is no joke. Brad Brownell has never been the coach to put everything on one player, but Dawes might feel that going into the season as the Tigers lose two of their top four scorers from last season. Dawes will just be entering his third season, but expect a big rise to a higher level. He’s got what it takes to be the go-to guy for Clemson basketball, but we’ll have to see it before making any sure-fire predictions.

Make-0r-Break Player: PJ Hall

Losing Simms doesn’t just mean Clemson will be without their best player from a year ago. It also means the Tigers will have a new starting center. Hall played sparingly last season, but was a top-100 recruit and seems like the only conceivable option to start at center this season. He could certainly make a huge jump, but right now I’m a bit conservative, given he only played in about 10 minutes per game last season. Hall showed promise, but this year he will need to show results.

Bench Rating: 7/10

Guard play will be Clemson’s biggest strength, so that’s what makes their bench mobile. I have David Collins off the bench, but even if he were to start and Nick Honor would be the sixth man, Clemson basketball should still be excited about its rotation.

A trio of freshmen – two of them being post players – will have to play big for Brownell to get the most out of his bench. The starting lineup resembles what Clemson basketball is usually built upon – one or two leaders with a whole lot of team play. However, it’s a lot to ask for freshmen to step up on the bench. Even if just one of them gives Brownell a consistent ten minutes per game, the Tigers will have nothing to worry about. It’s a talented bench, but if the talent doesn’t show in year one for these freshmen, it could become slim.

Team Outlook

It’s always a difficult conference to place well in, but for the second straight year, it doesn’t appear like the ACC will have more than four or five ranked teams throughout the season. The Tigers will be middle of the pack, which means they could finish a lot better than expected. In other words, don’t be surprised to see them in sixth place in February.

Coach Brownell schedules tough, so we’ll be able to learn pretty early on how Clemson basketball will be this season. Non-conference tests include Temple (neutral), St. Bonaventure or Boise State (neutral), Rutgers (away), and Drake (neutral). Those are all winnable games, but they also pose significance as far as Clemson’s ability to win early.

I actually do like this team the more I look at it. Sure, they’re young in some areas, but you can never expect player statistics to blow you away on a Clemson basketball team. They’ve got experience in the starting lineup, and if PJ Hall lives up to the reason he was recruited, it gives me a reason to believe that they could finish inside the top 8 in the ACC. Unfortunately, that’s a big if, which is why they’re ranked a bit lower to begin the season.

To wrap it all up, expect Clemson basketball to be an above-.500 team with chances at winning quality games to get into the NCAA Tournament. If they can win the majority of those, they’ll have a good chance at getting in. If not, they have an experienced team, but not a senior-led team. Next season the Tigers can be dangerous.

Projected Finish: 11th in ACC

Projected Postseason Finish: NIT appearance

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Round of 32 exit