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Dakari Johnson's return makes Kentucky's loaded frontcourt even more crowded

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
Kentucky center Dakari Johnson (44) celebrates after a third-round game against Wichita State at the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. Kentucky won 78-76
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Kentucky center Dakari Johnson (44) celebrates after a third-round game against Wichita State at the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. Kentucky won 78-76. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kentucky already was certain to have the nation's deepest, most formidable frontcourt when forward Marcus Lee and center Willie Cauley-Stein announced they were returning earlier this month.   

Now that forward Alex Poythress and center Dakari Johnson announced Wednesday that they'll also be back, it begs the question whether there's such a thing as too much frontcourt talent.

Kentucky will boast three 7-footers on next year's roster: Projected 2015 first-round picks Cauley-Stein and Johnson and 2014 McDonald's All-American Karl Towns, Rivals.com's No. 11 prospect. Throw in skilled 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American forward Trey Lyles, a 6-foot-7 projected second-round pick in Poythress and an underutilized 6-foot-10 former top 30 recruit in Lee, and it's easy to see how John Calipari could be hard-pressed to find enough minutes to satisfy everyone.

One key for Kentucky this offseason will be Poythress improving his jump shot and ball handling skills sufficiently so he can play almost exclusively small forward next season. That would help fill the perimeter void for Kentucky if the Harrison twins turn pro later this week and alleviate some of the logjam in the frontcourt.

Even if Poythress shifts to the perimeter though, the remaining five big men would still only be splitting up 80 minutes among themselves.

On one hand, Kentucky will always have the size to defend the paint and to batter teams in the low post and on the offensive glass. On the other hand, whether it's Lee, Johnson or one of the freshmen, one highly talented potential NBA prospect is probably going to fall to that fifth big man slot and find themselves playing very sparingly. 

Johnson's return suggests he's confident that will not be him. His size and strength gave him a chance to be selected in the late first round or early second round had he turned pro, but he could climb draft boards next season if he develops his offensive repertoire and receives enough playing time to showcase it. 

"After looking at the information provided to me by Coach Cal and the NBA committee, my family and I made the decision for me to return to UK for my sophomore year," Johnson said in a school-issued statement. "Returning to school allows me to build on my leadership skills, improve my individual basketball strength and conditioning skills, and have another opportunity to accomplish one of my individual goals: winning an NCAA national championship in college."

If the Harrison twins return or Kentucky's freshman guards develop, Johnson indeed will have every chance to accomplish that last part. He and Kentucky's other big men just will have to make some individual sacrifices to allow the team to thrive.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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