Connect with us

NBA Draft

NBA PM: Eight Kentucky Wildcats Going Pro?

As many as eight players from the Kentucky Wildcats could be entering the 2014 NBA Draft … Jabari Parker still undecided about future

Yannis Koutroupis

Published

on

BasketballInsiders.com’s Yannis Koutroupis and CineSport’s Noah Coslov discuss which players in the Final Four are flying under the radar as NBA draft prospects.

Eight Kentucky Wildcats Going Pro?

When Aaron Harrison nailed the game-winning three against Michigan, he didn’t just send the Kentucky Wildcats to the Final Four. He also earned the coaching staff and athletic director $330,000 in bonuses, adding fuel to the fire that college student-athletes deserve to be paid. While the NCAA and universities netting billions off of amateur athletes and restricting their potential income in the process is an issue that needs to be addressed, no tears should be shed for Harrison and his teammates – because their big pay day is just around the corner.

One of the other byproducts of this unexpected run by the Wildcats is that their entire rotation’s draft stock is rising.

Regardless of how they fare at the Final Four, eight Wildcats are going to have to legitimately sit down and contemplate whether they want to return next season or go pro. For some the decision will be clear cut, while others may want/need to stay, but would have to embrace the risk of losing playing time to another loaded recruiting class coming into Lexington. Calipari already has National Letters of Intent from four of the top recruits in the 2014: shooting guard Devin Booker, point guard Tyler Ulis, power forward Trey Lyles and center Karl Towns Jr.

Here’s a look at each of those eight players individually and where they stand in terms of the NBA Draft:

Julius Randle – Power Forward
Once Randle arrives back in Lexington, he should immediately pack his bags and get ready to move to wherever he is doing his pre-draft training, because his time in college has come to an end. Kentucky head coach John Calipari wouldn’t let him stay if he wanted to. The whole reason Randle signed on to play for Cal was to be groomed into the best prospect he could be and that has happened. He’s put up a double-double every tournament game so far and while Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins have been watching since the opening weekend, he’s established himself as the most pro ready of the bunch.

We’ll have to see just how high that moves him on draft night, but Randle’s stock is firmly in the top four and there is absolutely no reason for him to even think about staying for his sophomore season.

James Young – Small Forward
At times this year, Young has played like a top 10 pick. Unfortunately for Young, that was earlier in the season. He’s been steady, but not as explosive as he was earlier in the year. Still, there’s not going to be much debate for Young when he thinks about staying or going. He needs to go. As one of the top-ranked small forwards in the class with pro-level skills offensively, Young is highly unlikely to last past the middle portion of the first round. He’s going to see the floor right away as a rookie because of his ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways. What will really determine how successful he is as a pro is his defense. Young has all the tools to be a quality defender. If he makes the most of them and continues to polish his offensive game, he could be a starter sooner rather than later.

Andrew Harrison – Point Guard
There are few positions in college basketball that hold more prestige than playing point guard under Coach Calipari. Andrew hasn’t played up to the level of his predecessors Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or John Wall. His numbers are more on pace with what Marquis Teague put up during the Wildcats’ championship run in 2012, but he still ended up being a first round pick despite modest statistics and Andrew could as well. At 6’6, Harrison is a big point guard who has made strides throughout the season, both in his play and his approach. For a young team in need of a leader, Andrew has become one and an NBA team in the later portion of the first round is going to make the investment in him with hopes that his biggest improvements are still yet to come.

Aaron Harrison – Shooting Guard
Few players in the country have been scoring in as efficient a manner as Aaron, the hero in Kentucky’s Elite Eight victory over Michigan. He’s really found his niche in Calipari’s offense, looking comfortable and confident. At 6’6, he too has good size for the next level, although his advantage isn’t as great as Aaron’s is at the point. He’s arguably the second best player on the team right now behind Randle, so don’t expect him to give coming back much consideration either. His decision is made easier by the fact that his brother’s stock has started to rise too. They’ve played together their entire lives and they’ll likely want to go through the pre-draft process together as well.

Dakari Johnson – Center
Calipari has invested a lot of time in Johnson and put his faith in the center’s development. He reaped the benefits from his patience against Louisville as Johnson went for 15 points and six rebounds. He’s shooting a ridiculous 66 percent in the tournament and at 7’0, 265 lbs. he has the size, strength and low-post skills that will help teams look past the fact that he’s extremely raw and likely a couple of years away from being a consistent NBA player. He’s really going to have to work on his body and adjust to the increased speed and athleticism that he’ll be facing, but is potentially playing behind Lyles and Towns the best way for him to do that? Probably not, which is why Johnson could be gone despite the fact that he’s far from ready.

Willie Cauley-Stein – Center
It’s very likely that Cauley-Stein would have been a first-round pick last year had he decided to declare. He envisioned playing a bigger role as a sophomore and moving into the top 10, but his playing time has remained virtually the same and his production has actually declined in some areas. Still, he’s an athletic seven footer who has all the makings of a defensive force at the next level. He suffered an ankle injury against Louisville that looks like it could cost him the rest of the tournament (he did not play against Michigan and has been ruled “doubtful” for the Final Four). That’s not the kind of note he wanted to leave on, but at this time it seems like Kentucky has done all it can for him. Even if he doesn’t play this weekend, he’s still likely to be a mid-to-late first round pick. The perceived upside you have as a sophomore is far greater than as a junior, especially if he doesn’t make monumental improvements. The pressure to produce at a much higher level, while battling projected lottery picks for playing time, makes the risk outweigh the reward in Cauley-Stein’s case.

Alex Poythress – Small Forward/Power Forward
Fair or not, a lot of Poythress’ teammates are going to look at his situation as reason to bolt early. Poythress probably would have been a late first-round pick last year after putting up 11.2 points and six rebounds a game. However, he wasn’t content with how his freshman season went and decided to stick around. His role was reduced to 18 minutes a game this season as he was out-recruited by the arrival of Randle. Cal has tried to use him in different ways and find a way to get more production out of him, to no avail. He did play a vital role in their win against Louisville and winning a national championship would certainly help ease the pain from his sophomore slump, but returning has not paid off for Poythress. As much as his stock has dropped, his decision to leave has probably been made for months now. When playing at his natural position as a power forward, Poythress could help an NBA team as a blue collar reserve. Look for him to get selected in the early-to-middle portion of the second round.

Marcus Lee – Power Forward
This season Lee has averaged 6.1 minutes a game, putting up 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds a game. As a top 25 recruit who would have been seeing far more playing time at California or Louisville, who he spurned to be a Wildcat, it’s been a tough pill to swallow. He didn’t let that frustration prevent him from being ready when his number was called against Michigan, though. He came in and absolutely assaulted the offensive glass, scoring 10 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking two shots to help the Wildcats edge the Wolverines by three. They wouldn’t be alive still if it wasn’t for his outburst. One good game is hardly enough to justify being one-and-done, but Lee is a serious talent with great potential. If he declared, he wouldn’t go undrafted. Remember, Daniel Orton was a first-round pick despite only playing 13.2 minutes a game during his lone season at Kentucky. With Cauley-Stein potentially out for the rest of the season, Lee is positioned to see big minutes in North Texas once again. If he continues to surprise, he may decide to cash in because it’s not like a featured role is waiting for him next season. He’s going to be fighting an uphill battle to start over Lyles and Towns. The only way he stays is if he’s completely confident in his ability to push his stock even higher next year while likely being the third big man in the rotation. That’s a risky proposition – just ask Poythress.

Parker Still Undecided

Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker is projected to be a top four pick by almost every website that covers the draft, but there has always been talk that he could stick around for his sophomore season. Duke’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament increased those odds, as does the appeal of playing with one of Coach K’s best recruiting classes in recent memory, which features his close friend and dominant-low post presence Jahlil Okafor. Parker has just under four weeks to make his decision, and appears to be content to use a lot of it.

“He’s undecided and we know the [NBA’s Early Entry eligibility] deadline is the 27th [of April] so if he’s going to make a decision he has to make it by that date but right now he’s undecided,” Sonny Parker, Jabari’s father, told SNY.tv.

“He’s still in school. He goes to Duke University. He’s hitting the books, man. It’s all about school for him. He has to unwind from the season.

“It’s going to be his decision. I don’t put no pressure on him. He’s gotta make a decision when he’s coming out. He’s 19 years old now, he ain’t in high school right now.”

The fact that Parker is focusing on academics and not pre-draft training, as most of the other prospects whose seasons have come to an end are, is telling. Draft workouts may not hold as much importance for Parker as others, but you still want to go into them prepared and in shape.

If Parker decides to stay, it’s solely because he enjoys the collegiate experience and wants to be a part of a potential national championship team next season. The NBA is calling and he is ready (offensively at least). He doesn’t stand to gain much by returning, but it’s become a regular occurrence for at least one highly-ranked prospect to stick around despite his stock seemingly being peaked. Parker could be the one to do so this year.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Draft Notes: Dinwiddie, Smart,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

The Best of the Undrafted Players

David Yapkowitz breaks down the best players who weren’t drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Avery Johnson, David Wesley, John Starks; those are just a few former NBA players who didn’t hear their name called on draft night, yet went on to have pretty impressive careers.

Each year there are a few undrafted players who end up making a team’s roster and turn out to be solid contributors. This past season, players like Ron Baker of the New York Knicks, Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns went undrafted in 2016 yet ended up as regular rotation guys for their teams. In Ferrell’s case, he became a starter.

With the 2017 NBA Draft come and gone, here’s a look at some of the top undrafted players who might be able to strengthen a team’s roster.

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley was the best player on a Baylor team that was a No.3 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game.

At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Motley is definitely in the mold of a versatile wing player who can play multiple positions and thrive and in today’s NBA. What he needs to do, however, is improve his outside shot. He shot only 28.1 percent from three-point range. One crucial aspect for hybrid forwards is to be able to step out and hit long range jumpers.

His stock often fluctuated in various mock drafts; some had him going in the first round, others in the second. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Motley signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

P.J. Dozier

P.J. Dozier was one-half of South Carolina’s star duo that helped propel them to a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. The other half, Sindarius Thornwell, had his name called, but at the end of the night, Dozier was still waiting.

Only a sophomore, Dozier was the second leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 13.9 points per game. He was always projected to go in the second round on most mocks and perhaps he came out a bit too early. The talent is there though.

He can have success as a team’s combo guard off the bench. He will need to work on his shooting though. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three. He’ll be in summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers, and from there will hope to entice a team to bring him to training camp.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble might have been one of those players that needed to strike while the iron’s hot. Two years ago, he was talked about as a probable first-round pick had he declared for the draft after his freshman year at Maryland. Instead, he stayed until his junior year and his stock fell.

He actually turned in an impressive junior campaign with 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range.

Trimble will play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and like most undrafted free agents, will look to turn his performance into a training camp invitation. He probably projects to be a backup point guard should he find a place in the league. He had first round and possible lottery talent before, however, so maybe all he needs is an opportunity.

Devin Robinson

In today’s game, where teams put a premium on versatile, do it all type players who can play multiple positions, Devin Robinson certainly fits that description. Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can step out and hit outside jumpers while locking up his opponent’s best wing scorer.

Florida had a surprisingly solid run in the NCAA Tournament and Robinson was a big part of that. His junior year, his best year yet, saw him average 11.1 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field and 6.1 rebounds. He showed a much improved outside shot, connecting on 39.1 percent of his looks from downtown. In the tournament, he upped his averages to 28.3 points on similar shooting percentages.

Robinson will be in summer league with the Washington Wizards, a team that often times lacked production off their bench last season. Depending on how he performs in summer league, don’t be surprised to see him on the Wizards roster come opening night.

Nigel Hayes

Playing in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in years past, Nigel Hayes was given an opportunity as a senior at Wisconsin to show what he could do as the focal point of an offense. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but he did play well enough to be given a shot at making a team’s roster.

His 14 points per game were good enough to tie teammate Ethan Happ for the second leading scorer on the team. As a power forward, he was actually the second leading assist man with 2.7. One area he’ll need to improve on to make an impact in the NBA is his outside jumper. He shot 39.6 percent from three his sophomore season. This year it was down to 31.4 despite taking a similar number of attempts (2.5 and 1.9 respectively).

Hayes looks to be one of those players in between positions. He lacks the quickness and range to thrive at small forward but is a bit undersized at the NBA level for power forward. He is an incredible energy player, though, and players like that have been able to carve out nice careers. He’ll be in summer league with the Knicks, and given their current state of affairs, they need all the help they can get.

L.J. Peak

In the mock drafts that projected him to be drafted, L.J. Peak was most likely going to be a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t have first round talent. He’s a big guard that can play both guard positions.

Despite Georgetown’s futile record this season, Peak was a standout. He was the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He was also their top playmaker, dishing out 3.5 assists. In the NBA, he most likely can find a role for some team as a combo guard off the bench. He only shot 32.7 percent from the beyond the arc, however, so if he wants to make an impact in the league that’s one area he’ll need some work.

He’s set to go to summer league with the Houston Rockets. Depending on what roster moves the Rockets make, it will be tough for Peak to make the final team. They already have two guards capable of playing both guard spots off the bench in Lou Williams and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but he probably has the inside track due to his familiarity with the team. In any case, a strong summer showing should lead Peak to a training camp invite with another team, if not the Rockets.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA PM: Losers Of The 2017 NBA Draft

Who were the two parties who came out of draft night worse off than they went in? Spencer Davies explores.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

As the book closes on the 2017 NBA Draft, the league takes a bit of a break before going full throttle into the free agency portion of the off-season.

Before we get there, though, Basketball Insiders will take a look at the winners and losers of Thursday’s draft to get you caught up. Our own Benny Nadeau already took care of the former, so this piece will focus on the two parties who came out of the night worse off than they did going into it.

Early Entrants Going Undrafted

The amount of talent in this year’s draft class was undeniable, so those that decided to come out of college too soon instead of returning to school for another year suffered tremendously.

Let’s take a look at some notable undrafted players that entered as underclassmen:

Kobi Simmons

Simmons was an interesting story this past season with the Arizona Wildcats. It was a difficult one-and-done season for Simmons, as he had trouble converting on the perimeter (33 percent) and contributing anything other than scoring.

In the first couple of months as a freshman, he was basically an every game starter and played at least 28 minutes per game for the team. As the year wound down, though, the 6-5, 175-pound shooting guard barely saw the court, and the time he was given came during blowouts.

His decision to enter the draft was questionable and a gamble, and most teams saw it the same way. Luckily for Simmons, he was reportedly able to come to an agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies on a free agent contract.

P.J. Dozier

A player that surprisingly didn’t get selected was P.J. Dozier from South Carolina. In his sophomore season, the 20-year-old swingman took on a much heavier workload and dramatically improved his game on both ends of the floor.

Dozier was one of the best defenders in the SEC and in the entire NCAA, as well as an aggressor on offense. He was not bashful and took his new role in stride. Over the course of one year, he attempted six more field goals per game and upped his three-point success by 8.5 percentage points.

He also snatched almost two more rebounds per game and averaged nearly two steals for the Gamecocks. Dozier going undrafted was a head scratcher, but the Los Angeles Lakers made sure he landed on his feet with a deal.

Isaiah Briscoe

Briscoe is more of a hybrid type with a bulky build for a backcourt player. In two seasons under John Calipari at Kentucky, he was pretty consistent with his game as somebody who will give you a little bit of everything.

He’s not particularly a good shooter, but he can get some rebounds and dish it out to make the right plays. You’ll see that with when he’s playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League.

Antonio Blakeney

Blakeney—a sophomore guard from LSU—proved that he can shoot the basketball and be a pure scorer (17.2 points per game) when given the opportunity, but what about the defensive end of the floor? He’ll need to work on that, as well as his all-around game that won’t make him a one-dimensional threat.

He hasn’t received an offer from a team yet, but he’ll likely get a chance to showcase his talents in either Orlando or Las Vegas.

The trend here seems obvious—if you’re a shooting guard and haven’t gotten at least three years of college experience, it may not be wise to declare. Executives understand that they need players with the “do-it-all” quality and not just pure scorers that can’t bring more than one or two skills to the table.

Chicago Bulls

Over the past week, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Jimmy Butler and his future with the Bulls. There were rumors all over linking him mainly to the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the dark horse candidate to land the All-Star was the one to pull the trigger.

After the first selection in the draft was made, the Minnesota Timberwolves came to an agreement with Chicago that reunited Butler with his former coach of four years, Tom Thibodeau. The deal came a few weeks after an exit interview regarding the team’s direction that reportedly went well.

The 27-year-old’s trainer didn’t hide his displeasure about the move, but it’s understandable from the perspective of VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, who strived to “set a direction” for the franchise.

However, what they received in return for Butler was not nearly enough for a man that is just now entering his prime as one of the best two-way players in the game today. In exchange for Butler, the Wolves sent Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to Chicago. Furthermore, the Bulls were able to move up nine spots in the draft, but it cost them their 16th pick to do so.

LaVine is as exciting as a player as any young talent in the NBA, but he’ll enter the season coming off a brutal ACL tear that ended his year prematurely. It will probably be a little while before the 22-year-old sees the floor, and, as the centerpiece of this trade, it’s definitely risky not knowing how he’ll respond to the injury.

While Dunn could have plenty of promise as the starting point guard of the future, his rookie season in Minnesota left a lot to be desired. The only defense of his inclusion as one of the key pieces in this transaction is being a top five pick in last year’s draft with untapped potential.

With the seventh overall selection, Chicago drafted Lauri Markkanen out of Arizona. In his lone season under Sean Miller, the seven-footer was a key cog in the Wildcats’ run in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments.

The talent is clearly there as a sharpshooting stretch four or five, but with Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic already in the mix at power forward, the fit may be a problem. He could see some time at center, but remember, Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio, and Joffrey Lauvergne are holding down the fort there, too.

Markkanen’s situation will all depend on if qualifying offers are made to Mirotic, Felicio, and Lauvergne.

To add the cherry on top of the Bulls’ rough night, they excited some fans of the organization when they took Jordan Bell out of Oregon early in the second round. That hope quickly diminished when the Golden State Warriors paid $3.5 million for the pick, and Chicago agreed to send him to the Bay.

Bell was one of the sexier names in the draft for a good reason, but the money was more important to the Bulls, who will have some more decisions to make this summer with their veterans on the roster likely not wanting to be a part of the rebuild.

Without their superstar of the last three years, and still with an inexperienced head coach like Fred Hoiberg to develop the young talent brought into the organization, it’s going to be a little while before basketball is king again in the Windy City.

Continue Reading

NBA

Hawks Didn’t Expect John Collins To Fall To 19

Newly-minted Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk had a relatively easy decision drafting John Collins at 19.

Buddy Grizzard

Published

on

During Travis Schlenk’s first NBA Draft as Atlanta GM, fortune smiled as center John Collins of Wake Forest, a player rated highly on Atlanta’s draft board, fell to the 19th pick.

“Through the whole week, we had guys ranked, and he was the highest guy there,” said Schlenk to assembled media at the Omni Hotel, adjacent to Philips Arena. “We thought he’d go a little higher. We had a couple options on the board to move back, but once we saw that John was going to be there, we didn’t entertain any of those.”

Schlenk added that Atlanta also tried to move up but was unable to execute a trade.

“We did have some conversations about trying to move up,” said Schlenk. “We had one player that we targeted that we really wanted to move up for but were unable to do so.”

The process of building the team’s draft depth chart was collaborative, Schlenk added, which meant Collins’ selection was by consensus rather than by decree. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was among those whose input factored into the selection.

“I have a lot of faith in the group that was here before I got here,” said Schlenk. “They’ve been a huge asset to me coming in here in the middle of this process. As I’ve stated all along, I view Coach Bud and I’s relationship as a partnership. It doesn’t do us any good to take a guy that he doesn’t like, so he’s got a voice in it for sure.”

Schlenk was asked about areas where Collins needs to improve and didn’t shy away from questions about his defense.

“That was kind of the knock on him at Wake Forest,” said Schlenk. “But a lot of times, especially in college — when you’re the main focal point — you’ll see the best offensive player doesn’t want to get in foul trouble so he can stay on the floor. We interviewed him in Chicago. That’s what he said: “Coach Manning said, ‘Don’t get in foul trouble, I can’t afford to have you off the court.'”

The Hawks GM also talked about Collins’ shortcomings as a shooter.

“One of the first things we’re going to work on with him is a jump shot,” said Schlenk. “In college, all his scoring came in the post. And he’s got a good post game. We just need to extend his range out, especially the way we play and the way the league’s going.”

But overall, Schlenk was extremely positive about the opportunity to add a player with the upside of Collins, a player who is far from a finished product.

“Last year you saw his athleticism, and then the big jump that he’s made from his freshman year to his sophomore year,” Schlenk said. “Obviously, being the most improved player in the ACC, you see the growth he’s made. And he’s still a 19-year-old kid, so there’s still a lot of room to grow.”

In the second round, Atlanta selected shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who shot 56 percent from three and averaged 23 points during Oregon’s run to the Final Four. The Hawks also selected 6-10 French center Alpha Kaba of Mega Leks, a likely draft-and-stash candidate. With Collins’ youth and lack of polish, it may take some time to judge Schlenk’s first draft. But fortunately for him, the decision was a relatively easy one since the team didn’t expect Collins to fall all the way to 19 where Atlanta could grab him.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending Now