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NBA PM: Kentucky Showcasing Prospects Early?

With another roster loaded with top-tier NBA Draft prospects, John Calipari is planning a preseason combine to minimize distractions.

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Kentucky Showcasing Prospects Early?

Since John Calipari became the head coach of the Kentucky men’s basketball team five years ago, the program has turned into the premiere institution for producing NBA Draft picks. Including Enes Kanter (who attended Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA before ever playing a game), Kentucky has seen 19 players drafted, 15 in the first round and two number one overall since 2009 – by far the most of any college team.

While any college coach in the country would love to have these problems, there is some downside that comes with churning out multiple pros year in and year out. Calipari is constantly having to re-tool his roster, deal with championship expectations and keep his players from getting distracted by all of the NBA talk throughout the year.

Last year was one of the greatest examples of the cons that Calipari has to deal with. He put together one of his best recruiting classes ever between Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. From the second they all signed on, talk about going undefeated en route to winning a national championship started. After losing three of four in late February and into early March, though, the team was a modest 22-9 overall with a 12-6 record in SEC play.

They managed to come together at the right time and advance to the national championship game, where they were a better free throw shooting night away from topping UConn and winning it all, but afterwards the Wildcats made no secret about how all of the outside distractions, talk and overwhelming expectations wore on them at times.

Hoping to learn from that experience, Calipari is changing up the way that he is going to make his players accessible to NBA personnel this season.

In true Calipari fashion, he has another star-studded recruiting class coming in to join one of his best group of returners during his time at Kentucky. Johnson, Lee, the Harrison twins and Alex Poythress all passed on likely being drafted to try and finish the job this year with five-star recruits Trey Lyles, Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis and four-star commit Devin Booker. From top to bottom, this team is as good as the 2012 national championship squad, with the potential to be even better if everyone accepts and adapts to their roles like that group did. His top 10 will likely all be drafted by the time the 2016 NBA Draft is in the books. So, of course, NBA scouts and executives are extremely interested in getting a close look at them.

Rather than letting NBA decision-makers come through practice throughout the year to check them out, Calipari is reportedly planning a preseason combine in which his guys will workout, do drills and play five-on-five in front of NBA personnel, likely from every team. Afterwards, NBA talent evaluators will not be allowed in practice for the duration of the season.

Not coincidentally, UK will also be hosting some of the top recruits in the 2015 high school class the weekend the combine is going on.

While Calipari is the first to implement this strategy, it’s highly unlikely that he will be the last, especially if the benefit is having a much more focused, attentive group during the regular season and a couple of five-star commitments that weekend as well.

D-League Schedule Announced

The NBA Development League will tip off its 14th season on Friday, Nov. 14, it was announced today. The 2014-15 season features an all-time high 18 teams, including the newly minted Grand Rapids Drive and Westchester Knicks, playing 50 games between November and April.  Seventeen of the 18 NBA D-League teams have single-affiliation relationships with their NBA parent clubs.

The 2014-15 season tips off with a six-game slate on Friday, Nov. 14, starting with matchups between the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA D-League affiliate hosting the Maine Red Claws and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers hosting the Austin Toros, both at 8 p.m. ET.  The 2014 NBA D-League champion Fort Wayne Mad Ants begin defense of their title on Saturday, Nov. 15, when the team hosts the Sioux Falls Skyforce at 7:30 p.m. ET.  Later that evening, the Drive takes to the NBA D-League court for the first time when the team travels to Bakersfield to take on the Jam at 10 p.m. ET.  Opening weekend comes to a close with three more games on Sunday, Nov. 16, when the Knicks tip off their first-ever NBA D-League season in Oklahoma City at 3 p.m. ET.

New for the 2014-15 season, the NBA D-League will feature two conferences, East and West, each broken into two divisions.  The Eastern Conference will feature the Atlantic Division (Delaware 87ers, Canton Charge, Erie BayHawks and Maine) and Central Division (Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Iowa Energy and Sioux Falls).  The Western Conference will be split between the Southwest Division (Austin, Oklahoma City, Rio Grande Valley and Texas Legends) and West Division (Bakersfield, Idaho Stampede, Los Angeles D-Fenders, Reno Bighorns and Santa Cruz Warriors).

The 2014-15 season will once again feature the NBA D-League Showcase, which will run from Jan. 15-19.  The location and specific schedule of the midseason scouting event will be announced at a later date.  The NBA D-League All-Star Game will be played in New York City in conjunction with NBA All-Star 2015 activities.

The regular season comes to a close on Saturday, April 4, with eight games.  The 2015 NBA D-League postseason will begin shortly thereafter.
Of the 17 singly-affiliated NBA D-League teams, seven teams are fully owned and operated by their NBA parent club, including Austin (San Antonio Spurs), Canton (Cleveland Cavaliers), Delaware (Philadelphia 76ers), Los Angeles (Los Angeles Lakers), Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City Thunder), Santa Cruz (Golden State Warriors) and Westchester (New York Knicks).  An additional nine teams have a hybrid relationship with their NBA parent club, including Bakersfield (Phoenix Suns), Erie (Orlando Magic), Grand Rapids (Detroit Pistons), Iowa (Memphis Grizzlies) Idaho (Utah Jazz), Maine (Boston Celtics), Rio Grande Valley (Houston Rockets), Reno (Sacramento Kings) and Sioux Falls (Miami Heat).  The hybrid partnership gives an NBA team control of the NBA D-League team’s basketball operations while local ownership retains control of the business.  Texas has a one-to-one relationship with the Dallas Mavericks.

Fans can follow top NBA prospects and their favorite teams online at www.nbadleague.com for live games, highlights and insider analysis.  The 2014-15 NBA D-League broadcast schedule will be furnished at a later date.

Greg Monroe Suspended

Detroit Pistons forward/center Greg Monroe has been suspended for two games without pay for pleading guilty to driving while visibly impaired, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan, the NBA announced today.

Monroe’s suspension will begin with the first game of the 2014-15 NBA regular season.

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

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