Tag Archives: Kentucky

Pro or No, Episode 5: SEC Volume 2

Here’s our fifth edition of Pro or No, in which we’ll take a closer look at a few more SEC products.  Let’s hope the readers feel as passionately about these guys as they did about Klay Thompson…

Trey Thompkins, Georgia, Jr. – PF

Overview: Thompkins is a guy that NBA scouts can’t seem to figure out. He’s bounced around from the lower ends of the lottery, to late first round/early second round, and now most experts see him going somewhere in the 15th-20th range.  The 6′ 9″ SF from Georgia played a very complete junior season, putting up almost 18 PPG and over 8 rebounds per contest.  He shoots very effectively, knocking down almost 50%. Of course, there’s always the chance that he’ll return for another year, but I doubt that’s the case here.

Best Case: Most NBA scouts had Thompkins going in the middle of the first round last year. He might drop a few spots this year, but this is a guy who really benefitted from an extra year in college.  His game is much more polished, and NBA-ready. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses at the moment, and he won’t have any trouble making/staying on an NBA roster.  If he does drop down to the latter portions of the first round, I think the team that selects him will be adding really strong value.

Worst Case: I don’t view Thompkins as a boom or bust type prospect. He never boomed and never in his three-year career at Georgia. Oh, I have to come up with a worst case scenario? Okay…Somehow, Thompkins and Klay Thompson wind up on the same team.  Thompkins starts running in the same horrible marijuana-crazed circles that Thompson frequents, and they both find themselves out of the league and in a world of trouble within six months.

Tobias Harris, Tennessee, Fr. – SF

Overview: I went to see Harris play twice in high school and was convinced that he was the next big thing. His first season at Tennessee didn’t live up to expectations, and yet he’s still being talked about as a 1-and-done first rounder. The kid’s got game and the all important upside, which NBA executives toss around as a word to justify otherwise insane decisions. At 6’8″, 210 lbs, he already has the prototype NBA body, and most of the skill set to match. While this season was one to forget at Tennessee,it’s tough to blame the players for underperforming.  If Harris stays another year or two, things will get better in Volunteer Country.

Best Case Scenario: The best case scenario for Harris is a press conference, at which he announces his intentions to stay another year.  With Bruce Pearl doing Bruce Pearl things all year and paying Bruce Pearl amounts of attention to himself first, and then to his players, Harris didn’t develop much as a player this year. That said, his upside is frightening, and another year in school will help him realize it. I see him as a lottery pick next year if he makes the right decision.

Worst Case Scenario: Harris goes pro and is drafted in the middle of the first round as a “purely potential” pick.  He’ll get a few minutes each game, but never find himself in a position to really improve his game, as is the case with so many of the guys chosen for their “potential”.

Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr. – PG

Overview: One of Kentucky’s two floor generals (the other being Doron Lamb), Knight was the heartbeat of the 2010-11 squad.  Sure, the Wildcats would have won plenty of games without him, but few of the ones that mattered most.  His penchant for hitting big shots at key moments further solidifies his status as a deserving one-and-done NBA prospect. With Knight having recently declared for the draft, Calipari has already started writing checks to fill Knight’s shoes.

Best Case Scenario: Knight is a lock to go in the lottery of the 2011 Draft, and his skill set is strong enough to expect solid play wherever he lands.  But he still has some room to develop, and it would really benefit him in the long run to play on a team that lacks depth at the point guard position.  Minutes are the key to improvement in the NBA.

Worst Case Scenario: There are two scenarios that could really stunt Knight’s career: 1) He becomes a Toronto Raptor. 2) He is selected by a team that drafts according to the “best player available” approach, and loads its roster with guards, leaving Knight with 15 minutes per game and little room for improvement. By the way, I understand that line of thinking for NFL teams, but when NBA GMs don’t draft to fill holes in their 5-man starting rosters, I age considerably in frustration.  More rants on NBA draft methods to follow.


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Does Calipari Want His Guys to Stay or Go?

There was an article by the AP about how John Calipari is more-or-less pushing star freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight to at least enter the draft without hiring an agent. It got me thinking: is this true altruism from Calipari, where he cares more about his players than his program? Or, is this the model that he’s created, and would it almost be better for him for these guys to leave?

It is no secret how Calipari has constructed his program for the past six or seven years, at both Memphis and Kentucky. He targets high school stars that are more than likely to leave after one year, basically telling them that their best option to showcase their skills for one year is with him. Then, he sends them on their way, and reloads with the next class. Ethics aside–this is not an article about whether or not Calipari is following NCAA rules–this is an article about how Calipari has built his programs and has had obvious success (on-the-court) doing so.

So, this made me wonder, does Calipari actually want these guys to come back? Who of his freshman stars in the past five years has ever decided to return for their sophomore year? Not Derrick Rose, not Tyreke Evans, not John Wall, not DeMarcus Cousins, not Eric Bledsoe. He’s even had very average contributors as freshmen, like Daniel Orton last year, take off early. He’s never distraught over their departures. Is it because he just wants the best for them and understands that this is their chance to get paid? I’m sure that has something to do with it. Say what you want about Calipari, but you can tell that he does care about these kids when you watch him coach. But, could there be something else driving him?

It seems like coach Cal has a system in place, and that system would, in a way, have its balance upset if his freshman stars started returning for their sophomore campaigns. I daresay his program would almost resemble a legitimate college basketball atmosphere of old. Well, like I said, almost. I have to imagine, then, that when he continually reloads his team with McDonald’s All-Americans, an aspect of his recruiting pitch has to be: “You’re going to play right away, and you’re going to be a star right away. I’m one of the only coaches who will play four or five freshman together for extended minutes. If you want to go to the league after one year, you need to play for me.” Well, what happens when that promised playing time gets cut because guys he assumed would be gone are back?

At the end of the day, this is not a bad problem to have if you are Calipari, but it still makes me wonder. Four of Kentucky’s 2011 signees are in the ESPNU 100 top 18 players in the country. Would a point guard like Marquis Teague have signed with Kentucky if he knew incumbent Brandon Knight would be coming back? Would the trio of 6’10” Anthony Davis (#1 in ESPNU 100), 6’7″ Michael Gilchrist (#3 in ESPNU 100), or 6’9″ Kyle Wiltjer (#18 in ESPNU 100) have decided to come to Lexington if they knew that Terrence Jones was going to be  back in the mix as well? It doesn’t seem natural to talk about John Calipari and credibility in the same sentence, but does he lose credibility with these guys and with future recruits if this starts happening more often? Obviously, there is going to be a lockout in the NBA, and that doesn’t happen every year, but it still begs the question: does Calipari really want his freshman stars to stay for another year? Or, is his one-and-done system just the way he likes it?

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Pro or No, Episode 2: SEC Volume 1

Vernon Macklin, Florida, Sr. – PF

Macklin has come a long way to give himself a shot at a career in the NBA

Overview: I’ve followed Vernon Macklin since the days Georgetown recruited him as a McDonald’s All-American and sure-fire one-and-done pro, to our days in sociology class together, (scene of my favorite Big-Ticket line: “my research has been through the internet, library research, and this book I found”). I watched him show zero skill for two years and squander his professional aspirations, shooting 25% from the free throw line in one year. If you told me four years ago that I’d be writing about Vernon as an NBA prospect, I’d have laughed. But he’s come a long way since he turned in his Hoya Blue for the Gator uniform.

Best case scenario: Macklin continues to improve at the same blistering rate and fulfills his potential. Don’t look for him to be in the MVP discussion, but at the peak of his potential, Macklin could play to the level of someone like Serge Ibaka, mostly a defensive threat.  Don’t forget, in their loss to Butler, how heavily the Gators relied on Macklin, and how convincingly he delivered.

Worst case scenario: Macklin has already peaked…there’s no more room to grow. If that’s the case, he won’t be playing in the NBA.  He’s got the NBA body, now he needs to develop the skill set to match.

Terrence Jones, Kentucky, Fr. – SF

Terrence Jones is ready to take the next step

Overview: Since his outburst at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, NBA scouts tabbed Jones as a guaranteed lottery pick.  Given his decision to play at Kentucky, it’s safe to say Jones went to college because he had to, not because he wanted to. He’s leaving, and few would argue with his decision once he makes it. He has an NBA body, a variety of post moves, and mobility to get his shot off from outside the paint.

Best case scenario: It’s important to mention that Jones produced at the college level at the rate one would expect from a lottery pick.  Sure, he’ll be drafted with the expectation that he will improve, but GMs scouting Jones know they’ll be getting a player ready to produce right away. I don’t see All-Star games in his future, but if he can stay healthy, Jones should enjoy a long career with only minor interruptions for inquiries on his college eligibility.

Worst case scenario: I don’t see Jones flopping. However, I worry about how he will fit into an NBA system.  He doesn’t really dominate down low, and he seems to want to play point guard, while trapped in a big man’s body.  Oh right, we’re talking about the NBA. He’ll be fine.

Chandler Parsons, Florida, Sr. – SF

Chandler Parsons left it all on the court at Florida

Overview: I’m a little surprised that Parsons hasn’t been given more credit as an NBA prospect.  In flashes of athleticism, he has proven his ability to get to the rim and protect it on the other end.  He’s got a great jumper, decent range, and plays fundamentally sound defense (again, I’m forgetting the prerequisites for success in the NBA).

Best case scenario: If everything goes perfectly for Parsons, I don’t think it’s too great a stretch to cast comparisons to Mike Dunleavy, Jr.  Not an All-Star, but a solid producer for a number of years.

Worst case scenario: The worst case scenario seems, at the moment, to be the most likely: that Parsons doesn’t get the opportunity that his college career should have earned him.  It’s so difficult to crack an NBA roster from the undrafted ranks, Chandler might be headed to the dreaded D-League.

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