Charles Barkley apparently opined yesterday that he didn't think Brandon Knight or Terrence Jones were ready for the NBA. In fact, Barkley described both Knight and Jones as "not even close."
I think that in an absolute sense, Barkley is exactly right. Unlike John Wall, Brandon Knight does not have the sick athleticism and extremely strong left hand that Wall does, although he is plenty athletic enough for the Association and possesses a much more reliable jump shot than Wall. Still, his weak left hand and his lack of experience playing the point against better players tell me that he needs at least one more year to be ready.
Terrence Jones has many of the same problems -- he is too left-handed and is almost worthless with his right, he has a sketchy jumpshot, and although he is athletic, has a good motor and can handle the ball very well, he really doesn't have the kind of game that should be considered "NBA ready." Despite projections that both Jones and Knight will be in this year's draft lottery, they are both likely to spend a lot of time on the bench for the first couple of years. Neither of them are the kind of player that NBA scouts would prefer on high picks in the draft, but the weakness of this year's draft will likely put them in the top 10 or 12 anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hold it against either player for going early. The NBA draft has become more about future potential than what players can deliver right away, except maybe in the case of the top one or two picks. Neither Knight nor Jones figures to be that high, and so expectations will be that they will need some time to develop. Both will likely play some next year, depending on what team they wind up with, but neither one will likely be ready for big minutes for another couple of years at least.
DeAndre Liggins may be the most ready for the NBA in terms of maturity and his defensive game, but he is unlikely to be drafted in the first round due the fact that he has not been a feature of the UK offense, and the pro scouts need to know that Liggins can do more than just be a strong defender at multiple positions -- he also has to be able to score. The conventional wisdom is that he is a mid to late second round pick this year, and as such seems likely to come back to finish school.
The weak draft has put Kentucky in position to be the most hurt by it this year. If Knight, Jones, and Liggins all stay in, it will deal a significant blow to Kentucky's championship hopes next year, if not entirely erase them. If only Liggins returns, which seems to be where the smart money is, UK will be in decent shape. If Jones comes back as well, the Wildcats should be considered at least co-favorites along with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
In the final analysis, it seems that being ready for the NBA Draft just isn't what it used to be. I think that's what Barkley meant, and I agree with him.