A year ago, it was unfathomable to think that either DeAndre Liggins or Josh Harrellson would be viable candidates for the NBA Draft. Liggins started the 2009-10 season in John Calipari's doghouse, sitting out the first nine games and ending the season averaging only 15.3 MPG and 3.3 PPG. Meanwhile, Harrellson's contribution to that year's Kentucky team was even more limited. He appeared in only 88 minutes the entire season.
What a difference a year makes. While neither Liggins nor Harrellson are playing with house money tomorrow, there's still a chance one or both hears his name called. Fingers crossed.
DeAndre Liggins focused on maximizing two aspects of his game that will clearly define him as an NBA prospect. The first is his defense. He was widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the college basketball, and showed that he had the capability to guard the 1 through 3 positions on the court. Further, he improved his marksmanship from deep, hitting 36 threes (approximately one per game) on 39.1% shooting. While he still has a ways to go in improving his offensive game, the potential to be a lockdown defender in a Tony Allen-type role makes Liggins an intriguing draft prospect. Excellent performances at NBA workouts sparked the 23 year old to stay in the draft as an early entry. He initially sparked some late first round buzz, but the consensus now is that Liggins will hear his name called mid to late second round, if at all.
As for Josh Harrellson, intangibles are key for him. He brought a tenaciousness and intensity to the court, as well as a senior leadership mentality and a basketball knowledge that often put him in the right place, at the right time. His domination of freshman Jared Sullinger in the Sweet 16 didn't come across on the box score, but was clearly evident for anyone watching. While Harrellson is limited from a skills standpoint, he's a big athlete that can contribute at the next level. He has an outside shot at getting drafted in the second round, but will more likely start his professional career as an undrafted free agent. That's a track on which many an accomplished NBAer has started, and it wouldn't be a shock to see Harrellson sport an NBA uniform one day.
With two surefire lottery picks and two players hoping to hear their names called by selection number sixty, Kentucky fans should be glued to their TV monitors the entire night tomorrow. It should be a fun night.
After the jump, some draft projections and big board rankings.
Chad Ford, ESPN (6/21): Los Angeles Lakers, 56th
It's doubtful the Lakers keep all of these second-round picks. If they do, Liggins is one of the best defenders in the draft. With Ron Artest aging, Liggins could be a solid pick here.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com (6/20): New Orleans Hornets, 45th
An impact defensive player with good size for a shooting guard (6-foot-6 1/2, 200 pounds) and the ability to defend multiple positions.
Aran Smith, NBADraft.net (6/22): San Antonio Spurs, 59th
Sam Amico, FOX Sports (6/20): Sacramento Kings, 60th
Chad Ford Top 100: 62nd ranked prospect
Liggins has declared for the 2011 NBA Draft. Liggins may not look like much on the offensive end. As a junior he averaged just 8.6 ppg. But he's an exceptional defender who can guard multiple positions, so some team might want him in the second round. Most likely he goes undrafted if he stays in the draft.
Draft Express Top 100: 58th ranked prospect
NBADraft.net Top 100: 56th ranked prospect
Chad Ford Top 100: 86th
Harrellson is an unlikely addition to our Draft Board. But practicing against players like DeMarcus Cousins must have paid off. He's shown a terrific toughness and aggressiveness in the paint this year. He's not your typical NBA player, but with so few centers in the draft, someone could take a flier on him in the second round.
Draft Express Top 100: 73rd ranked prospect
NBADraft.net Top 100: not ranked