Happy Easter to all in the Big Blue Nation. May it be blessed.
This is pretty much a stream of consciousness commentary about what is going on in the world of Kentucky sports, and the first thing to talk about was last night's Nike Hoop Summit that featured one committed UK player and no less than four (counting Andrew Wiggins, who is slated for the class of 2014) players that Kentucky is actively recruiting. I'll just look at each of the Wildcats recruits in turn.
Archie Goodwin - as the only actual signed UK player, I was particularly interested in what Goodwin brought to the table. He was predictably long and athletic, even longer than his listed 6'4" would indicate. Goodwin is surely going to be a fine perimeter defender at UK and figures to be a 2 guard in college, but his perimeter game leaves a considerable amount to be desired at this point. There is no doubting his talent, especially when it comes to getting to the rim, but his offense needs polish.
Shabazz Muhammad - Muhammad broke Enes Kanter's NHS scoring record with 35 points, but it took him about 27 shots to do it. Muhammad is an extremely gifted offensive player and incredibly athletic. He explodes off the floor and gets the ball out of his hands very quickly, but has a streaky perimeter touch. He is a powerful finisher and has a good, strong, NBA-ready body. His handle is good, but he is very left-handed and his right hand is very weak. He isn't used to sharing the ball and that is something that he'll really have to work on if he comes to UK.
Nerlens Noel - Noel is nowhere near as gifted as Anthony Davis, with whom some have compared him, at least situationally. Noel is a remarkable athlete with outstanding leaping ability for a 6'11" player, getting off the floor much like Dwight Howard does in the NBA. Noel is an ambidextrous shot blocker, but unlike Davis, he tries to swat balls as far away as possible, usually out of play. Because he goes after so many shots, it was hard to evaluate his rebounding ability, but he should be a good rebounder once he learns how to position himself. In this game, he got virtually nothing in the post, but is liable to be a very dangerous lob recipient in college. Overall, he his very raw, but he may well be the most athletic player I have seen in a while at that size.
Anthony Bennett -- Big body with good perimeter skills, Bennett is a very desirable player for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is his big, strong, athletic body, and his skill both facing and with his back to the basket. Bennett showed good ability to get into transition and rebounded well.
Andrew Wiggins -- I'm tempted to refer to him as "Ender" from the novel, "Ender's Game." This kid is extremely skilled facing the basket and at 6'7", he was, in my view, the best college prospect on the floor. Wiggins has incredible range out to the NBA 3-point line, runs the floor like a deer, and is a sure-fire lottery pick, perhaps even a #1 pick when he comes out. He is younger than all the other guys, but if he gets better with age, he is going to make Muhammad look almost ordinary. Explosive athleticism, a remarkable feel for the game for one so young, and unlimited range make him a player for coaches to salivate over. Wiggin is a truly "best of class" basketball player in every aspect, and in my humble opinion, he is already a better NBA prospect than North Carolina's Harrison Barnes at the tender age of 17.
I was also impressed with, although his NBA prospects are less clear than others. If Ben Howland figures out how to use a legitimate 6'8" player with point guard skills, he could be a remarkable college player. Overall, though, I was surprised at the lack of perimeter shooting on the USA team, and it really showed up as a problem. USA made a great comeback after being down by 20 points, and despite being vastly superior in an athletic sense to the World team, the World team was much better at the game of basketball.
John Calipari is finally getting through to people about the "one and done" rule, and he's gaining a number of allies in the effort to try to raise the NBA age limit. The problem is, I can't figure out what the difference between one year in college and 2 years in college is, from an academic mission standpoint.
I completely get, and even have defended the idea that there is really no such thing as "wasted" years in college, although others may reasonably disagree with that view. Quite honestly, there is no comparison, value-wise, between one, two, and even three years in college and a full four-year degree. It is said that a college degree is worth about one million dollars over a career, and if you do some high-school math, that works out to somewhere between $20-25K more per year.
But the question is, is there a significant difference between one year in college and two? I'm not sure there is, and even if that value is somewhat significant, the figures indicate that players who wait an extra year before entering the professional basketball ranks, assuming they would be first-round picks in both years, are costing themselves multiple millions of dollars. What's the value proposition for them? In this case, the value proposition is all for the NBA and NCAA - the former because they get "more ready" players, and the latter because those star players are good for revenue purposes. Is it any wonder that the NBA Players Association opposes even the "one and done" rule?
Based on what I saw yesterday, no matter how many players come to UK, we don't look to be as good next year as we were this year. I just don't believe any of the players I saw yesterday are as special as Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Now, I say that based only on one basketball game, and an all-star game at that, but the more I see the incoming guys play, the more special I believe the players on this year's team were.
Anthony Davis is truly a transformational player. Nerlens Noel is significantly more athletic than Davis, but he is not even in the same universe in terms of basketball skills. Noel will be a great college player for a year or two, but he has almost no discernible offensive skills, although I think those will develop quickly under Calipari. Muhammad is a scoring machine, but he is very similar to Terrence Jones in terms of his exclusive use of the left hand, and his perimeter game needs a lot of work. I will say that I love how he attacks the basket, and how he doesn't seem to mind contact at all.
But even if all three of the Bennett, Muhammad, and Noel group show up on UK's campus, I am not convinced that I would take them over Davis and MKG by themselves. But that's really unfair, since Davis and MKG have a whole year of competition under one of the best skilled-player development coaches ever to stalk the sidelines. But with that said, when Davis and MKG got here, I think they were better, but that's just me.
The "Calipari to the Knicks" meme is not going anywhere soon, and just like Rick Pitino when he was here, we're going to have to live with this one until ... well, I'm not really sure. Until the Knicks either take Mike Woodson as their coach, or until they hire somebody else.
Whither Jon Hood? I'm still trying to figure out where he fits in next year. A lot, I suppose, depends on what the team winds up looking like, something we won't know for about a month. We will get an idea next week, though, because Muhammad and Noel plan to announce their college decision on Wednesday. Bennett has said that he will probably make the call by the end of April, although I can see that decision slipping into early May.
But the Noel and Muhammad announcements will have an immediate and profound impact on what the team will look like, and after Wednesday, we will be able to speculate much more meaningfully on what role Kyle Wiltjer and Jon Hood will play. I can say that based on what I have seen, we will be back to a 2010-style shooting-challenged team next year unless somebody else, like Hood, can show marked improvement in that area. Alex Poythress is said to be a very good perimeter shooter, but I haven't seen him enough to know.
The guy we will miss the most if he goes pro this year? Doron Lamb. Lamb has been an amazing shooter at Kentucky and he is consistently overlooked as the huge factor in the success of this team that he was. If I could pick any player out of the three who I think might consider coming back -- Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, and Lamb -- I'd pick Lamb hands down.
That's it for now. What are your thoughts?