Willie Cauley-Stein made the shocking decision to remain at Kentucky for his junior season, presumably forgoing a guaranteed NBA contract and millions of dollars. Marcus Lee was somewhat less a surprise when he decided to return for his second season at Kentucky. James Young made the jump to the NBA like we all expected. That leaves us with Julius Randle, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison, and Aaron Harrison as the players that have yet to make an announcement about their decision.
Randle is almost assuredly gone, but he is taking his time with the process, weighing his options, and gathering information. Dakari Johnson's decision is a little less clear due to the fact that WCS is returning and John Calipari has another incoming seven footer in Karl-Anthony Towns. Alex Poythress will most likely be back even though there are concerns about how many minutes will be available for him. But that facts are clear for Poythress: he is set to graduate next season and the NBA mock draft boards don't look appealing to him at the moment. If he returns and learns to play small forward, his NBA draft stock could markedly improve.
And that leaves us with the Harrison Twins who have arguably the most important decision to make in the Calipari era, at least from a fan standpoint. If the Twins return, John Calipari has a second year starter at the point guard position for the first time at Kentucky and he has a player in Aaron Harrison that showed that he is willing to be the leader during crunch time. Having them return would give Kentucky depth at the guard positions, something that the Wildcats will struggle with if Aaron and Andrew decide to opt for the NBA.
The NBA waters are quite murky at the moment. Aaron Harrison, Sr. did an interview with Fox 26 in Houston, and his comments, along with those of his sons, lead me to believe that the information they are receiving from NBA agents and General Managers isn't what they were expecting. And some of their comments seemingly reflect that they really want to go pro, despite claiming not to be leaning either way.
Consider the following:
The two brothers acknowledged the lure of returning to Kentucky to help the Wildcats win a championship is powerful.
"Yea, that's a factor, but I think that it's more about us personally and not about winning a ring or anything like that.
"It's just more personal, because it's my career. It's my life."
Andrew has a similar mindset.
"If you go back to school you want to become a better player and if you go to the NBA that means you think you're ready to go and play," Andrew Harrison said. "So it's what you think of yourself and how NBA teams think of you."
In my humble opinion, this is all about the NBA for them. Even if they return for one more season, their eyes will be on the NBA prize, which isn't a bad thing — imagine the return of a ticked off set of brothers that feel they have something to prove to the scouts, coaches and GM's?
Andrew and Aaron cannot be too pleased with where they are in the latest NBA mock drafts. Draftexpress.net has neither brother in the first or second round. NBAdraft.net has Andrew Harrison going #30 to the Spurs (the ninth point guard selected) and Aaron Harrison going #40 to the Pelicans (the fourteenth shooting guard selected). Their stocks have dropped significantly since I checked just two weeks ago.
The mock draft is one thing, but the scouts aren't giving them much hope either. Adam Himmelsbach of the Courier-Journal talked to an NBA scout that requested to remain anonymous. Here is some of what he had to say:
"It'd be good for both of them to go back next year," said the scout, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss draft prospects. "That's what I'd advise them to do. I don't think anybody is really high on them."
The scout, who followed UK closely all season, said that if the twins leave, his franchise would be unlikely to draft either of them. Many teams are intrigued by their size, he said, but there are questions about their speed, explosiveness and shooting ability.
"They've got to work on those things in the summer to better their chances," the scout said. "Right now they don't have that, so they're kind of average. They did help themselves in the tournament. Andrew moved up, kind of high second round or maybe late first. But before all of that, they weren't even in some teams' top 60."
I think the plan for the Twins was to go to Kentucky for a season and then to proceed to the NBA. But the learning curve was much steeper than they had anticipated and their on-court maturity level took some tweaking, therefore leaving them with a much more difficult decision at season's end than they anticipated.
With another season at Kentucky, they could vault back into the first round of the 2015 draft, possibly in the lottery, as the draft next season won't be as guard heavy. But as it looks now, an early departure for them would spell uncertainty and the possibility of being left behind. The NBA isn't a league known for developing players. The D-League isn't a real farm system like the MLB minor leagues. It's generally a holding place for players that don't fit into the plans of the franchise.
While the NBA might be the ultimate goal for Andrew and Aaron, it appears that the league isn't quite ready for them just yet. While their decision may seem like an easy one to us, it must be difficult for them to see their dream right in front of them, but at more of a distance than they would like. Whatever their choice may be, it is theirs and their family to make. Kentucky fans will support them no matter what.