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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: The Case For DeAndre Liggins' Return

TeamWeaver wrote a thoughtful commentary the other day about the economics of the NBA draft and the three players who have declared themselves eligible for early entry.  It was an excellent piece that I would like to take some time to add some commentary to as it applies to DeAndre Liggins.

Liggins is an interesting case, and as TeamWeaver notes, there is some concern about the calcification of his perception among NBA scouts.  The theory goes that scouts form an opinion of a player's potential fairly early on and it takes a lot to change that perception.  I think this has some basis in reality, but I'm not so sanguine that early perceptions are a major hill to climb.

When you look at Liggins' game, one thing that works to his advantage for next year is the fact of his maturity, both physically and mentally.  Liggins isn't just a small forward, or an off guard -- he can play any position on the floor for spells, and with his reputation as a defender, will get a lot more time than he might otherwise get, especially early in the season. The big reason for this is the fact that defensive ability will be at a premium on next year's team, despite the reputation of Gilchrist and the length of Davis.  Particularly in the backcourt, the Wildcats will need a good defender, and my suspicion is that Liggins will easily get enough time to show what he can do offensively.

Liggins' tendency on offense this year was to defer to Brandon Knight, but Knight was an unusual player in the Calipari system.  Calipari's point guards tend to be more like Marquis Teague and less like Knight, in that their scoring comes primarily off the bounce and in transition.  Knight was much more capable in the half-court, but if you look back to Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, and John Wall, none of them were great-half court scorers.

That places Miller, Liggins and Gilchrist in the position of being your primary wing scorers, and Gilchrist is not really a jumpshooter - he is more of a slasher and an energy guy.  Liggins has developed a dangerous jumpshot and has become very effective off the dribble drive, particularly at drawing fouls.  His body is now very mature and he is conditioned like a piece of iron.  He is ready for a big season in every statistical category, and although he isn't likely to lead the team in scoring, all he really has to do is prove he can put up 15-18 points a game at the college level to get into the first round of the draft with his ready-made defense, excellent passing, and great ball skills.

So I will depart slightly from TeamWeaver's comments about Liggins, and suggest that next year presents and excellent opportunity for him to get into the first round, if not anywhere too close to the lottery.  Liggins lacks the natural athleticism that is usually required to get you to the first 14 picks, but he has more than enough to be picked from 15-30, or very early in the second round.  Right now, he is at best a mid- to late second round pick, primarily because he hasn't shown the pros that he can score enough.

No matter what happens, I feel fairly confident that Liggins will wind up playing in the NBA soon.  I also feel confident that another year at Kentucky will give him all the opportunity he needs to shake David Stern's hand as one of the first 30 players picked.

[Editors note:  Many thanks to Ken, JC and the FanPost contributors for helping a brother out when I was in Las Vegas this week for a friend's wedding.  Yes, it was fun as always.]