John Calipari has said that, so it must be true, right? Well, not so fast.
After having had Coach Cal at Kentucky for a couple of years, I think we have all come to understand that everything he says, particularly about players, is aimed at somebody, and sometimes several somebodies, in particular. Sometimes it's the player he's talking about. Sometimes it's another player on the team. Sometimes, it's a player who isn't a player at Kentucky yet. And sometimes, it isn't players at all.
I think the last one is the case in this particular instance. Of the three freshmen who considered going to the NBA last year, Lamb was arguably the most likely to have dropped out of the first round, although I don't necessarily think he would have. But he could have.
This is Calipari trying to boost Doron Lamb's stock, and I think its about time. Brandon Knight was "the guy" last year, and most of Calipari's compliments and plaudits were directed his way as well as toward Enes Kanter, to help boost their NBA stock. Lamb is an interesting player, but he has some issues transitioning to the next level. At 6'4", he isn't the prototypical NBA shooting guard anymore. Times have changed, and 6'4" is about right for a point guard. But Lamb is patently not a point guard, even though he is more than capable of serving as one in a pinch. He is a good passer, has a good feel for the game and a really nice pace to his play.
So for Lamb to go high in the draft, he absolutely must become a better ballhandler and finisher at the rim in order to serve in the combo role. So what is Calipari specifically touting? Let's go to the Andy Katz article quoted by the link above:
Calipari said the 6-foot-4 Lamb worked on his ballhandling extensively in the offseason. He said he has seen him mature off the court as well.
What's the thing that Lamb needs to have touted the most in the combo role? Ballhandling. Passing. Point guard stuff. He already shoots the ball lights out, everyone understands that, but can he handle against NBA pressure? This is Calipari saying he can.
Expect to see more of this, and something similar for Terrence Jones, although Jones doesn't need it as badly -- he is going in the first round unless he collapses this season, which I don't believe he will. But Lamb needs a little PR to keep him in the first round, especially if the NBA draft goes off as expected at the end of this year with a ton of talent jumping to the Association.
Don't get me wrong, I think Calipari very well could be right, and he is in a position to know. In addition, you know this will have the effect of motivating the heck out of Terrence Jones and the rest of the incoming freshmen -- they don't want Lamb to get all that glory, and they know that NBA scouts, even if they don't automatically take Calipari at his word, are listening. And watching.