Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
- 20.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.0 RPB
- Contract status: $14M this year, UFA after 2018-19
After a complete season in 2015-16, the injury bug caught up with Bledsoe again last season and limited him to just 31 games. When he is healthy, he is dynamic and has earned the nickname of "Mini LeBron". He has done a nice job of working on his outside shot and hit 37.2% of his three-pointers, which was the best for his time in Phoenix. His season ended in December with a knee injury but all indications seem to indicate that he will be ready for this season.
PROGNOSIS: The sky is the limit if he can stay healthy and he is on the verge of being an elite player in the league. His injuries seem to affect him every other season and if that holds, look for a full season from Bledsoe.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
- 13.8 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.5 RPG
- Contract status: $2,223,600 this year, RFA in 2019-20
Thanks in part to the injuries to former Wildcats Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, Booker emerged last year a rookie. Booker struggled with his shot at times, hitting 34.3% of his three-pointers and 42.3% overall. When he was on, he was very good and had six games of over 30 points in his rookie campaign. Booker definitely has people in Phoenix excited about his future as Jared Dudley referred to Devin as the Suns' "next star". Keep in mind that Booker will be just 20 when the season tips off. Booker tore up the Summer League and is getting stronger and expect his outside shot to improve.
PROGNOSIS: Booker will be an All-Star for several years in Phoenix and it seems like the big question mark for his minutes has been resolved. Booker has been named a starter this year. There is a buzz that Booker could play some minutes at SF as he is still growing. The combo of Booker, Bledsoe and Knight have played just 43 minutes together so we could see this combo on the court some too.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings
- 7.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG
- Contract status: $3,551,160 this year, RFA in 2019-20
Overall, Cauley-Stein had a solid rookie campaign, even though it was a bit consistent at times. He started 39 games and was a solid presence defensively and in the paint. Over the course of the season, his offense improved and he was knocking down the mid-range jumper with regularity. He had a season-high 26 point performance against the Suns, which was part of back to back 20 point games. Cauley-Stein has added 20 pounds to his frame for the upcoming season.
PROGNOSIS: Cauley-Stein could move into the starting spot at PF, but Dave Joerger has not committed to that yet. Early results in the pre-season seem to indicate as if Kosta Koufas may get the starting nod. It seems as it Cauley-Stein, with the extra bulk, may be better suited to back up DeMarcus Cousins. Either way, it is a good problem to have for the Kings as Cauley-Stein will see plenty of time on the court and will improve offensively as well. It's not a stretch to see him as an All-Star caliber player in the next few years. Koufas may get the starting nod. It seems as it Cauley-Stein, with the extra bulk, may be better suited to back up DeMarcus Cousins. Either way, it is a good problem to have for the Kings as Cauley-Stein will see plenty of time on the court and will improve offensively as well. It's not a stretch to see him as an All-Star caliber player in the next few years.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
- 26.9 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG
- Contract status: $16,957,900 this year, will be a UFA after 2017-18
Without a doubt, Cousins maintains his status as one of the best big men in the league. He has literally averaged a double-double in five of his six seasons in the league. I said literally, Not to nitpick, he did average 9.9 rebounds a game in 2012-13, but he has a career 20.2 PPG and 10.8 RPG average. Boogie also added a three-point shot to his game this season and hit 70 treys for a 33.3% clip. Not bad for a guy who has connected on 11 three-pointers in his first five seasons. Perhaps the most impressive thing about last year is that Cousins played through the pain of foot tendinitis all season and then capped his year with a Gold Medal.
PROGNOSIS: It's scary to see what a guy that Vlade Divac called the "most dominant player in the whole world" will do without the foot pain next year. Cousins underwent shock therapy treatments on his feet and dropped about 20 pounds. It's really going to be interesting to see where Cousins ends up as a free agent in two years. It's important to note that at just 26, he is headed into his prime.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
- 24.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG. 2.0 BPG
- Contract status: $21,109,000 this year, will be RFA after 2021-22
From all indications, Anthony Davis' knee injury will not be holding him back this year. So, expect to hear his name in serious MVP talk as he builds on last season. It's important to note that Davis is just 23-year-old and according to him, he is still growing as he added an inch to his frame and he has bulked up to 250. Also, he has been dealing with a torn labrum for the past three seasons so he is for the first time, completely healthy. That is a scary thing for the rest of the league.
PROGNOSIS: Davis is the face of the Pelicans franchise and he still has five more seasons on the monster extension he inked last summer. The priority is to get through a season healthy, something he has not done yet, so there are valid injury concerns as he has just played sixty-odd games each year. If he can stay healthy and get the Pelicans into the playoffs, this could be his first MVP season.
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns
- 8.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.5 RPG
- Contract status: $2,094,089, RFA after 2016-17
Even though he is stuck in the Kentucky logjam at the SG spot, the Phoenix brass seems to still be high on Goodwin and have them in their long range plans. Goodwin just turned 22 and has seen his numbers increase every year with the Suns. The biggest frustration is with his shooting as he hit just 41.7% of his shots and 23.2% of his three-pointers. When the team was decimated by injuries in February, Goodwin responded, averaging 15.0 points and 3.8 assists. Three years in however, the Suns still don't really know what they have with Goodwin.
PROGNOSIS: The clock is ticking on Goodwin's future in Phoenix. If he does not get an extension by October 31, he will become a restricted free agent. I have seen stories that GM Ryan McDonough will talk an extension with Goodwin, so we shall see. Phoenix fans, in part, seem to have tired of Goodwin's inconsistencies and with the emergence of Booker, think he is gone. It is a curious thing that a lot of fans still see him as a raw project three years in, but time will tell on Goodwin. He is not in danger of dropping out of the league, but who knows where his future is.
Aaron Harrison, Charlotte Hornets
- 0.9 PPG, 0.1 Assists, 0.7 RPG
- Contract status: $874,636 (partially guaranteed), RFA next year
If you blinked, you likely missed Aaron Harrison’s rookie season in the NBA. Although he did appear in 21 games, he tallied around 85 minutes on the season. He did play pretty well in the D-League and averaged 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 13 games. He did not exactly tear the league up as he struggled with his shooting, hitting just 36.3% of his shots and 26.5% of his three-pointers. He obviously has a lot to prove to ensure that he remains in the league after this year.
PROGNOSIS: Because his salary is partially guaranteed, he will more than likely bounce around between Charlotte and the D-League again this year. He did have a decent summer league and with Jeremy Lin gone, he could see more time as the backup point guard. Either way, he has a lot to prove and he has to improve his shot selection.
Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies
- 18.5 PPG, 4.9 ASSISTS, 4.3RPG (D-LEAGUE)
- Contract status: $945,000, RFA after 2019-20
Unlike his brother. Andrew did not sniff an NBA roster last year, but instead spent the entire season in the D-League. He struggled early but apparently impressed the Grizzlies brass enough to earn a three-year, $3M deal. The first two years are guaranteed and the third is partial. Harrison shot 37.2% for his career at Kentucky and improved that to 43.7% last year.
PROGNOSIS: Andrew has a good situation in Memphis and as of right now, some depth charts have him as the backup point guard to Mike Conley. Some have him as the third string, so it is definitely a situation to keep an eye on, but for now, Harrison has a home in the NBA.
Terrence Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
- 8.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.8 BPG
- Contract status: $980,431, UFA next season
This past season was one to forget for Terrence Jones. He found himself in JB Bickerstaff's doghouse and in and out of the Rockets lineup. This resulted in his lowest numbers in three years as his field goal percentage dropped to 45.2% 52.8% the previous year. The Rockets let him leave as a free agent and he was a late pickup by the Pelicans in the very crazy free agency season. The Pelicans got a bargain in Jones and got a guy that can score as well as defend multiple positions. He has been working with Anthony Davis and this is a great chance to re-establish himself in the league.
PROGNOSIS: Look for Jones to rebound nicely and to earn steady playing time with the Pelicans, Alvin Gentry has said that Jones can play some minutes at center and Kentucky fans have to be excited to see Jones and Davis reunited. The big knock on Jones has been injuries so he needs to stay healthy as he has just a one-year deal so he is playing for his future. Expect him to be an absolute bargain for the Pelicans and resign with the Pelicans after this year.
Enes Kanter, OKC Thunder
- 12.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.4 BPG
- Contract status: $17,145, 838 this year, will have an option after 2017-18
With the political upheaval in Turkey, it has been a tumultuous off-season for Kanter, but he has a good opportunity in the new-look Thunder. Last year was the first year that Kanter has come off the bench in three seasons but he posted a career-best 57.6% shooting percentage. Kanter has done a good job in expanding his range and he has said that he wants to be a better passer this year. He may pick up minutes at the PF position with Serge Ibaka departing.
PROGNOSIS: For much of the summer, Kanter was supposedly on the trading block as OKC was looking for a better replacement for Kevin Durant. The fact that OKC is paying is paying $17M for a non-starter could still mean that he is on the block so we could very well see Kanter in a new location next year.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets
- 12.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.3 APG
- Contract status: $13M this year, player option after 2018-19
The injury bug limited Kidd-Gilchrist to just seven games last year and he has played in just 124 games in the past three years. This had to be disappointing for him as he was having a solid season and was having a career high year in points averaged, shooting (54.1%) and three-pointers (42.9%). Kidd-Gilchrist says that he has been working on his shooting a lot since last year and he is close to being a five-tool player with a little improvement offensively.
PROGNOSIS: Assuming he can stay healthy, this should be a solid season for Kidd-Gilchrist as the Hornets have lost some depth on the wing. Kidd-Gilchrist is still just 23 years old and is on track for a solid NBA career.
Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
- 19.6 PPG, 5.1 PPG, 3.9 APG
- Contract status: $12,606,250 this year, UFA after 2019-20
Injuries limited Knight to 52 games last year and 63 games over the past two seasons and in the process, may have cost him his starting job in Phoenix. Knight, who was having a career year, was the subject of trade rumors over most of the off-season, thanks to the emergence of Devin Booker. Knight took the news over losing his starting spot very well and is reportedly excited with the young talent the Suns have. This should not affect Knight's playing time very much as he can play both guard spots behind Booker and Bledsoe.
PROGNOSIS: Don't be shocked if Knight is the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year this year. He is still going to get plenty of minutes in Phoenix and we may see the the Knight-Booker-Bledsoe lineup at times as Booker has been rumored to see some time at the three as well. If things do not go well in Phoenix, Knight could be moved but for now, all the parties seem content in Phoenix.
Make sure to check back on Friday as we look at the rest of the former Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA and take a look at the prospects of a couple more players that are fighting to get back in.