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Kentucky Wildcat Quickies: Class of 2015 Update Edition

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A comparison of select 2105 UK NCAAB scholarship offerees, those who landed in Lexington and elsewhere; an ode to Marshawn Lynch; new NCAA rules; a 'Cat terrorizes NBA Northwestern Division foes with a Cardinal; MKG's right shoulder is cursed; and the Phoenix Suns highlight today's Quickies.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

After a work-related absence, the verbosity has returned, though I wistfully offer no intergalactic Kris Dunn-Sixers-Middle Eastern peace exposition to you this week.  Instead, something (appropriately) more UK-centric.

There were a myriad of hands being wrung in the spring of 2015 when some of UK's primary NCAAB recruiting targets opted to attend college elsewhere.  Murmurings of John Calipari's deposal from the throne as the country's premier recruiter transformed into panicked howling among certain sectors of Big Blue Nation.  Despite UK's 2015 class being designated, yet again, the nation's supreme assemblage, many were certain that Cal had "lost his touch," as it were.

There are five 2015 5* prospects who, at one time or another, were considered to be strong UK leans but committed elsewhere: G Malik Newman (Mississippi State), PF Cheick Diallo (KU), C Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), PF Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) and SF Jaylen Brown (Cal).

Why these prospects chose to play elsewhere is worthy of another 1,000 words on some other Friday.  That said, I'm willing to speculate that Newman, Zimmerman and Swanigan chose their destinations because they wanted to stay home or there was some familial connection.  Newman has spent his entire life in Mississippi and his father played basketball for MSU, Zimmerman attended high school in Nevada, and Swanigan is from Fort Wayne, IN and his legal guardian played football at Purdue.  The others?  Who knows.

Either way, let's compare their performances thus far this season to the 5*s that UK did sign: G Isaiah Briscoe, G Jamal Murray and PF Skal Labissiere.

Per-game statistics are easy, but not reliable as player evaluators; further, they're even less valid when used to compare players.  As a result, I've chosen to use "per 40 minutes" numbers here.

Renowned basketball statistician John Hollinger describes the function of per-minutes statistics as such:  "what a player does on a per-minute basis is far more important than his per-game stats. The latter tend to be influenced more by playing time than by quality of play..."

They're not perfect, but they provide a more authentic picture than per-game stats, while still being accessible and easily understood.  If you really want to nerd it up with advanced stuff -- which really is the best way to measure performance -- like true shooting %, usage %, etc., email me at martinez.brad.j@gmail.com.

Anyway, courtesy of the venerated www.sports-reference.com (sorry for the poor formatting):

Malik Newman (40%FG, 41%2PT, 40%3PT, 71%FT)

FG  FGA  2P 2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS
5.7 14.2 2.5 6.2 3.2 8.1 2.7 3.8 3.9 3.0 0.6 0.1 2.5 2.4 17.4

Isaiah Briscoe (44%FG, 49%2PT, 15%3PT, 40%FT)

FG  FGA  2P 2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF  PTS
5.1 11.5 4.8 9.9 0.2 1.6 2.0 5.0 6.5 4.3 1.5 0.2 2.5 3.8 12.4

Jamal Murray (44%FG, 47%2PT, 40%3PT, 76%FT)

FG  FGA  2P 2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF  PTS
7.6 17.4 4.1 8.7 3.5 8.7 3.0 3.9 5.6 2.6 1.4 0.2 3.0 2.5 21.7

Jaylen Brown (46%FG, 53%2PT, 27%3PT, 66%FT)

FG  FGA  2P  2PA  3P 3PA  FT  FTA  TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF  PTS
7.7 16.7 6.5 12.4 1.1 4.3 6.7 10.2 8.0 2.8 1.0 0.9 4.5 4.7 23.2

Cheick Diallo (57%FG, 57%2PT, 0%3PT, 55%FT)

FG  FGA  2P  2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB  AST STL BLK TOV PF  PTS
7.0 12.1 7.0 12.1 0.0 0.0 3.1 5.7 12.1 0.3 1.3 3.6 2.8 7.2 17.0

Caleb Swanigan (43%FG, 49%2PT, 28%3PT, 75%FT)

FG  FGA  2P 2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB AST STL BLK  TOV PF  PTS
5.6 12.9 4.5 9.2 1.0 3.7 2.8 3.8 13.4 3.0 0.5 0.3 4.7 3.6 14.9

Stephen Zimmerman (48%FG, 49%2PT, 36%3PT, 63%FT)

FG  FGA  2P  2PA  3P 3PA  FT  FTA TRB AST STL BLK  TOV PF  PTS
6.1 12.9 5.8 11.9 0.4 1.0 3.9 6.2 13.9 1.2 0.8 3.3 3.0 4.5 16.5

Skal Labissiere (51%FG, 52%2PT, 0%3PT, 71%FT)

FG  FGA  2P  2PA  3P 3PA  FT FTA  TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF  PTS
6.6 12.9 6.6 12.7 0.0 0.2 3.6 5.1 6.9 0.6 0.6 4.0 2.7 7.4 16.7

As this is a Quickies post, I mostly offer these numbers for discussion; however, here are a few general takeaways to catalyze the banter:

  1. While Skal not rebounding as much as most people expect a big man to (though it was not considered a strength of his coming into college) might make you long for big number individual frontcourt rebounders like Swanigan and Zimmerman, UK, as a team, is an elite offensive rebounding team (I see you, JLev) as it is, and ranks in the 60s overall in rebounds per game.
  2. Though Swanigan is a primary reason for Purdue's success this season, the bulk of his contribution comes on the boards.  His offensive numbers are pedestrian, 0.3 blocks per 40 at 6'9'' is underwhelming, and 4.7 turnovers per game as a secondary ballhandler would be enough to send him to the bench on a more talented team.  I'd take '15-'16 Poythress over Swanigan.
  3. Jamal Murray > Malik Newman.
  4. Zimmerman would probably have a prominent spot in this UK rotation (if only for his rim protection), though he would certainly contribute to its foul-prone nature and get pulled frequently for not taking care of the ball.
  5. Of the five, though I believe he was always the least likely to come to Lexington, it would have been fantastic for Calipari to have landed Brown, even with those foul and turnover numbers.  Putting Brown and Murray on the floor simultaneously, which would be inevitable, would probably be an inefficient offensive pairing, though.
  6. If you want to know why Skal is still a lottery pick, look at those numbers, add in his size, that gorgeous shot, and potential, and you have your answer.  The turnovers are a little high, but his offensive numbers are lottery-worthy for a rangy stretch four.  His per 40s are not that much different from Trey Lyles' were last year.  The fouls, though...woof.

An Ode

Today's Quickies are dedicated to one of my favorite (former) football players and sports personalities, Marshawn Lynch, who recently retired after just nine seasons.

I gravitate towards idiosyncratic people and Lynch was certainly one, the rare athlete who preferred not to speak or conform to any type of standard, really, beyond being great.  I also people who do stuff like this in college.

Did you know that he hasn't spent one dollar of the $50 million he's earned in the NFL?  Or that he's been known to drop 401(k) knowledge on teammates during practice?

Hopefully, Lynch's business and career decisions serve as a guidepost for young NFL players who want both financial security and long-lasting health.

Hat tip to the Homie Nick for reminding me about the injury cart video.

NCAAB

*NCAAB Top 25 Roundup: Nothing but upsets!  #4 Iowa fell to IU in Bloomington, 85-78 and Cal shellacked #11 Oregon, 83-63.

Illustrative of the zaniness going on in college basketball this year: in mid-February, Iowa is a projected #1 NCAAT seed, Oregon a #2, and Miami (FL) a #3.  Meanwhile, recent champions UK sit at a #4 seed, Duke a #6, UConn a #8, and U of L is obviously out.

*Some Marques Bolden stuff: Jeff Borzello's Decision Preview (the article is $ but the video is free; hint: the 2016 logjam in the UK frontcourt and the opposite situation at Duke might not bode well for UK) and a little bit of fluff.

*Rick Pitino does a little damage control for the U of L basketball program by reminding everyone that 4*/5* VJ King is coming to Jefferson County next summer, and that he is a decent basketball player.

*Auburn coach Bruce Pearl indefinitely suspended the Tigers' best player, PG Kareem Canty, earlier this week.  Canty's suspension differs from the typical college athletics "indefinite suspension" because it has spanned more than one game.

Seriously, though, this is a huge loss for Auburn.  Canty led the team in minutes, points per game, and assists per game.

Edit: Canty is done in Auburn and will enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

*Jonathan Isaac is a 5* member of FSU's 2016 class who also had a UK offer. Isaac is reportedly looking for a way to jump straight from American prep school to the league.  It's possible, by the way, if a player is 19 and a year removed from (graduating?) high school, but whether those boxes are checked for Isaac is a murky issue, as you'll read.

Aside from the obvious reason, this story is important because it puts the practical spotlight on a new NCAA rule that allows all college players much more freedom to "test the NBA waters" without facing amateur eligibility penalties.

Consider Ben Roberts' excellent piece from the LHL yesterday in its entirety on the subject, but here is a synopsis of the rule change:

"In a nutshell, the new rules will allow college basketball players to enter their names in the NBA Draft without risking future college eligibility. Once a player declares for the draft, he can participate in the NBA combine — if invited — and work out individually for NBA teams, thus gaining valuable feedback on his draft status while trying to decide whether to stay in college or move on to the pros.

Instead of the previous withdrawal deadline of mid-April, players will now have until 10 days after the combine — that’s May 25 this year — to withdraw from the draft and retain complete college eligibility."


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/sports/college/kentucky-sports/uk-basketball-men/article59788416.html#storylink=cpy

Why should we, Kentucky fans, care about the new NCAA rule?  As most of the players that UK recruits now want to get to the NBA as fast as possible, expect the majority of the roster to test these more student-athlete-friendly waters every May.

If you want the whole story regarding Isaac, click here, but know that, in doing so, you are supporting BBN-emy Pete Thamel.

*Speaking of Stephen Zimmerman, he has been ruled out indefinitely with a sprained knee.  Most likely, the next organized basketball game Zimmerman plays will be in a NBA Summer League uniform,

NBA/Pro Basketball

*Former 'Cat NBA Roundup: John Wall had a very forgettable night (you can check the stats for yourself) as the Wizards lost to the Bucks.  Anthony Davis played well offensively (23 points) but continued to underwhelm on the other end (3 rebounds and 0 blocks), and his Pels were blown out by the Thunder.  Neither UK alum figures to see the playoffs this season as their teams have been two of the more disappointing squads in the league.

In fact, of the 21 alums who've seen NBA action this season for their teams, only Patrick Patterson's (Toronto), MKG's (Charlotte), Enes Kanter's (Oklahoma City) and James Young's (Boston) teams are projected to make the postseason in 2016.  Jodie Meeks' Detroit Pistons still appear to have a chance, as well.

*Doron Lamb recently inked a deal with an Italian team.

*Call yourself a knowledgeable NBA fan at your own risk if you don't read Zach Lowe regularly.  Here is the fifth version of his Luke Walton All-Stars and weekly notes.

Buried in the notes, you'll notice that (gasp!) former Cardinal Gorgui Dieng has joined forces with UK alum Karl-Anthony Towns to form a formidable frontcourt tandem in the Minnesota starting lineup.

Also, I wonder if Lowe's view on Markieff Morris changed after Morris' scuffle with Archie Goodwin on Wednesday night?

By the way, we all know the Suns are a hellacious dumpster fire right now -- they've lost 24 of their last 26 games -- but the media highlighting these particular courtside antics appears to be much ado about nothing...or something?

Both Morris and interim coach Earl Watson downplayed the incident, and Goodwin had this to say about his relationship with Morris:

"I go to his house all the time," Goodwin said. "He comes to my house. We’re great friends. He’s like a brother to me. It’s just one of those situations. Family fight but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him any more or any less."

THEY GO TO EACH OTHERS' HOUSES, OKAY?  SO EVERYONE CALM THE HELL DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have a wonderful weekend.

P.S. Here are the original 151 Pokemon, ranked.