This one is tricky. The nature of John Calipari’s system is always going to have some volatility in the off-season of what the roster will look like the next year. Since that same system just produced a national title, I’m guessing Cat fans can deal with the anxiety.
Darius Miller & Eloy Vargas have exhausted their eligibility and neither player was a starter for the Cats. But that doesn’t mean that neither player has a future in basketball. Darius Miller will likely be selected in June’s NBA Draft, while Eloy is more than likely destined for business. Darius Miller right now is projected as an early 2nd round selection, but I think he’s a steal in the late first round and can plug right away into a team that needs a shooter.
It hasn’t been announced yet, but Anthony Davis will be the hands-down, no doubt about it #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. The only bad news for Davis is that he has the greatest probability to be a Charlotte Bobcat, but he is set to be a very wealthy individual. Outside of Davis I don’t want to assume that anyone else is set to jump before announcing
Who Should Leave
If you started for Kentucky during 2011-12 you have the right to consider leaving for June’s 2012 NBA Draft. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that player should go. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has expressed a desire to remain in college and that’s fantastic if he enjoys his college experience that much. While I would never rush anyone to become a professional Kidd-Gilchrist’s game is actually better suited for the NBA than College. Kidd-Gilchrist will benefit from a wider lane and more space and I think if he can improve on his jumper he could end up a lot like Ron Artest (I’m not calling him Metta World Peace, the meds aren’t working). Right now MKG is the #2 projected pick by most sources who do that sort of thing and he simply just should never turn that type of opportunity down. There are too many examples of players who didn’t cash in, or barely did (Greg Oden) and I don’t think that will happen to Kidd-Gilchrist there isn’t much sense in risking it.
After that, I think Terrence Jones has a tough decision to make. From what I have seen Jones sits right outside the lottery. That isn’t a bad place to be, but I really think Jones played outstanding in the last 15 games for the Cats and showed me that he is ready for the NBA. I really don’t think there is a player that developed more during the season than Terrence Jones and I expect that he will attempt to improve his position during the camps leading up to the draft. The only reason why he might stay is because there are a TON of post players in this draft (he is projected 18th, and 12 players in front of him are 6-8 or taller) so Jones could easily slide into the lottery in 2013. It will be a very personal decision for him, sometimes it is better to go to a late first round team who is more established than going to a franchise completely starting from scratch.
Who Should Stay
Doron Lamb was steady all season. He was consistent and shot a ridiculous percentage from beyond the arc. But he also didn’t really dominate and the NBA requires something a little different. At this point there is no doubt that Doron would get drafted, he would likely be a late first round pick but in my opinion Lamb should return to Kentucky to further enhance his skills. Some would argue that the best way to build up your game is to go to the league where players literally eat, sleep, and breathe basketball, but right now Lamb would go to a good team and would need to hope to find a scenario where a team would need a shooter (this is the NBA by the way, they can all shoot) or otherwise find himself wasting away on the bench. Lamb should hold out another year, but we’ll see what he does.
Marquis Teague really came on in the post-season. I was really impressed. But his season was less than outstanding and I think we’ve all just begun to see his shine. Teague coming back as a sophomore would solidify his star and he could move up past a late first round/early second round selection.
Who Will Definitely Be On Roster
Ryan Harrow: Point Guard, was a top rated guard from NC State
Kyle Wiltjer: Forward, tall and deadly from outside
Jon Hood: Forward, will probably factor depending on what shape he is in returning from knee injury
Jarrod Polson: Guard, walk-on earned a scholarship
Twany Beckham: Guard, may get an increased role is Lamb departs
Sam Malone: Non-Scholarship Player
Brian Long: Guard, Non-Scholarship Player
Alex Poythress: Small Forward
Willie Cauley: Center
Archie Goodwin: Shooting Guard
Recruiting to get wrapped up. At this point 6 of Scout.com’s Top 25 prospects are uncommitted and all list Kentucky. The main focus right now is on the top two players in the class, shot blocker and #1 player overall Nerlens Noel, and the dynamic wing player and #2 player overall Shabazz Muhammad. If Kentucky wraps up these two I still expect the remaining 4 available players to get consideration because the Cats appear to be light in the post, Coach Calipari will likely make a run at Anthony Bennett, Tony Parker, and Amile Jefferson to get some depth in the post.
Best Case Scenario
Recruiting is a big piece to this equation (we don’t really cover recruiting here) so obviously if John Calipari can continue the tradition of locking up the #1 recruiting class in the nation then everything will be fine and UK will begin the season in the top 5 once again. Especially if Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb return to the fold.
Ryan Harrow will also return to add backcourt depth and Archie Goodwin will certainly find the court as well. There could be a potential log-jam of guards (a change from this past season) especially if Shabazz Muhammad also becomes a Wildcat Coach Calipari might want to take a look at a 3-guard lineup. It’s not a bad situation to be in and Coach Cal has shown a willingness to get the best players on the floor. Alex Poythress would plug right in at the small forward position as well and a 3-guard lineup could be DEEEEPPPP, but there are certainly options in the backcourt. Poythress could play Power Forward if necessary as well.
In the post, Nerlens Noel has praised heaped upon him on a regular basis by those who have seen his game. Even more so than Anthony Davis had coming into college. Getting him would allow Calipari to more willingly play with 3-guards. But there would still be a need for a power forward. Kyle Wiltjer would be fine, but he still needs a long way to come defensively to play for Calipari on a full-time basis. With Noel, Willie Cauley might also be entertained to play the 4 spot.
Worst Case Scenario
The worst thing that could happen is for Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb enter the NBA Draft while at the same time Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad choose to go elsewhere. Ryan Harrow would be fine at the point guard position and Archie Goodwin could create a nice tandem, but that group doesn’t have the experience and it would certainly be a change. Plenty of talent in the backcourt, just not a lot of depth. Twany Beckham would need to play a lot of minutes in this scenario.
Without Noel, Willie Cauley would be your likely starter in the middle and he would be OK in this role. He’s no Anthony Davis (no one is) and would need to come along throughout the season to become a reliable post man at the college level. Alex Poythress and Kyle WIltjer would take the forward spots, but in this scenario there is very little depth and I would expect Calipari to add at least one more post player in recruiting and would need Jon Hood to be in good shape following his knee injury.
My Best Guess
I think the reality will end up somewhere between Best and Worst Case Scenarios. I would think one of either Teague or Lamb will go pro. And I think one of Muhammad and Noel will end up at UK. Not having all 4 could be a lot to deal with, but that is unlikely to happen.
I would bet that Lamb goes pro. Teague stays. Noel comes to UK, Shabazz goes to UCLA and Calipari picks up one of the remaining post players available.
With this, I see Teague and Harrow being the starters in the backcourt, sort of like Bledsoe/Wall. Cauley would play Center, Poythress and Goodwin playing some sort of flex at the 3 position, and mixing in Wiltjer and whatever post player Cal adds at the 4 spot.