UK Trio Puts Their Names In The NBA DraftPosted by nvr1983 on April 20th, 2011
After several weeks of speculation Kentucky freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones and junior DeAndre Liggins have put their names in the NBA Draft although none of them has signed with an agent yet, leaving open the possibility that they could all return to Lexington next season. Although we noted the interesting trend (is three players a trend?) of several of this year’s top freshmen deciding to stay in college at least one more year, it appears that will not be happening in Lexington. The allure of NBA riches has been tempered for some potential picks by the impending NBA lockout, which from what we have heard is more a matter of when than if, but many have speculated that agents will help the players get through the lockout without any financial difficulty.
Knight and Jones are both predicted to be lottery picks this year after solid freshmen campaigns. Knight averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game while leading the Wildcats to the SEC Tournament title and a Final Four appearance. Knight was also named as a freshman All-American and the East Regional Most Outstanding Player. Jones, who started off extremely well with a spectacular performance at the Maui Invitational then saw his production taper as the season progressed, averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Like Knight, Jones also picked up several individual awards along the way as he was named a freshman All-American and SEC Freshman of the Year. Liggins is a slightly more interesting case as most mock drafts have him going in the second round if he is even drafted. As a junior, Liggins averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, but his biggest contribution to the Wildcats this season came on the defensive end as he received recognition from several media outlets for his defensive play as he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and to several national All-Defensive teams.
While all three players have until May 8 to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft and come back to Kentucky it is certainly possible that all three may stay in the NBA Draft. For Knight and Jones, the guaranteed NBA millions are an obvious draw, but for Liggins that is less than assured to put it lightly. The bigger issue for Liggins and to a lesser extent Knight and Jones is that they may see their production diminish next year due to the outstanding incoming freshman class that John Calipari is bringing into Lexington. With Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Kyle Wiltjer all expected to log significant minutes Calipari will have to adjust the rotation and that will likely come at the expense of guys like Jones and Lamb (Knight should be relatively secure, but even he would lose some playing time). So even with an extra year of playing time someone like Liggins might not see his NBA Draft stock get any higher than the 2nd round. Any improvement that Knight and/or Jones would see in their NBA Draft stock would be marginal at best. It is possible that one or two of them could return, but it seems more likely that all three have worn a Wildcat uniform for the last time.
The big winner out of all this appears to be UNC, who earlier this week learned that likely top 5 pick Harrison Barnes had decided to come back along with John Henson and Tyler Zeller. With the announcements from UK the Tar Heels now have to be considered the odds-on favorites to cut down the nets in New Orleans next April. Their road will certainly not be easy, but even with UK’s talented incoming freshmen class it is hard to see any other team matching up favorably with the Tar Heels. At least on paper.