Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Knight, Jones, Liggins to test NBA waters
By Eamonn Brennan
Tuesday, after Doron Lamb announced his decision to return to Kentucky for a sophomore season, yours truly wrote a long, rambling post about the interesting personnel dynamic facing Kentucky this offseason. John Calipari's team -- as is the case almost every offseason, it seems -- is in transition. But how dramatic will that transition be? And can one team have too much young talent?
The scenario is such: If Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones decide to come back for their sophomore seasons, they could very well find themselves jockeying for time and touches with an insanely talented group of freshmen. Or they could enter the draft and never look back.
What are their respective decisions? The answer is ... well, we still don't know, exactly. Talk about anticlimactic.
On Tuesday, Kentucky announced via a release that Knight and Jones, along with junior forward DeAndre Liggins, would indeed enter their names into the NBA draft this spring. However, all three have decided to do so without an agent, meaning they'll be eligible to return to the college game as long as they withdraw their names by that still-silly May 8 deadline. In other words, they are, yes, testing the waters.
How will the swim feel? If current projections hold, both Knight and Jones should find the draft waters rather comfortable. Knight is currently No. 9 on Chad Ford's list of top 100 NBA prospects. Jones is currently No. 12. It's worth noting, too, that the list still includes Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones, all of whom have announced their returns to school and all of whom are ranked above the Kentucky duo in the lottery. That could be a huge boon to Jones' stock, because teams in search of forwards would almost certainly have drafted each of those three players ahead of the versatile lefty in June. And if Knight manages to impress scouts, he could even leapfrog Kemba Walker to become to second point guard taken in the lottery.
In other words: Barring any scary talk about the lockout, both Knight and Jones will probably like what they hear.
Liggins seems to be in a tougher spot. The 6-foot-6 junior is an athletic, rangy defensive stopper whose excellence on that side of the ball ought to be attractive to NBA scouts in at least some form. But Liggins isn't listed among Ford's top 100 prospects. He is No. 55 on Draft Express' board. Either way, there's a reason plenty of folks in the Houston media room were a little surprised when Liggins was asked about his future following Kentucky's Final Four loss to Connecticut.
Frankly, Liggins isn't a top prospect -- he's already 23 years old, for that matter -- and unless he blows people away in his workouts, it's hard to imagine him being taken too near the first round. Meanwhile, the alternative -- coming back to Kentucky and fighting for playing time with the likes of Michael Gilchrist, arguably the best player in the incoming class -- is none too attractive, either.
Anyway, there you have it. All three will test the waters, see where they stand and decide accordingly in the first week of May. It's hard to imagine Jones and Knight turning down their shots at the lottery, given the talent arriving at Kentucky, and it will be interesting to see how Liggins weighs his present options against the possibilities of the future. But for now, Big Blue Nation will wait a little longer before it finds out which combination of insanely talented recruits is going to take the floor in 2011 and beyond.