Watching the Kentucky star freshmen of 2012-13 is a reminder of the special level of the Kentucky star freshmen of 2011-12. That’s part of it, the new perspective of how unique Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist truly were in talent and leadership for first-year players on their way to going 1-2 in the draft.
The other part is that the current NBA-bound group has a long way to go to capture front offices, no matter the comparison. Possibilities, absolutely. Depth, yes, although, again, not like last season’s Wildcats that sent Davis (Hornets), Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats) and Marquis Teague (Bulls) to the pros after one season, along with sophomores Terrence Jones (Rockets) and Doron Lamb (Bucks) and senior Darius Miller (Hornets), and had all stick. But not the same early-season buzz.
This group is much more in the developmental stage, as much as Kidd-Gilchrist was desperately lacking a jump shot a year ago. That’s even with the best of the Kentucky prospects, Nerlens Noel, in the wide-open mix for the No. 1 pick in June, and even with the current possibility of four Wildcats going in the top 20. With so much time remaining, that means it wouldn’t be a shock if four go in the lottery, depending on who comes out and who returns for school.
Any school takes this so-called comedown, of course. It’s just that it is not the same in Lexington as 2011-12.
Noel is, like Davis, an immediate defensive presence as a big man and thin at 230 pounds, a shot blocker who quickly gets off the ground. He plays hard. Unlike Davis, though, Noel’s offense is nowhere. He will score very, very close to the basket, but is awkward with the ball. (Davis was so underrated on offense in his one season, because his defense was all the rage and because he was surrounded by so much talent.)
Archie Goodwin: There’s a lot of Eric Bledsoe, the current Clipper reserve, because of the blasts of speed in the open court and to get to the basket, and because Goodwin, like Bledsoe before him as a Kentucky one-and-done, needs to prove he can make the decisions of a top point guard and deliver the ball. If Goodwin begins to play more under control, he jumps way up the draft board.
Willie Cauley-Stein: More of a traditional wide-body center than Noel, an appeal to the NBA, and Cauley-Stein has some inside game. It’s hard to imagine him in the lottery without taking giant steps on the learning curve, or unless a lot of prospects stay in school, but it easy to see a future as a backup big.
Alex Poythress: He already has an NBA body for small forward at 6-7 and 240 pounds, but not the game, needing to show he can score off the dribble and from the perimeter rather than trying to overpower opponents. Those advances could come, though. If they do, Poythress easily jumps to the top portion of the lottery.