We all heard about Kentucky’s famed 38-1 season.
We all heard about how Wisconsin ended it, crushed UK’s dreams of 40-0, in the Final Four.
Wisconsin went on to play the Duke Blue Devils, where they lost by five points. From the beginning of the season, everyone wanted to see Kentucky VS Duke in the finals, Karl-Anthony Towns VS Jahlil Okafor. Unfortunately, CBB fans had to settle for Frank Kaminsky VS Okafor instead. Kaminsky, along with Okafor and Towns, will be heading to the 2015 NBA Draft. However, Towns is not the only Kentucky player to be leaving John Calipari and the Wildcats.
According to New York Times’ Marc Tracy, Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and Dakari Johnson will all hope to have their names called in the draft. No other team has its top seven players all leaving early to the NBA. Towns, Lyles, and Booker are all freshmen, the Harrison Twins and Johnson are sophomores, while Cauley-Stein is the only junior.
Obviously, Towns and Cauley-Stein should be leaving UK. Towns is the current projected No. 1 pick, and Cauley-Stein is a lock for the lottery, and potentially a top-seven selection. Towns features blitzing athleticism, as shown by his 4.3 blocks per 40 minutes, while also possessing a deadly hook shot and excellent passing and shooting skills. He shot 81.3% from the charity stripe, an extremely good mark for a big man.
Cauley-Stein is no slacker in the athleticism department, but he has not improved much in the offensive side during his three-year tenure at Kentucky. However, NBA teams value his ability to guard all five positions, which had been shown in guarding and blocking Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant during a clutch moment of that game.
Booker and Lyles could flourish. Booker is the best shooter out of the entire bunch, as proven by his 41.1% three point conversion rate. Lyles is like a Kevin Durant with a worse jumper, with his 6-10 frame and plenty of athleticism just bubbling inside of him.
However, the Harrison Twins and Dakari Johnson should not have declared for the draft. Andrew is the more polished Harrison, but can still benefit from staying in UK. Aaron’s three-point shooting has actually declined, which isn’t especially promising if his main role is to shoot triples. Most mock drafts don’t even include them at all, which should be alarming. They were viewed as high lottery picks coming out of high school, but a junior year at Kentucky should have at least bumped them into the draft. Also, Johnson is a raw, unpolished seven footer who definitely would have benefited from another year under John Calipari’s tutelage.
Now, let’s look at Kentucky’s future. Tyler Ulis, a freshman guard, is returning. Two forwards, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee will also be coming back to UK for the 2015-2016 season. Poythress most likely would have declared, if not for a pesky ACL tear that limited him to just 8 games. He will be returning for a senior year. *Gasp*, a good Kentucky player as a senior!
Along with these Ulis, Poythress, and Lee, Kentucky will obviously be able to restock with new talent. Five star McDonald’s All Americans Skal Labissiere (top) and Isaiah Briscoe (bottom) have already committed to UK. #4 Labissiere is a 6-11 giant, while #10 Briscoe is largely touted as the best point guard available and is drawing John Wall comparisons.
While #1 prospect Ben Simmons has already signed with the LSU Tigers, #2 Jaylen Brown and #3 Malik Newman both have Kentucky on their lists. Brown has Kentucky as part of his top 8 clubs and one of his 3 teams he has visited. Newman, considered the best overall guard prospect, had five other teams not named Kentucky on his list.
With the departures of Devin Booker and the Harrison Twins, Newman could fit in perfectly at the two spot. His coach, David Sanders, stated that those three guards leaving for the NBA raised the Wildcat’s chances of landing Newman.
Thon Maker, Brandon Ingram, Cheick Diallo, Stephen Zimmerman, are all amazing prospects that all have a high chance of heading over to UK. Caleb Swanigan still has Kentucky on his list and will announce his decision very soon, but it seems to be the Wildcats are no longer near the top of his favorites.
UK already has a commitment from 2016 prospect Tai Wynyard, who could join as a mid-season enrollee as soon as December. Along with four-star player Charles Matthews, Kentucky’s future looks as bright as ever.
John Calipari is a master recruiter, and the loss of seven stars won’t destroy Kentucky’s chances at a title next year. In fact, their odds are actually 10-1, tied with Virginia and North Carolina.
At a realistic best, notable players on the Wildcats roster will consist of Tyler Ulis, Malik Newman, Jaylen Brown, Alex Poythress, Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, and Tai Wynyard. That’s an impressive roster, not to mention that Zimmerman, Maker, Diallo, and Ingram have not been included and are possibilities.
At the worst, the roster would look like Ulis, Briscoe, Lee, Poythress, Labissiere, Matthews, and Wynyard. This is unlikely, but even if this happens Kentucky still has a great team.
John Calipari’s system is all about recruiting, dominating, sending off players to the NBA, and then reloading with more five-star prospects.
Watch out for Kentucky. They’ll be back.
They always are.