If you get annoyed at the basketball insight of Jimmy Dykes, you might want to stop reading here.
If you fail to agree with at least 90% of Charles Barkley’s profound basketball wisdom, you may want to unfollow me on Twitter.
And if you are in danger of using a sick day at work if John Calipari leaves the University of Kentucky for the NBA, go ahead and unfriend me on Facebook.
Random insights about “one and dones” and things driven into the ground in and around UK basketball.
-There is a difference between being drafted and being an NBA player. Check out these impact players from the 2011 draft:
An odd mixture of D-Leaguers, role players, busts, a few starters, and one all-star.
As Charles Barkley pointed out during an NCAA tournament broadcast, the quality of play and players in the NBA has reached an all-time low, thanks to early draft entrants. My question is this: at what point did it become a good decision for players to enter the draft simply because they could be drafted? Sixty players are drafted each year. For those 60 to find work in the NBA, a total of 60 guys have to either retire or have their jobs taken from them. Barkley also pointed out that the NBA is a league of grown men. As I was reminded so many times during the course of this season, as I watched UK’s freshmen players fail to make fundamental basketball plays that I would expect freshmen in high school to make, ……..”They’re just boys. They were in high school at this time last year.” EXACTLY
And they’re gonna take the jobs away from grown men who aren’t ready to give up their jobs?
For every true one and done like John Wall there is a drafted and struggling Marquis Teague. The statistical success of Demarcus Cousins is quietly matched by the up and down D-league struggles of Daniel Orton (who isn’t under NBA contract- D-league salaries top out at $25,800) . Terence Jones and Eric Bledsoe could have benefited from another year of college, but they have now blossomed as pros. Liggins, Lamb, and Goodwin continue to bounce among teams and stints in the D-league. Lamb would have been a senior this year. Would this have made him a better NBA prospect? It would be nice to find out. What kind of advice do these “kids” get from their coaches? Is there a draft day ego factor that plays into the equation (getting kids drafted carries almost as much value as winning championships and LONG TERM outlook for players’ futures)? Sometimes it appears the Calipari’s philosophy is “send em on, boost our draft numbers for bragging/ego/recruiting, reload, and overestimate my ability to coach up the next bunch.” Honestly, whose job in the NBA did he think Marquis Teague was going to take? You couldn’t name a second string point guard that he could beat out for a job……….but teams draft on potential, so he’s gone.
What’s alarming to me about this year’s group of UK freshmen that may enter the draft is the fact that some of them are still fairly clueless in some fairly important areas of basketball. The sad evolution of basketball, especially as it pertains to elite players=as long as you can do certain things to help your team win the game (put the ball in the basket), you will be permitted to bypass 1) the learning of fundamentals 2) playing and understanding man to man defense, and 3) living, practicing and playing by the same rules as your teammates. It starts in youth leagues where coaches skip over teaching basic skills for the sake of winning and it snowballs from there. I felt pity on Calipari this season as I observed how poorly his players’ previous coaches seemed to have prepared them for college basketball. And then, by season’s end, it became apparent that he subscribes to the same coaching philosophy. 5-star freshmen have the luxury of a “learn at your own pace” system (for games anyway). Other players get the “one mistake and you’re out” system. The players’ pace of learning earned them 10 losses. This was one of the most talented teams ever assembled. They were a couple of losses away from the NIT and people talking about what a terrible coach Calipari is. If the season was 10 more games long, they would have been destroying everybody. As it was, the season was saved and they had an amazing run to the finals thanks to some last minute heroics. Analysts babbled about what a great job Calipari did with his team. But how does the season rate if those shots don’t go in? Failure? Underachievers? Probably. Yes, it was great coaching from the SEC tournament on. What about the rest of the season? Some players can make any coach look good (see Seton Hall 89) and some can make any coach look bad.
But why wait to fix the obvious stuff? Afraid to hurt somebody’s feelings? Inmates running the asylum? Maybe just a little more accountability from day one. Accountability says that you don’t have the same kids on the floor making the same mental errors in game #25 as you had in game #1. It’s that simple. It didn’t happen. Maybe too many of the games are conducted like they are a recruiting poster. Coach the games today. This season, we sort of ran out of games and todays and chances to get better (and those are pretty vital when you set everything up to play with all freshmen). Maybe that was part of the tweak. Maybe that’s why Hawkins finally found his way back into the rotation. He would play defense when others would not. Calipari actually yanked a starter (Young) in the NCAA tournament for not playing defense. To my knowledge, he hadn’t done this all season (but I did quit watching for a period). Why not do it in the first game of the season? Kinda late to learn now.
That brings me to my final point. Kids not being ready for the NBA. The thing these kids need to consider before entering the draft is this: they’re actually going to have to guard real live NBA players. James Young is projected as a possible lottery pick. James Young fouled out against Louisville trying to guard Luke Hancock, a guy that’s 2 steps slower than him. He fouled him five times, not because he got caught off his feet or tried to block a shot, but just because Hancock put down one dribble and took one step. Young somehow still doesn’t know how to position his feet or his body to take away the first step dribble. Really? Does the NBA have guys that are teaching 5th grade fundamentals in practice now. I bet the D-league has some real defensive gurus. Is Calipari telling him he is “ready” to guard Durant? Amazing talent. Ready for the NBA? No.
Julius Randle. Another amazing physical talent. Struggles terribly with court awareness, reading situations and making the right play, where to send the ball, when to get rid of the ball, when to shoot the ball……..basically does the same thing no matter where the defense is. Sure, he has a bright future ahead, but his future next year might be that he’s gonna have a hard time taking anybody’s job. But at least he’ll have a job and get paid. A guy like him could possibly double his contract with another year of college experience to develop. Hard to develop your skills from the end of a bench.
So where does that leave UK next year? Of course, most of it depends on who stays and who goes. But a lot of it may depend on how much the freshmen know when they get here and what their “pace” is in the “learn at your own pace” system that is designed to draw in the next group of 5-stars.
Strange tidbits. Championship game was Kal’s first ever UK game. My daughter Macy is 17 and was a toddler at the 98 finals win in San Antonio. She was a baby at the 97 loss vs Arizona in Indianapolis (so she is banned for life for reading a book and being a jinx) so this will be her last UK game.