Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the Wildcats' NBA Prospects

Matt Overing@@MOveringContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the Wildcats' NBA Prospects

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    Despite their struggles on the court, Kentucky basketball players have remained in 2013 NBA Draft discussions. John Calipari is a known cultivator of talent, and he certainly has the talent to work with again this year.

    Each player on this list has a chance to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Some, like Willie Cauley-Stein, have boosted their draft stock since the beginning of the year. Others have seen their draft stock fluctuate throughout the year.

    But the Wildcats are young. Inconsistencies are expected. 

    As March draws near, improvements need to be made. Calipari is one of the best coaches at progressing his team over the course of a season. 

    Here are the Wildcats' top five prospects. 

5. Ryan Harrow

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    If it wasn't for a tumultuous start to the season, Ryan Harrow might be higher on this list.

    He started Kentucky's first game against Maryland and played an underwhelming 10 minutes. He then missed the next four games, returning against Notre Dame to play nine minutes.

    From there, Harrow's minutes have increased every game.

    He's back and playing his best basketball of the year. Against Louisville, Harrow played 39 minutes and had zero turnovers. 

    Harrow is John Calipari's answer at point guard, but that doesn't necessarily translate to NBA draft stock. Harrow needs to put together a string of quality games for his draft stock to rise.

    Was his performance against Louisville the springboard that Harrow needs to remain confident throughout the year? 

    If so, Harrow may be a first round draft pick in 2013.

4. Willie Cauley-Stein

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    It's safe to say that Willie Cauley-Stein has seen his draft status rise more than any other Kentucky Wildcat this season. 

    Before the season began, he was an afterthought in the 2012 recruiting class. He wasn't expected to be a consistent contributor on the Kentucky roster—let alone a starter.

    He started and played 23 minutes against Louisville on Dec. 29.

    WCS may not be a lottery pick in the 2013 draft, but he has lottery upside. His combination of size, speed and energy makes him a potential first round pick in 2013, 

    His offense isn't perfect, and his free throw shooting is deplorable. But defensively, he's capable of altering and blocking shots. He's also able to step out on screens, and his length often disrupts passing lanes.

3. Alex Poythress

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    It wasn't long ago that's Chad Ford said that Alex Poythress was "the most impressive" prospect he's seen in college basketball this season.

    After a Louisville game where Poythress didn't start and played just 15 total minutes, Ford (and many other NBA scouts) probably aren't as high on him as they were at the start of the season.

    He may even be more enigmatic than the next player on this list, Archie Goodwin. He's got an NBA frame and an NBA skill set. 

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason, head coach John Calipari doesn't like what he's seen from Poythress on the court.

    Poythress' motor has been questioned at times, and it's rare to see him show emotion on the floor.

    But when he does, he can be the best player on the court. Unless his minutes and performance continue to spiral downward, he'll be a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

2. Archie Goodwin

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    It goes without saying that Archie Goodwin is the most talented scorer on the Kentucky roster. 

    He's also the most erratic.

    Part of Goodwin's struggles on offense are simply part of normal freshman growing pains. He's only played 12 college basketball games, so those turnover woes have a chance to resolve themselves as the season progresses.

    And, while Goodwin has improved, his improvements have been in small steps. He still turns the ball over more than any other Wildcat. He still takes ill-advised shots on offense.

    But his scoring reminds college scouts of Joe Johnson, and he has done nothing to stymie those comparisons. He's a scorer, and that translates well to the next level.

1. Nerlens Noel

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    You should know about Nerlens Noel.

    Anthony Davis left Lexington with impossibly-large shoes to fill, and Noel has filled them.

    On one side of the ball, anyway.

    Noel's defense is something that every NBA team craves. Like Willie Cauley-Stein, his length disrupts opposing offenses.

    Instincts separate Noel from Cauley-Stein and other big men in the 2013 draft class. He leads the Wildcats in steals, due to his knack for finding the ball and his activity all around the court.

    If there is one knock on Noel, however, it is on the offensive side of the ball. He's not a scorer. He doesn't have the touch around the rim that Davis had, nor does he have impeccable shooting form.

    But those deficiencies won't stop Noel from being drafted in the top five. Depending on the team, he has a chance to go No. 1.