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Kentucky Basketball: Predicting the Pro Future for the 'Cats' NBA Prospects

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: Predicting the Pro Future for the 'Cats' NBA Prospects

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    Kentucky realistically has five prospects who will be looking to earn livings with NBA franchises.

    Four of them are freshman, one is a sophomore and all of them are scattered across the draft projection spectrum.

    While the Wildcats as a team are struggling, the program is growing stronger. Almost every quality product it develops ends up being showcased on the brightest stage, which in this case would be inside an NBA arena.

    I wouldn't bet against any of these guys knowing the track record of their school and mentor.

Nerlens Noel, 6'11'', Center

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    Draft Projection: Top Five

    Ceiling Comparison: Tyson Chandler

    Basement Comparison: Larry Sanders

    Label: Rim Protector

    Despite the devastating knee injury he suffered in early February, Nerlens Noel still has a shot at going No. 1 overall because of the impact he can potentially make on a struggling franchise.

    Noel is a rim protector, and even if he never develops one post move throughout his entire career, his ability to anchor a defense in the middle is an invaluable quality and skill.

    Tyson Chandler hasn't made an offensive move since 2010, yet he's still one of the most effective centers in the NBA. Protecting the goal and finishing above the rim are two skills that are coveted by NBA franchises.

    There are some similarities between Noel and Larry Sanders— two raw, 6'11'' centers with incredible athleticism and minimal offensive games.

    Whether Noel is the next Chandler, Sanders or something in between, he'll always have a job in an NBA rotation. I expect Noel to be starting by his third year in the league and have a long, successful career.

Archie Goodwin, 6'5'', PG/SG

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    Draft Projection: Mid-First Round

    Ceiling Comparison: Larry Hughes

    Basement Comparison: Tyreke Evans

    Label: Combo Guard

    Archie Goodwin has loads of potential based on his athleticism, explosiveness and size at the guard position.

    But he's not always sure what to do when the ball is in his hands. We've seen Goodwin develop tunnel vision, make poor decisions and illustrate a low basketball IQ.

    But there aren't many guards who can hit the gap quicker and explode at the rim.

    Goodwin has some Tyreke Evans in him, with the way he can handle the ball, break down the defense and shoot below 30 percent from downtown. Though Evans' numbers have been impressive, his effectiveness has not.

    Larry Hughes, on the other hand, became a two-way guard as a scorer and defender. Hughes developed a mid-range pull-up jumper over time and showed he could attack the rim as a secondary ball-handler.

    Goodwin is still years from being NBA-ready, but a team with patience could end up with something special down the road.

Alex Poythress, 6'8'', SF/PF

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    Draft Projection: Mid-First Round

    Ceiling Comparison: Gerald Wallace

    Basement Comparison: Marvin Williams

    Label: Combo Forward

    Alex Poythress is an excellent athlete at 6'8'', showing the agility of a 3 and the power of a 4.

    He's incredibly raw as a basketball player, however, and does the majority of his damage using his physical tools instead of his floor skills.

    Poythress is a big-time finisher at the rim and shows the strength to throw down in traffic and pose as a glowing target on the move. He's also proven he can knock down spot-up jump shots if he's given room to release.

    Whether he turns out to be Gerald Wallace or Marvin Williams will depend on his motor and ability to carve out a niche for himself in the NBA.

    Over his career, Marvin Williams has struggled with developing a rhythm and finding consistent ways to contribute to his team. Wallace has flourished because of his defensive intensity and relentlessness as an attacker. He never showed much half-court creativity or a jump shot he can rely on, but he found ways to make his team better without a refined offensive skill set.

    Hopefully Poythress either develops one or figures out how to navigate without it.

Willie Cauley-Stein, 7'0'', C

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    Draft Projection: Mid-First Round

    Ceiling Comparison: Andre Drummond

    Basement Comparison: Festus Ezeli

    Label: Interior Power Athlete

    Right now, Willie Cauley-Stein is a raw athlete learning the game on the job. He's 7'0'', 244 pounds of pure muscle, and whether his skill set develops or not, he'll still be able to make an impact based on the space he eats on the interior.

    I gave him the label of an "Interior Power Athlete" because those three words do the best at summarizing what he is. Cauley-Stein rarely leaves the interior, he finishes with power and he's extremely athletic for a kid his size.

    If he can stay active inside—finishing plays, controlling the glass and protecting the rim—he has an outlook similar to Andre Drummond's. If it turns out that his size will do all the talking for him, he'll be a space-eater like Festus Ezeli.

    Either way, there's always room for aggressive seven-foot athletes.

Ryan Harrow, 6'2'', PG

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    Draft Projection: Second Round/Undrafted

    Ceiling Comparison: Aaron Brooks (In his prime)

    Basement Comparison: Sebastian Telfair

    Label: Breakdown Point Guard

    Ryan Harrow transferred to Kentucky with hopes of being the next great John Calipari point guard, but it just hasn't worked out the way he hoped.

    For starters, Harrow is visibly thin and physically vulnerable. In terms of making the transition, Harrow would need to put on a ton of weight to his 170-pound frame, which doesn't look capable of adding much bulk or muscle.

    Harrow has the handle of an NBA point guard, but his size and ability to run a half-court offense will decide whether he can last in the league.

    Aaron Brooks developed a deadly perimeter jumper that landed him a few respectable contracts. Telfair never did, and therefore was limited with the ball in his hands.

    Harrow has a few obstacles to jump, such as getting bigger, improving his perimeter game and developing his leadership skills (if possible). But the talent is there, and therefore gives him a shot to find an NBA home.

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