It’s only been four days since the last UK game, and I’m already slipping into minor withdrawal. That’s great that the student-athletes get time off for finals and everything, but there are collateral consequences for us obsessed fans. Anyway, since there’s no writing to be done about actual game action, I had to find something to write about, so here we go.
As UK fans, we are going to have to get accustomed to dealing with players making decisions about entering the NBA Draft early, there’s just no choice in the matter. We had a sampling of it this spring with Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, but since the mid-90′s, that’s been a bit of a rarity compared with some of the other high profile college programs.
I think we’ve always been a bit reluctant about going after kids that won’t be on campus for longer than two years, but John Calipari and John Wall are showing us together that we had no reason to be. We’ll still have the Patrick Patterson’s and Darius Miller’s and their three and four year careers sprinkled in, but UK’s big time players are going to be more along the lines of DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall (OK, not John Wall, he doesn’t come along every year).
John Calipari embraces the fact that the guys he recruits have the ultimate goal of playing at the highest level in the NBA as quickly as possible. In fact, he recruits based on that fact. His track record is one of getting guys into the League successfully.
With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at the NBA prospects of each player on the Kentucky roster (with one surprise mixed in), what their ceilings and floors are with respect to position in the NBA Draft, and when they could make the jump. It may not be that much fun to think about, but it’s better to embrace it sooner rather than later. I am making this evaluations based on the assumption that nothing absolutely crazy (good or bad) happens like Josh Harrelson suddenly growing a couple inches and being inhabited by the ghost of George Mikan.
At this point, I’m not sure there’s any reasonable UK fan left who has deceived themselves into thinking he will wear the UK uniform past April 2010. The kid is unlike anything we have ever seen in a Kentucky uniform and has wowed basically anyone who watches him for longer than two minutes.
I consider myself lucky to be a fan of the school that got him, not only because I get to watch him dominate for a season at UK, but also because I’m going to get to watch him in the NBA for the next 15 years. I’m going to go ahead and declare it right now: whatever team drafts him will immediately become my favorite team in the Association. I’m just hoping he lands in one of those Tim Duncan situations where you know he’s going to win multiple titles, a situation not unlike the one I’m about to postulate…
Draft Ceiling: #1 overall
Draft Floor: #2 overall
Earliest he could leave: 2010
Latest he could leave: 2010
Prediction: #1 overall in 2010
Here’s the surprise I’m talking about, and yes, I know he’s not a player.
Calipari has previously said he would not rule out a return to the NBA, but has said there are only a few situations that could entice him away from the NBA. Conventional thought would say that he’s talking about one of those historically successful, big market teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, or Bulls.
However, I think that John Calipari’s previously failed foray into the NBA from a few years back has taught him that your chance at success in the NBA is more determined by whether you have a true superstar in the realm of a Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, or Duncan. Sam Cassell, Kerry Kittles, and Jayson Williams, some of the high profile Nets of his tenure, do not fit the bill.
LeBron James does.
Today, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo confirmed for me something I had wondered about ever since I heard about Cal and LeBron’s “budding relationship”, as he calls it: that Cal may just be positioning himself to coach LeBron James down the road.
Wojnarowski mentions two or three years as a possible timeframe for a potential LeBron-Cal marriage. Yikes, that’s an awful short tenure for Cal at UK. I don’t think Cal has any intention of staying at UK for that short of a time.
However, is there a situation that could pull him away that quickly, maybe even sooner? Unfortunately, I would say yes.
Picture this. Leading up the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery, the New Jersey Nets have the best chance of winning the John Wall sweepstakes. They are still without a coach. The Nets win the lottery and the Nets do the obvious and take John Wall. They are still without a coach.
Realizing that they have some cap space and a franchise cornerstone, they trade Devin Harris, whose value is very high, getting value in return and dumping more salary. Then, one of two things happens:
1) Realizing that they have that cap space, they Nets decide to go all in for LeBron James, arguably the most valuable free agent in the history of the sport. Recognizing the intertwined relationship between LeBron, Worldwide Wes, and Cal, they make a play for John Calipari in an effort to woo LeBron. Cal signs, LeBron signs, and the Nets win at least five titles in the next ten years.
2) Still without a coach, the Nets make a power play for LeBron. LeBron, in his negotiations, makes a power play and has Cal installed as coach. LeBron signs, Cal signs, and the Nets win at least five titles in the next ten years.
Picture either of the above two situations playing out or something comparable…as difficult as this may be to admit as a UK fan, could you really blame John Calipari for leaving to coach that team? It would be an absolute dream of a situation for any coach with professional aspirations.
Cornerstone franchise player…check and double check.
A motivated owner that wants to win…check.
Proximity to a big market…check (plus the rumors of a move to Brooklyn)
John Calipari is a guy who LOVES the big stage. He’s embraced the biggest college basketball stage out there and capitalized on it. The Nets with LeBron and John Wall would be the biggest story in the Association, instantly leaping to the forefront past the Lakers and Celtics. I thought that the seven month turnaround that Cal has pulled off at UK was one of a kind, but the sudden shift in the Nets’ future might just one up it.
The one saving grace is that Cal already failed once in the NBA, once with the Nets as a matter of fact. It’s hard to imagine a team rehiring a fired coach, but if LeBron wills it, do think anyone would stand in the way?
I just had to take a quick break just to decide if I actually want to publish this. Let me say that this little theory of mine is just that, based on nothing more than a tiny bit of fact, some intuition, my natural pessimism, and disbelief that this whole Calipari dream is real. I think the ‘Cats would end up being alright. I think they would hire another good coach (as long as they don’t rehire a fired Billy G), but I don’t think he’ll be the perfect fit that Cal is.
The crazy thing is that I really don’t think I would be mad at Coach Cal. I would be too excited about watching the Nets to blame him.
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART 2
Sites That Link to this Post
- A Few Thoughts On the John Wall Experience | straitpinkie.com | December 17, 2009
- John Calipari Addresses Nets Rumors http://www.straitpinkie.com | straitpinkie.com | February 12, 2010
- Rondo, You're Great and Everything, but Come on Cavs http://www.straitpinkie.com | straitpinkie.com | May 12, 2010
- jackthreads | May 3, 2012