“What he does is develop the mental attitude the guys need to be NBA players,” said Isaacson, a NBA scout/analyst who operates NBADraftBlog.com and is a NBA contributor for SLAM online.
He notes that some former Cats — John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — have struggled with consistency in their NBA careers and that some — Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton — have all spent time in the D-League. He even feels that Eric Bledsoe “has been the best of the UK pros” after getting a chance to watch and learn from veteran Chris Paul.
“But you can't say Calipari is wrong. It’s his program, he wins games, and kids want to be a part of it and it works well for them,” Isaacson said.
He shared his views on the current Cats and what might lie ahead for them in terms of the NBA draft.
Question: What have you liked best about Nerlens Noel? Any way he's not a top five pick and could he possibly be even the No. 1 pick?
Isaacson: “Noel's raw defensive ability is some of the best I have seen in a long time. Obviously he uses his length well to not only block shots, but to get his hands in passing lanes and disrupt post moves. He still needs to learn how to play solid defense with his feet, but he is ahead of the curve. He is active and you can see the consistent effort on the court, both very important from a young player. He could easily drop out of the top five solely because his offense isn't even college-ready, let alone close to NBA standards, and teams have been burned by picking one-dimensional players too high. I don't see that happening though, and depending on who gets the No. 1 pick, he could play his way into that conversation in the next few months.”
Question: With the way Alex Poythress stock has dropped in most mock drafts, how do you evaluate his play and what will scouts be looking most to see from him if he wants to be a lottery pick? Any way he would drop out of first round?
Isaacson: “After Poythress' strong start to the season, he really hasn't shown much on the court. Because of his high profile, all of his mistakes are magnified, and what could possibly be passed of as ‘freshman mistakes’ is overexamined. There are some major concerns though from an NBA perspective. He doesn't have a great feel for the game. He is athletic and can make some plays, but he just isn't a smart player. It's almost like he doesn't realize that this isn't high school and he isn't going to outrun and outjump everyone, and he hasn't adjusted. The tools are there, he just needs to figure it out - which can be tough, because he simultaneously has to be improving. I still wouldn't see him dropping past the middle of the first round, and there is as good a chance we are talking lottery again in April. He has time to get it together.”
Question: Before he had his knee surgery and missed games, what caused Willie Cauley-Stein to vault his way into the top 10 of some NBA draft projections and do you believe he could be a top 10 pick?
Isaacson: “It's about length, athleticism, and potential. As we've seen, NBA teams are suckers are athletic big men. It helps that he seems coachable and works hard. I still don't think he would be a top 10 pick this year. He is just too far away in his development to accurately assess what his true ceiling is. Any team taking him may have to wait three or four seasons to see any real dividends, and I don't know many lottery teams that want to, or can afford to, do that.”
Question: What have been your impressions of Archie Goodwin? Where would you project his draft status?
Isaacson: “Goodwin is one of those players that would make me lose my mind as a coach. Athletic with good skill for his age, he just doesn't seem to understand smart basketball. When he does get it, he can be spectacular. Like Poythress, there is time for him to get it together, and I would see him doing enough to be a late lottery pick.”
Question: Do you see anybody else at Kentucky this year being a factor in the June draft?
Isaacson: I think if Ryan Harrow was to declare, he would certainly get second round looks, provided he continues to build on his play these past few weeks. Julius Mays will get pre-draft workouts I'm sure, but I don't see where he would fit in at the next level. Six weeks ago, I would have included Kyle Wiltjer. He needs to start contributing in other places, especially on defense, and he has started to do that.”