Could the Cats have two more players — forward Terrence Jones and guard Brandon Knight — do the same this June?
“I think Jones is a very strong candidate to go one-and-done at this point. If he continues being productive, he’s going to be projected in the top 10, if not the top five, and that seems tough to pass up,” said Matt Kamalsky of Draftexpress.com.
“Knight will have a marginally tougher decision to make. Unless he picks up his point guard play, he’s going to face a split jury. Some people are going to have him in the top 10 or so and others won’t. It is too early to say if that will be enough for him to leave school.”
DraftExpress.com currently has Jones projected as the seventh overall pick and Knight 20th. NBAdraft.net has Jones sixth and Knight 19th in its mock draft. Chad Ford of ESPN.com has Jones in his top five and Knight in the top 25. And they all have Enes Kanter, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, in the top five.
Kamalsky is reminded of another former college standout when he watches Jones play.
“Whenever I watch Terrence Jones I start to wonder what Thaddeus Young would have looked like in Calipari’s system. A lot of folks like to throw around Lamar Odom comparisons for Jones, but I feel that Jones fits almost the same mold Young did coming out of Georgia Tech — he’s athletic, has a NBA body, and does a lot things well but faces some questions about his NBA position,” Kamalsky said.
“The difference between those two, and what makes Jones a more interesting prospect in my mind, is that Jones shows the assertiveness that analysts looked for, but often didn’t seem to get from Young. Jones is getting to the (foul) line at a better rate and is a more prolific rebounder than Young was during his freshman season.
“While Jones’s game looks unorthodox qualitatively, it is hard to argue with the results. If he can improve his ability to knock down catch-and-shoot jump shots, develop one effective post move and become more adept off the dribble with both hands, I think he can be a high-quality small forward on the NBA level who can slide over and play the power forward spot in certain situations.
“Much like Young has been early in his career, Jones is a low-mistake slasher, but his game lends itself to being a second or third option on the offensive end. If Jones improves his efficiency, he’s going to figure very prominently into someone’s future plans and should make a splash in the NBA.”
Kamalsky has more questions about Knight, who is converting to a true point guard this season.
“I have more reservations about Knight, at least as a potential NBA player. He’s had little problem putting up big scoring numbers, which is to be expected from a guard with Knight’s pedigree and physical tools in Calipari’s system, but I question whether or not he’s going to make a smooth transition to the point guard position at the next level,” Kamalsky said. “He’s a very intelligent individual, and it is possible that he’ll pick up the nuances of the position in time, but it is clear that it won’t be an overnight process.
“Calipari’s system doesn’t always flatter the passing ability of lead guards, so I think it is fair to give Knight a full season before drawing too many conclusions. He didn’t impress me at all with his point guard play at the McDonald’s game practices last year, but he had some phenomenal sequences at the Hoop Summit.
“He has some talent for the position, but playing the position enough to ingrain some good habits in his approach to the game will be a key part of his maturation. I hate to throw out two 76ers comparisons, but Knight shares many attributes with Louis Williams who was in the same position coming out of high school. Knight will be able to score like Williams, but if he can become more consistent from the perimeter and become an effective floor general, he’ll boost his NBA potential.”
Kamalsky has no trouble noting what he likes best about each UK player.
“I like that Jones’s ability to do a little bit of everything. If he becomes more polished from the perimeter, he could be a menace in the NBA. I also like that he doesn’t turn the ball over despite his high usage and his willingness to crash the glass. A lot of special athletes try and do too much off the dribble or are complacent on the glass, especially when they are young,” Kamalsky said.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with Knight’s midrange game. He’s amongst the best scorers in the country from 15 feet to the 3-point line. If he becomes more consistent from beyond the arc, and he’s been doing that, he’s going to be a nice offensive option on the NBA level.”
Kamalsky jokes that both have the same major drawback — they are young.
“Honestly, I don’t have too many reservations about Jones. If he doesn’t improve his outside shooting ability or overall offensive game, he’ll be a bit stuck between positions but he’s going to be effective because of his motor and athleticism,” Kamalsky said. “I guess the drawback of Jones as a NBA player is that he doesn’t fit the mold of an elite first option offensively. I don’t think anyone drafting him is going to burden him with that expectation though.
“Knight’s biggest drawback is his lack of a position at this juncture. He’s a great scorer, but isn’t quite tall enough to match up with the elite shooting guards in the game, and he’s not an efficient passer either, so his best role isn’t as a lead guard. He’s reached that challenging point in his career where scouts want to see him define himself as a point guard or undersized shooting guard. Fortunately, he still has plenty of time to figure everything out, whether it he’s learning on a NBA bench or back at Kentucky.”