Vaught's Views: Are NBA mock drafts really right about the Wildcats?
Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin (10) may have flaws in his game, but most mock drafts still have him solidly in the first round of the June NBA draft even though he has frustrated UK¿fans with his decision-making and defense. (Victoria Graff / February 19, 2013)
Not long after the season started, freshman Willie Cauley-Stein did enough on the court to put himself into the same type of lofty draft status even though he didn’t make his first start until Saturday after Noel was lost for the season due to a knee injury.
The expectations were nothing new for UK freshmen. Back in 2010, Kentucky had four freshmen — John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe — all picked in the first round. Last year the Cats had three freshmen — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague — all go in round one. Back in 2011, freshman Brandon Knight was a first-round pick and so was Enes Kanter even though he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA and never played a game all year.
But this season has not quite gone the way many expected. ¿Noel was leading the nation in blocked shots when he was hurt and still seems a lock to be a top-five pick at worse. However, the other three freshmen have been consistently inconsistent in UK’s 17-8 season. Kentucky has gone from a preseason top five team considered a Final Four contender to a team desperately looking for a way to just keep a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Against Tennessee on Saturday, Poythress was 2-for-4 from the field and had four points, two rebounds and one turnover in 20 minutes before fouling out. Goodwin was 2-for-9 from the field and had seen points, four assists, four turnovers and two rebounds in 34 minutes. Cauley-Stein was 1-for-4 from the field and had two points, two rebounds, two blocks and four turnovers in 23 minutes. That means the trio had 13 points, six rebounds and nine turnovers in 77 minutes.
Yet go to nbadraft.net and its mock draft has Noel going fourth, Cauley-Stein 10th, Poythress 19th and Goodwin 20th in the June draft.
What gives? How do those numbers justify top 20 picks?
That’s what I asked a NBA scout who has seen UK¿play. He can’t comment publicly on draftable players, but he basically said not to believe all mock drafts because where teams project players can be far different.¿He noted that Goodwin has a “bad release on his shots” and that Poythress has a “lot of wasted motion” in his game. He questioned Cauley-Stein’s “focus and game speed” in key situations. He also didn’t think Noel’s injury would scare many teams or dramatically alter his draft status.
But I remember former UK all-American Kyle Macy telling me once that players should enter the draft when their stock is the highest. Teague did that last year. So did Doron Lamb. So did Bledsoe and even Orton three years ago. DeAndre Liggins did the same two years ago. What if Goodwin, Poythress and Cauley-Stein sense their draft stock has dropped? Would coming back make it higher considering the recruiting class Calipari already has — and may add to — could likely dictate less playing time for all three next year?
“Some guys just don’t mature as the same rate as others,” the NBA scout said. “It happens all the time across the country. It’s just not been the norm with the one-and-done guys at Kentucky. But everybody is not one-and-done.”