Saturday, October 11, 2014

John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats Stacked w/ Nine McDonald's All-Americans

Kentucky Players Versus NBA Players

Which NBA players do Kentucky players most resemble? Let's take a look

On Friday, Kentucky hosted an NBA-style combine for its fleet of possible draftees. John Calipari has nine McDonald's All-Americans on another stacked Wildcats team that could be the unanimous No. 1 team in the country once the preseason polls are released.
It was an unprecedented event for a program that continues to lure an abundance of pro talent to Lexington.
The following players all have pro potential, although that possibility ranges from definite NBA future to slight chance. About 90 NBA personnel -- from scouts to general managers -- were there to assess the program's top players.
Which NBA players might those on Kentucky's roster remind them of? Let's take a look:

Willie Cauley-Stein/Tyson Chandler

Willie Cauley-Stein, Tyson ChandlerGetty Images, NBAE via Getty Images
Cauley-Stein suffered an ankle injury during his team's 2014 Sweet 16 victory over Louisville, but he's healthy now and positioned to log major minutes for the Wildcats this season. Like Chandler, a former NBA defensive player of the year, Cauley-Stein could make millions at the next level as a shot-altering, shot-blocking big man who runs the floor well and commits to defense. The 7-footer was ranked 12th in block percentage (12.3) per Ken Pomeroy last year.

Alex Poythress/Kawhi Leonard

Alex Poythress, Kawhi LeonardGetty Images, Icon Sportswire
Leonard, the MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals, has proven that there is a place for tweeners at the next level. At 6-8, 238 pounds, Poythress isn't really an NBA power forward or small forward. But Kentucky is so loaded inside that Poythress probably will play a small-forward role for the Wildcats, and that'll be a key audition since that'll be his likely slot in the NBA, too. He has the strength and grit necessary to find a place in the league, but it's important to note that Leonard shot 42 percent from the 3-point line during the Finals (Poythress has connected on 33 percent of his 3s in two years at Kentucky).

Dakari Johnson/Anderson Varejao

Dakari Johnson, Anderson VarejaoGetty Images, USA Today Sports
He was flabby, out of shape and raw early in his high school career, but Johnson has molded his body and game since he arrived at Kentucky last year. He has to work on his footwork and poise in the post, but he could be a Varejao type in the NBA -- a big man who won't get a ton of credit for his skill set (although he continues to add post moves) but will always find a way to make an impact and stay active on both ends of the floor.

Karl Towns/LaMarcus Aldridge

Karl Towns, LaMarcus AldridgeSam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Towns, ninth in RecruitingNation's rankings for the 2014 class, is the true prize Friday. He's the Kentucky prospect pro scouts covet most. He's a 6-11 power forward/center who's tough enough to work around the basket, but he also possesses a versatile attack and uses his midrange game as a weapon, too. Aldridge is one of the best players in the NBA, and it's unfair to suggest that Towns will be that in the NBA, but it's also imprudent to dismiss the similarities.

Devin Booker/Danny Green

Devin Booker, Danny GreenIcon Sportswire, AP Photo
Booker, the 6-5 shooting guard, struggled to find a rhythm during Kentucky's six-game exhibition tour this offseason in the Bahamas, but he did make 43 percent of his 3-point attempts (6-for-14). He was also a superb defender. That's how he'll help Kentucky this year and, possibly, an NBA team in the future. Much like Green (48 percent from the 3-point line in the NBA Finals), Booker is a dependable perimeter shooter and trustworthy defender who must work on his midrange game.

Tyler Ulis/J.J. Barea

Tyler Ulis, J.J. BareaIcon Sportswire, NBAE via Getty Images
Ulis (7.6 per game points, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 9-for-15 from the 3-point line) played as well as anyone on Kentucky's roster throughout that Bahamas tour. He's a quick, aggressive point guard who can knock down shots from outside and get buckets when he penetrates. Calipari is comfortable with a platoon rotation system because he knows he can trust Ulis as a facilitator off the bench. The 5-9 point guard is similar to Barea with his ability to minimize his physical disadvantages because he's usually the smartest guy on the floor.

Trey Lyles/Ersan Ilyasova

Trey Lyles, Ersan IlyasovaIcon Sportswire, NBAE via Getty Images
Lyles, a 6-10 forward ranked as the No. 6 prospect in his class by RecruitingNation, has a European vibe to his game. And that's a benefit for a young player who will have to fight for minutes in a crowded frontcourt. He's unique because he's so comfortable outside the paint that Calipari could decide to go big and throw him at the 3-spot in specific lineups. His range should make him a pick-and-pop nightmare for collegiate defenders. Ilyasova's multidimensional Euro game should be the prototype for Lyles.

Andrew Harrison/Deron Williams

Andrew Harrison, Deron WilliamsIcon Sportswire, NBAE via Getty Images
It's easy to compare Harrison to Tyreke Evans because they're both big guards who exploit mismatches against smaller defenders. But Harrison actually resembles Williams. Harrison has a deceptive burst off the dribble. He'll never be the quickest guy on the court, but he's always assertive and strong. He's a fluid distributor and a solid shooter from beyond the arc (35 percent last season). And he was a reliable leader for the Wildcats last season. His teammates will follow him.

Aaron Harrison/Arron Afflalo

Aaron Harrison, Arron AfflaloAP Photo, USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Harrison was a hero in last year's NCAA tournament. He hit clutch shots against Wisconsin and Michigan that led the program to the national title game. He's an effective scorer and shooter from the 3-point line. He showed the world that he can be trusted to make big plays on big stages. But he's also one of Kentucky's top defensive players. Calipari matched him up against the best players the Wildcats faced throughout the NCAA tournament. He can guard multiple spots because of his size. Offensive mojo and impressive defense have been beneficial for Afflalo at the next level, and that combo is the reason that Aaron Harrison has cracked the first round in various mock drafts.

Marcus Lee/Jordan Hill

Marcus Lee, Jordan HillUSA TODAY Sports, AP Photo
Lee was the proverbial energy guy for the Wildcats during their NCAA tournament run last year. He didn't log significant minutes for the bulk of the season, but he played hard and used his length to get putback buckets, rebound and swat shots in the postseason. There might be a place in the NBA for an athletic big man who competes with that edge each night. Ask Jordan Hill. Plus, Lee is only a sophomore, so there's still time for him to develop and add some muscle to his frame. — Myron Medcalf | ESPN

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