On Wednesday, ESPN Analyst Chad Ford discussed Kentucky’s NBA Draft prospects with the Lexington Herald Leader. Despite John Calipari being a very familiar face during the past few years, he may only show up one time for this year’s edition. Calipari had had a grand total of 15 draft picks in the last 3 years, but Nerlens Noel could be one-and-done for Kentucky on draft night.
Perhaps some good news for Calipari came when Ford declared Nerlens Noel should be the #1 pick. Despite tearing his ACL against Florida, the freshman big man has been recovering very well from surgery and responding to intense physical therapy. Ford dropped Noel from #1 to #3 after the injury, but has since moved him back into the top spot after speaking with NBA Executives. Here is what Ford had to say:
“He has always been, in the eyes of most scouts, the player in this draft with the most upside,” Ford said. “Obviously, the ACL injury gave everyone pause. But as they’ve spent the last month or so evaluating other potential players like Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart for the No. 1 pick, a majority of them have come back and said that, barring some sort of problems with Noel’s rehab, they still believe he’s the No. 1 pick.”
“He’s a project, and anyone drafting him No. 1 understands that,” Ford said. “But what they love is his athletic ability, his defense, his motor. He was injured chasing a player down on a fast break. Few big men in the NCAA could’ve or would’ve made that play.”
Ford adds he believes the idea of Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein being in the draft are cloudy at best. He noted that only WCS is a “lock” to be selected as a first round pick, but would not be in the lottery. He also said of Cauley-Stein, that he has the most to gain from another season at Kentucky. Citing having a true point guard in Aaron Harrison to feed the big man down low, would make him a potential lottery pick for next year.
When asked about Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin Ford said:
“It will because there’s a very good chance that Goodwin and Poythress don’t start,” he said. “If they do, it’s because they’ve improved their games and are outplaying the incoming guys in practice. They won’t be given anything.
“Are they willing to work on their games and take that risk? If they are, they should come back. If they aren’t, they’re going to fail anyway.”
If they leave now, Ford said Goodwin and Poythress will spend their rookie seasons in the NBA Development League “for sure.” He said it was possible they would spend the entire 2014-15 season there, too.
It’s also worth nothing that three players from last year’s championship team (Teague, Jones, Miller) have all spent time in the NBA’s Development League this season. Neither player looks to spend an entire season on a D-League roster, however. It’s clear in almost everyone’s mind of what Goodwin and Poythress should do. Cauley-Stein is more of a toss-up, but he could definitely benefit from another year under Calipari. Nerlens Noel is probably John Calipari’s 2nd #1 pick in a row, so he’ll be the headline for Kentucky on draft night.