With all due respect to the late Carnac the Magnificent, I’m going to try my hand at some prognostication this week. For any of my readers who are from Michigan or Louisville, that means I’m going to predict some stuff. Nostradamus I’m not, but I think my foresight is a bit more accurate than the average weatherman.
Let’s start with one for which we’ll know the answer in a couple of days: Kentucky basketball will not have any “one and dones” this season. That’s right UK fans. Both Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones will return, along with Doron Lamb and Deandre Liggins. That means John Calipari will lose only Josh Harrellson from this year’s squad and will go into Midnight Madness with SEVEN McDonald’s All-Americans.
I see Lamb and Liggins staying simply because their draft position, if there is one, isn’t worth leaving. Lamb can definitely benefit from another year under Calipari and Liggins is only beginning to show his potential. A championship run next season would greatly enhance the profiles of each of these players.
Early in the season, it was a foregone conclusion that Terrence Jones would be gone after a single season. Not so much now. Jones failed to show consistency in his game this season, often disappearing for long stretches. As the season wore on, teams began to dare the lefty Jones to use his right hand which often meant Jones became a non-factor. Rather than being a sure-fire lottery pick, Jones now resides on the fringe. An off season spent diversifying his game and a strong campaign next year could put Jones at or near the top of the NBA draft board.
Brandon Knight has played his way to the lottery fringe, but he has some unique opportunities which may put him back in blue next season. Knight brought a year’s worth of college credits with him from his elite school in Florida. This year, he has applied himself in the classroom, keeping a 4.3 GPA. At the pace he’s on, Knight could graduate at the end of next summer if he stays at Kentucky. Academics are a priority in the Knight household, and Brandon could be that rare early draft entry with a sheepskin already in hand.
Two other factors are at work with all these players. First, the specter of an NBA lockout looms. If these kids put their names into the draft, they could be faced with having to go to Europe to play next season, or worse, have to actually work for a living. The possibility of a lockout means that another year of college ball would provide these players maximum exposure and ability to hone their games. Having an insurance policy against injury might be a safer bet than taking one’s game to Turkey for a season.
The other factor is the likelihood that the NBA will have some age limit in place by the end of next season. If this year’s freshman class is precluded from entering the draft, the upperclassmen will benefit from having a less competitive market for the 2012 draft; and presumably one where a lockout is no longer a factor.
If I’m right (and we’ll know by Thursday) this Kentucky team could be one for the ages. With four more Burger Boys coming in next season, this team would be deep, long, and lethal. Another Final Four appearance would be the minimum starting bet for the potential of this team.