By LARRY VAUGHT
I remember a few years back when then NBA draft analyst Ed Isaacson said he felt John Calipari did a terrific job of hiding players’ weaknesses at Kentucky.
I took that as a compliment to Calipari’s coaching but some close to the UK basketball program were offended.
Now ESPN NBA scouting analyst Mike Schmitz is basically saying the same thing going into Thursday night’s NBA draft where both Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be lottery picks.
“I just think most Kentucky guys, they have so much talent that Cal puts them in a very specific role. With Karl Towns, you see him now, he’s a stretch big. You can probably count on one or two hands how many 3’s he took at Kentucky,” Schmitz said. “So unless you saw him in high school or went to a workout, you didn’t really see him in that setting.
“Same with Devin Booker. They had other ball handlers there, the Harrison twins and Tyler Ulis; they had other guys who could handle the ball, so Devin Booker’s role was to catch and shoot, sprint off screens and probably not put it down more than one or two times in a possession, and then you put him in a spot like Phoenix where they’re a losing team and they need him to have the ball in his hands, and he blossoms into the player he is today, playing pick-and-roll and creating his own shot.
“I think these Kentucky teams are so loaded that it’s really beneficial to see these guys in a different environment. ”
So why do so many Kentucky players get drafted as high as they do if they are limited by Calipari’s system?
“I think teams have seen these guys prior to Kentucky a lot of times, as well. Kevin Knox played heavy minutes on the USA Basketball circuit, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played at Nike Hoops Summit,” Schmitz said.
“People have seen these guys in different settings, as well. And there’s usually a reason why they’re at Kentucky, because they’ve the measurables and they have the talent.
“So I think teams have a good feel for what they can do, also, going into their season, but it’s just — from their perspective maintaining the idea that there probably is a little bit more there than they were able to show at the collegiate level.”