On Saturday, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and Ohio State will face off in the NCAA tournament Final Four in New Orleans. This year, there are several big-name draft prospects involved, including three likely Wildcat lottery picks, a Top 5 power forward for the Jayhawks, and another lottery-pick big man with the Buckeyes.
Even if you're an NBA fan with little interest in the college game, there's plenty of reason to watch Saturday's semifinals and Monday's final. To get you acquainted with all the prospects — from surefire first-rounders to guys you might not see in the NBA for another year, here's BDL's Final Four Guide for the NBA Fan. In this installment, we take a look at the Kentucky Wildcats.
Anthony Davis (Freshman, 6-10, 220)
NBA Position: PF/C
Likely Draft Spot: 1st overall
Notes: Simply put, the best defensive prospect since the days when Greg Oden had functioning knees. Davis is an elite shot-blocker, blessed with quick-leaping skills, impressive strength and great timing. What sets him apart, though, is that he does it without being reckless — he rarely fouls and shows a very impressive basketball IQ for his age. Davis also has elite court coverage, with the ability to close on shooters quickly and follow smaller players around the court. As noted by Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Davis is the ideal defensive power forward for the era of the stretch-four, able to match more skilled big men with defensive creativity and ridiculous athleticism. Just ask North Carolina forward and fellow lottery pick John Henson.
A former point guard who grew eight inches in one year during high school, Davis is still learning how to score as a big man. That's ultimately nitpicking, though, because he's an effective offensive option with range to 18 feet, the ability to catch virtually any decent lob, and nice touch around the basket. If Davis has a weakness, it's at the offensive end. However, with a player this talented, those concerns are all relative.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Freshman, 6-7, 232)
NBA Position: SF
Likely Draft Spot: Top 3 or Top 5
Notes: A stellar athlete who plays ridiculous hard, MKG has become every NBA blogger's favorite college basketball player in his lone college season. Offensively, he excels at the rim, possessing impressive strength and nice slashing ability. His jumper needs some work, however, and at the next level it might take him some time to develop into a consistent scorer. He'll contribute immediately, but teams shouldn't draft him expecting a 20-point scorer right away. This isn't the kind of player you give the ball to in isolation — he does best as a cutter and offensive rebounder.
Of course, the main reason MKG figures to be a top pick this summer is that he possesses elite defensive skills, with the potential to become an All-Defensive performer in the NBA. MKG never stops playing hard, to the point where it's hard to imagine him being anything less than a very good pro. His game has flaws, but he's the kind of player who forces you to acknowledge what he does well. While Davis has the highest upside, Kidd-Gilchrist might be the surest bet in the draft. It's a wonder he manages to combine that dependability with so many highlights.
Terrence Jones (Sophomore, 6-9, 252)
NBA Position: SF/PF
Likely Draft Spot: Mid-to-Late Lottery
Notes: As a freshman, Jones incurred the wrath of many pundits with his inconsistent play, tendency to drift to the perimeter, and generally listless approach to the game. Those qualities are still present in his game to varying degrees, but he's become much more serious as a sophomore. Jones still shows off his impressive perimeter skills for his size, but he's cut his 3-point attempts from 2.1 to 1.3 per game and bumped up his overall shooting percentage from 44.2 percent to 50.1 percent. While his decision-making can still improve, he's made great strides and looks more like a player who can succeed in several environments instead of one that lets him shoot as much as he likes. He's improved his defense, too; while no one will confuse him with Davis as a rim protector, he averages 1.8 blocks per game.
Marquis Teague (Freshman, 6-2, 189)
NBA Position: PG
Likely Draft Spot: Wait Until Next Year
Notes: John Calipari has a history of developing top-flight point guard prospects, but Teague has played a secondary role to the frontcourt on this year's Kentucky squad. In this lineup, he's not asked to do much, and sometimes it feels like Teague is playing a limited role rather than really exerting himself on the offensive end. His decision-making has improved over the course of the year, though, and his strength in the pick-and-roll game and athletic gifts are evident. However, we won't get a full read on his readiness for the NBA unless he stays another year.
Doron Lamb (Sophomore, 6-4, 210)
NBA Positon: SG
Likely Draft Spot: Late 1st Round or 2nd Round
Notes: Lamb is a terrific shooter, hitting on 47.1 percent of his 3-pointers for 13.2 ppg, the second-best mark on a loaded team. Lamb isn't a stellar physical specimen, but he's not unathletic. After two years of playing as a role player on star-studded college teams, he might be particularly well-suited to transition into a similar spot in the NBA.
Darius Miller (Senior, 6-8, 235)
NBA Position: SF
Likely Draft Spot: 2nd Round
Notes: Miller is well-versed in being a role player, and that's what he'll have to do to stick in the NBA. Blessed with a great wingspan, he has the potential to be a solid defender at the next level. Offensively, he's limited, but he'll hit an open three when given the chance.
In case you missed it, check out an NBA fan's guide to the prospects on the Kansas Jayhawks.