NBA draft analysts Matt Kamalsky and Ed Isaacson both agree on one thing — there’s no way Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis won’t be the first pick in the June draft.
"I have tried to come up with any scenario where Anthony Davis won't go number one, and even in the most absurd scenarios, he is the only option at number one in this draft. In a few years, he could be on his way to being a star in the NBA,” said Isaacson of NBAdraftblog.com.
“No matter what, he’s the top prospect in the draft. He’s on a special tier by himself,” Kamalsky of Draftexpress.com said.
None of Kentucky’s underclassmen, including Davis — the consensus national player of the year — have declared that they are leaving UK¿for the NBA. However, Kentucky coach John Calipari said again Friday that he hopes UK¿has six first-round picks — the five underclassmen plus senior Darius Miller.
The two analysts offered their insights on UK’s possible draft choices and they do have a slight difference of opinion on freshman perimeter player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“Based on the players who have declared and who we expect to, I would see Kidd-Gilchrist going somewhere between the fifth and eighth pick,” Isaacson said. “While the perimeter shooting is one concern, the bigger concern is he a franchise-changing type of player. I don't think he is.
“He will be a very good pro, but his game is more suited to be a complimentary player. If I am a GM (general manager) picking in the top four, I need to swing for the fences and go for someone who has the potential to change the team for years to come. I don't see that in Kidd-Gilchrist.”
Kamalsky believes Kidd-Gilchrist will be among the top four picks if he opts to leave Kentucky after his freshman season.
“His ability to make plays in different phases of the game will mask his limited (shooting) range early on, but if he's going to reach his full potential, he needs to develop a reliable jump shot. He's a superstar if he becomes a reliable shooter,” Kamalsky said.
Several mock drafts have projected freshman point guard Marquis Teague as a potential lottery pick (one of the top 14 picks). Kamalsky and Isaacson are not sold on that possibility.
“I think its still too early to tell where Teague winds up. The point guard position has the least clear hierarchy among positions in the 2012 draft, meaning as teams start to really do their homework, his stock could rise or fall accordingly,” Kamalsky said. “He's absolutely helped himself in recent weeks, and I see him ultimately going in the back-half of the first round, but where he stands in that range can change in the coming months.”
Isaacson thinks Teague’s strong NCAA Tournament play that helped UK win the national championship “opened some eyes” with NBA teams.
“It showed that he had certainly worked on some of his weaknesses from earlier in the year. I would be stunned if he was a lottery pick, and he wouldn't be one of the first two point guards picked if he came out. If he was to go back and pick up where he ended this season, he will find himself in the lottery conversation, and possibly the first point guard picked next year,” Isaacson said.
Sophomore Terrence Jones was projected as a possible lottery pick last year before coming back to UK¿in hopes of improving his draft stock and to win a national title. The analysts believe he’ll have to settle for the title.
“I think Jones is still hovering around the same range he has for the most of the year — 11-17 seems to be where he is falling right now. Jones' talent is not in doubt. As most people know, it is effort which seems to hold him back,” Isaacson said. “If he declares, this will be the biggest thing teams will look at with him come pre-draft workouts — is he here to play? If he comes in, plays to his strengths and goes all out, he can find himself in the end of the lottery.”
“The book has been written on Jones. He's a top-five talent, and seemed to get his act together as the season progressed, but there's still questions about his intensity and ability to make his presence felt on the offensive end,” Kamalsky said.
Sophomore guard Doron Lamb has played in the Final Four as a freshman, won a national title this year and has shot 47 percent from 3-point range in two seasons. The two analysts have a different take on where he may fall in the draft if he leaves Kentucky.
“I don't think he really helped or hurt himself with his play late in the year. He's in a range of the draft that is going to be very fluid until we know which underclassmen will be available. As I've said, I think his value offensively is going to help him climb into the late first round, but where he stands just isn't entirely clear right now,” Kamalsky said.
“Personally, I still think Lamb is a second round pick. We know he can shoot and he showed it on college's biggest stage. The thing that keeps behind other shooting guards who have or will likely declare is that he still is not very good at creating his own shot,” Isaacson said. “Without that skill, he becomes a situational player, and not many teams are going to spend a first round pick on that.
“Could he sneak in at the 26-30 range in the first? It wouldn't shock me, but I still think he is a high second rounder. I have little doubt he will declare and try and strike while his stock is this high, though the 10 weeks between now and the draft is a long time for people to start to overlook it.”
Kamalsky and Isaacson vary the most on their opinions about senior Darius Miller, the one Kentucky player who does not have to declare his intentions to leave UK early to be part of June’s draft.
“I see Miller a little higher than I thought him previously. Originally, I saw him end of the second round if he was drafted. Now, I think he has worked his way up to the middle of the second round (40-50 range),” Isaacson said. “He will benefit from an extended run in the D-League and can be a decent role player in a couple of years.”
Kamalsky doesn’t foresee Miller in the developmental league, not after his “play down the stretch” of the NCAA raised his draft status in Kamalsky’s opinion.
“I think he has an outside chance to be one of the last picks of the first round if things fall his way before the draft. He definitely proved a lot more than some of the others players we currently have slated to go in the second round and I see him falling closer to the front of the second round than the middle when its all said and done,” Kamalsky said.
Isaacson says draft projections could come more into focus soon as more players make their intentions known about whether they will stay in school or go to the¿NBA.
“I think we will get a much better understanding of how this draft class is going to shape up. Personally, I think this is going to be better than last year in terms of depth and pre-draft workouts will become more important than ever in trying to separate players,” Isaacson said.