Well, the entire Kentucky basketball team – more or less – declared for the NBA Draft on Thursday. The team’s top seven scorers – Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson and Devin Booker – will all go pro, and all will be drafted.
“Well, I think that was always understood that these guys aren’t going to stick around.” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The Harrison brothers stuck around for two years. Willie Cauley-Stein stuck around for two years. You have to be mildly surprised that they did that. Look, when these guys go to places like Kentucky and Duke and Kansas or whatever, all they’re doing is just trying to time it right for when they can go to the NBA and be a lottery pick.”
Cauley-Stein, for example, didn’t declare last year because it was a loaded draft. He figured he could play one year in college and hopefully set himself up to make more money in 2015.
“And by the way,” Powell said, “playing basketball at Kentucky is not such a bad deal.”
Indeed, the Wildcats have advanced to the final Four in four of the last five years. They will lose six players who averaged 20+ minutes per game from this year’s team, and their top returning scorer will be Tyler Ulis, who averaged 5.6 points last season.
But make no mistake: Kentucky will not be rebuilding. No, the Wildcats have the No. 1 recruiting class yet again. The cycle of dominance will continue.
“The reason why players choose to go to college rather than the D-League – even though the D-League pays – is the NCAA Tournament,” Powell said. “The tournament gives them the kind of exposure that money can’t buy. That’s why they don’t go to the D-League. In the D-League, they disappear. Really, it’s like they dropped off the face of the earth. Nobody watches, nobody sees them, nobody knows what they’re doing. But you go to the NCAA Tournament. How much did Justise Winslow make for himself? How much of a name did he make for himself? How much did he make?”
Well, he averaged 16 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks in the final five games of the tournament and helped Duke to the national championship. So he probably made a lot.
“Exactly,” Powell said. “If he had bypassed Duke and gone straight from high school to the D-League, you would have never heard of the guy.”
Scott Ferrall agrees. He’s tried watching the D-League, but he finds it depressing. To him, it looks like a glorified rec-league.
“But you know what though?” Powell pointed out. “I’ll bet you the quality of basketball in the D-League is on par with the NCAA. But the problem is, it’s exposure. There’s no exposure. Theres no major television contract. Dick Vitale is not doing their games. Nobody is filling out a D-League bracket in their office.”