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By LARRY VAUGHT
NBA draft analyst Ed Isaacson of www.NBADraftBlog.com has a feeling that not only will Nerlens Noel put his name into the draft but that at least one of Kentucky’s other three freshmen will do the same even though he would advise them not to make that move.
Here is what Isaacson had to say about the draft projections/futures for UK’s freshmen.
Question: Who do you think stays at UK and who do you think puts his name into the draft? Do you believe Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein will all stay at UK as they indicated after the loss to Robert Morris in the NIT?
Isaacson: “I still believe at least one of them will leave, but I hope they all do the right thing for their career and stay.”
Question: Will anything that happened in postseason play impact who goes or stays?
Isaacson: “I doubt it. Guys are usually inclined to leave or not long before the postseason. In the best case, the players take their season as a whole and realize if they are ready or not.”
Question: Will the Nerlens Noel surgery in mid-March scare NBA teams when it comes to drafting him, especially at the top of the draft?
Isaacson: “I think it actually works to his benefit. With three months to go until the draft, teams will have a very good idea where he is in terms of recovery and rehab plans.”
Question: What impact do you think such a talented recruiting class could have on decisions UK players make to go to the NBA or stay at Kentucky?
Isaacson: “It is almost certainly in their mind. This is where you can find out a lot about what players are made of. Do they want to compete? Do they know its not going to be easy to get on the court? For many of these guys, that will be a new experience. If they stay and handle it, it tells teams a lot more about them.”
Question: If Goodwin, Cauley-Stein and Poythress do return, where must they improve?
Isaacson: “Goodwin’s biggest issue is still decision-making, in almost every area. Shot-selection, making right passes, knowing how to handle screens on defense. All of that needs to improve. Cauley-Stein is on the right path. His challenge is to turn himself from a great athlete who plays basketball to a basketball player who happens to be a great athlete. His one-year progress was definitely a step in the right direction, the fundamentals are starting to come along. Now he builds on that foundation. Poythress needs to understand the impact he can have on the game. He has all the tools, now he needs to put it together. All three have skill issues, but they should hopefully develop soon.”
Question: Could they hurt their draft stock by returning considering they likely won’t play as much next year?
Isaacson: “Can they go lower than they would this year? It’s a definite possibility though Cauley-Stein if he improves as much as he did this year will almost certainly go up. The more important thing is if they become better players. The key is better their chances for a success past the rookie contract, which depends a lot on being ready to play in the NBA.”
Question: Do NBA teams worry about players being too soft or not physical enough?
Isaacson: “In a way. If you are incredibly skilled, but not tough, it won’t hurt you a lot. Teams will know where you will need work. Where you play matters also. Will a big man who flinches when he gets touched have problems adjusting. Most likely. A lot will be determined by how much you really need to work at it.”
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Follow Isaacson on Twitter at @NBADraftBlog.