Remember when these glorified freshmen paired with a few key returnees were supposed to be completely dominate and have their way with everybody? Well things haven’t panned out exactly how we would have liked, but hopefully most now realize these guys are still human. With that being said, their play to this point has revealed some flaws and it is now more clear what each player needs to improve on. Now, it is probably almost a given, that a few of the players on this list are going to the NBA Draft. But, for argument’s sake , let’s examine each player’s game to see where they can all improve.
It’s hard to make a case for a guy who seems to be following the trend of dominant Kentucky centers but there is a case nevertheless. WCS is of course a monster in the defensive paint but his offensive game could still use some work. Although he has improved tremendously in his offensive game since last season, when you would cringe if he attempted a post move. Without a consistent back-to-basket game or a consistent face up jumper around the paint, Willie is somewhat limited to oops and open dunks. As a result, WCS could find himself struggling to find minutes in the offensive minded NBA where so many college stars find themselves on the pine. It just doesn’t seem likely that Cauley-Stein could compete against guys like Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert or DeMarcus Cousins on a nightly basis. However, there aren’t too many 7-footers who can run the floor like he does or defend on the perimeter. I would say enjoy him while you can Cats fans!
It’s not really hard to point out why Alex Poythress needs another year in the bluegrass. Poythress at times seems to simply go missing and have an absence from making any impact on games. Other times he seems like a star that could be a lottery pick but that play is never consistent. What would keep Alex on campus another year instead of going pro? His offensive game still could use some work. His confidence shooting the three has significantly decreased from last season. Poythress seems to have taken a back seat to the star freshmen which will get him nowhere in the league considering nearly everybody was a college star. But, we are really starting to see the beast in Alex show up with monster dunks and huge rebounds. Plus, Matt reported on the radio this morning, that he started putting in extra work in the gym this week. He has all the potential in the world. If he continues this progression, watch out. But Alex, come back another year and become an offensive threat. Plus we still need a small forward next season.
I hate to say it but Andrew is another guy who has made it quite obvious why he is not yet ready for professional competition. First of all, he is not a great scorer, which isn’t terrible, but surely wouldn’t help his case on a NBA roster with the new era of explosive point guards. His decision making at times seems to be scattered and defensively he still hasn’t seemed to grasp how to defend without using his hands. But most importantly is his quickness or lack thereof. I couldn’t imagine him having very many successful nights at the next level when guys like Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, and Tony Parker get him in their sights. That goes for the offensive and defensive end. Another season could allow him to develop his overall game and lateal quickness in order to compete in the NBA rather than sit for most of his rookie season.
Aaron Harrison is unique in the reason he needs another season with it being 20% physical and 80% mental. Does he need to be quicker as a guard? Yes. It would be a tall task to try and stay in front of guys like Lance Stephenson, Andre Iguodala, or James Harden. His ball handling skills could also use some improvement. From the mental aspect, at times Aaron complains way too much about calls when he should get back on defense. When calls don’t go his way or shots aren’t falling, terrible body language often follows. Competing consistently on defense has also been an issue that another season under Cal could significantly improve. At this point, Aaron Harrison reminds me a lot of Jordan Hamilton from Texas who is averaging 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Nuggets. Pretty mediocre numbers that I would hate to see Aaron have if he entered the NBA too early.
Despite his impressive scoring numbers at 14.6 per game, James Young has more than enough to improve upon before he will be ready to compete at the NBA level. Yes, he has a nice touch and the knack to work some magic around the rim but that doesn’t excuse his poor shot selection at times. His quickness would also be something he would need to work on if he expects minutes at the next level. But, as of late we are really starting to see James drive to the basket rather than rely exclusively on his 3-point shot. Many times he is getting fouled and sometimes he even makes the basket too. If he can improve his free throw percentage in addition to his three point percentage, he can really become a dominant player.
Of course it seems blasphemous to make a case for the man child and walking double double Julius Randle to return for another season, but there is a case. Let me start on defense. As we saw against Arkansas, Randle can be an effortless defender or one you grind your teeth at when you see he’s guarding you. Either way, Randle is not an elite defender and taking that next step could help his immediate production in the pros. On the offensive side of the ball, of course we all know about the turnover issues and that should change with maturity. But, the fact that Julius Randle seems to resent the jump shot aspect of basketball limits him dramatically. We know he can shoot but for some reason he just doesn’t. If another season at UK could help him gain confidence in a consistent jump shot and the three here and there, Randle would be yet another step ahead of the younger guys in the league still trying to find their way. Julius won’t be able to simply bully three guys in the paint in the NBA either. But, as we all know, enjoy him now BBN!
Realistically we will be lucky to get two or three of these guys back but they could all use it to some extent. It’s highly unlikely that Randle, WCS, and Young would return but could you imagine the roster we would have next season if they did?