Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
By Drew Franklin on ©June 26th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Enes Kanter stirred the NBA pot during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s radio show today.
Cowherd said he heard Kanter believes Zion Williamson is overrated, and when asked if that is the case, Kanter owned up to it and brought another former Wildcat into the conversation with a comparison.
Kanter said, “I kind of feel like he is overhyped. I feel like he is Julius Randle with hops.”
“Some players are scared to say it,” he added, “but you know me, I’m not scared to say anything.”
Oh boy. Hear it for yourself:
In case you didn’t listen, Kanter went on to say Williamson can be a Hall of Famer if he adds a jump shot.
Once Julius Randle caught wind of the comments, he quickly reminded Kanter that he had 45 the last time they met.
Yo @EnesKanter last time you guarded me I had 45 relax bro lol
— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) June 26, 2019
I can’t pile on Kanter like everyone else because I wrote this on KSR the night of the NBA draft lottery: “Williamson is Julius Randle without gravity. Left-handed and all.” Thank you to Enes for standing with me on this lonely hill.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Throughout the John Calipari era at Kentucky, there have obviously been numerous big-name recruits come through the program and make a massive impact on the floor in their lone season with the team before making a jump to the NBA.
Recently, though, Calipari has established a reputation for building the draft stock of solid four-stars and anticipated multi-year prospects into legitimate one-and-done talents.
On June 17, though, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas made headlines by tweeting that the idea of college programs and coaches developing players into NBA talent simply isn’t accurate.
“One thing: college programs “don’t “produce” pros, they recruit them,” he said. “Good coaches at every level help players improve but [they] don’t “produce” pros.”
Interesting article on college programs with the most pros. One thing: college programs don't "produce" pros, they recruit them. Good coaches at every level help players improve, but don't "produce" pros. Which NBA team "produces" the most NBA All-Stars? https://t.co/YhKYGvV0qp
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) June 17, 2019
When asked about Bilas’ comments during his post-NBA Draft press conference, Calipari said he didn’t agree with the ESPN analyst in the slightest.
“He’s said it before. I don’t agree,” Caliapri said. “What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something. Everybody must have missed on those kids. They just didn’t evaluate them right and we did.
“I think that there are two things that have come out of this. How are our kids, 75% of them, getting to second and third contracts? We just evaluated better? There are other schools that are evaluating just like us and their kids don’t seem to make it. When they do make it, it’s about 20% of the kids, 15%. So, I don’t agree with him.”
In ten NBA Drafts as Kentucky’s head coach, Calipari has turned perceived multi-year players Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Tyler Herro, among others, into legitimate first-round talent after just one season with the program.
And while Bilas might not see it, apparently NBA executives do.
In response to Bilas (and several others in his mentions) on Twitter, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic went out of his way to note that during his regular conversations with NBA executives each year, Calipari is “always” brought up when asked about specific coaches who prepare players for the NBA the best.
“Professionalism, typically good culture guys, body [development],” Vecenie said. “UK does a good job.”
I will just generally note that NBA executives that I talk to, when I ask them about coaches who they think do a good job at preparing players for the NBA on the college level, they always bring up Cal. Professionalism, typically good culture guys, body dev. UK does a good job
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) June 24, 2019
Bilas’ argument is obviously correct to an extent when it comes to can’t-miss prospects out of high school such as Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, and John Wall, among others. Yes, there are players that are good enough to be drafted right out of high school and make an impact in the NBA right away.
But when you look at that next tier of recruits, it’s fairly obvious that development at the collegiate level is make-or-break for them in terms of their draft stock, especially if the goal is to go pro after just one season.
If Herro stuck with his original commitment to Wisconsin out of high school, would he have gotten the coaching and exposure necessary to be a lottery pick after one season? Or Booker if he went elsewhere to be utilized as a four-star role player? Gilgeous-Alexander?
Even the anticipated one-and-done guys out of high school just a tier below the cant-miss superstars such as Karl-Anthony Towns, De’Aaron Fox, and Jamal Murray, among others, all learned the ins and outs of the league and how to carry themselves as professionals during their time at Kentucky. Now, they are seen as leaders and cornerstones of their respective franchises going forward.
There have been some misses over the years, but in terms of overall track record from top-to-bottom, it’s tough to argue with Kentucky’s success over the years. Vecenie’s report only confirms that.
A couple of Mason County basketball legends, Darius Miller and Chris Lofton, returned home to Maysville to host a basketball camp and “Hey Kentucky!” was in attendance for an interview. Chip Cosby made the trip to catch up with Miller and Lofton, including what’s next for Miller in the NBA.
“It’s just a waiting game,” the former Wildcat told the show. “I’ll be talking back and forth with my agent and we’ll see what teams he communicates with and what they’re talking about.”
Miller is an unrestricted free agent after his two-year deal with the Pelicans ended last season, a career season in which he played over 25 minutes per game with 15 starts.
Now, he waits to see where he’s needed once the bigger pieces fall into place.
“There’s a lot of big name free agents this summer so after that gets settled, all the dust settles, we’ll figure it out,” he said.
He hopes to find an opportunity to play on a competitive team that can get him back to the playoffs. Lakers, perhaps?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 6:30pm
We’ve always known former Kentucky center Enes Kanter loves wrestling and has talked about eventually participating in the WWE, but today, the Portland center discussed a timeline for it all for the first time.
During a question and answer session on Twitter this afternoon, Kanter was asked about life after basketball, where he definitively said he was considering a move to the WWE after “seven or eight” more years in the NBA.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I would like to play basketball another seven or eight years,” he said. “And then I’m thinking about a wrestling career with the WWE.”
Afterward, the former Wildcat said he would consider moving back to Turkey to get into politics, ultimately seeking a leadership role in a reform government.
“And then because of my politics and platform, me being very outspoken, maybe I’ll [return to Turkey and get into politics],” he said. “That would be nice, I guess.”
Here was the exchange:
Q: Is politics in your future? Would you ever return to #Turkey and seek a leadership role in a reform government? #AskEnes ps – I appreciated you with the @nyknicks. Wish you were still here in #NYC.
As for the wrestling aspect of it all, Kanter participated in a mock WWE match back in December, where he put on a pretty solid performance:
We also have the former Wildcat’s famous “UnderKanter” entrance at Big Blue Madness back in 2010:
It’s been fun watching him find success in the NBA, but I think we all know the superstar Kanter would be in the wrestling world.
We’ll just have to wait seven or eight more years before it happens…
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Former Kentucky star John Wall is expected to take a major step forward in his rehabilitation process in the coming weeks.
Currently recovering from a ruptured left Achilles tendon, the Washington Wizards point guard told reporters on the red carpet of the 2019 NBA Awards last night that he is just two weeks away from jogging again.
“I’m about to start jogging in like two weeks,” he said. “I’m just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now. I don’t have to sit down, I’m able to move, do ladder steps, those types of things. Just taking my time, progressing, healing the right way so I don’t force myself and get another injury.”
After originally being sidelined with an Achilles injury on December 26 of this past year, Wall then underwent surgery on January 8 for a “debridement and repair of a Haglund’s deformity and a chronic Achilles tendon injury in his left heel,” per the Wizards. The former Wildcat then reportedly developed an infection in the incision from the original surgery, causing a slight setback, before slipping and falling in his home on February 5, rupturing his Achilles in the process.
The original timeframe for a return to full basketball activities was approximately 12 months, meaning we likely won’t see Wall play again until after the NBA All-Star break next February.
For a point guard known for his elite athleticism, he knows the perception of the average fan right now is that he’ll likely never return to form following the devastating injury.
Wall wants those with that opinion to know that he is using it as motivation.
“Everybody said I can’t be myself, I won’t be nowhere near as good again,” he said on Monday night. “That’s all the other stuff that’s going to fuel me. I don’t get upset about it, you’re entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going.”
To those that know him and have supported him throughout his basketball career, he wants those individuals to know that he’s absolutely determined to return even better than what we saw before the injury.
“To my fans, you already know what time it is,” he said. “You already know I’m never satisfied. I’m so determined.”
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) June 25, 2019
Now that we’re a few days removed from the NBA Draft, the folks behind the Kentucky Men’s Basketball Twitter account have provided us with a nice recap of the entire night. From Coach Cal heading to New York on his private plane, through each of the draft picks, and ending with Cal’s post-draft comments, this video is a perfect behind the scenes look at what PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson went through on Thursday night.
That night when your entire life changes ….
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 23, 2019
People wonder why Coach Cal makes such a big deal about the NBA Draft and there’s one specific quote that sticks out as showing that John Calipari truly understands how life changing draft night is for these families.
Seeing Chris Herro cry, seeing PJ’s mom, and then seeing Keldon’s mom and dad hug like, ‘He’s made it’. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy that?
For all the keyboard warriors out there who want to rip on Calipari for “caring about the draft too much”, if you don’t see how big of a deal it is for the personal lives of those kids, I honestly feel bad for you.
Who wants to be next?
By Brett Bibbins on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 8:00pm
After spending his grad transfer season in Lexington, Reid Travis didn’t make the jump to NBA Draft Pick that he had hoped for when he left Stanford. However, we all knew that he’d have plenty of opportunities to sign on with a team after the draft like we’ve seen players do in the past. After a few days of relative silence from Travis’ camp, news broke this evening that Reid will be playing in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League for the Atlanta Hawks.
Minneapolis native (DeLaSalle HS) and former McDonald's All-American, and Stanford and Kentucky star Reid Travis will play for the Atl. Hawks in the Vegas summer league. Glad to hear that Reid's knee will be good to go in July. It really hampered him during the pre-draft process.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) June 23, 2019
After averaging 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Cats this past season, Travis will need to showcase an ability to hang with the more athletic players at the next level, as well as prove how consistent his game away from the basket can be.
Of note in Darren Wolfson’s tweet is the mention of Travis’ knee injury that he came back from at the end of the season. It appears it was a bigger issue than most knew of in these last few weeks. Regardless, Reid will get his shot and that’s all anyone can ask for at this stage in the game.
It is awesome to see Reid get the opportunity to play for a spot on an NBA or G-League roster rather than going straight to international basketball without any offers. I’m sure all of Big Blue Nation will be sending congratulatory message to the new-age one and done on Twitter this evening and making sure he feels the love.
Go prove yourself to the doubters, Reid!
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 7:00pm
“Don’t mind my drip.”
The phrase is the now famous tagline of Los Angeles Clippers point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was recently named to the NBA All-Drip first team by League Fits, a subsidiary of SLAM Magazine. The “award” is given to the players who best put their creativity on display and consistently stretched the imagination in terms of what is and isn’t hip in the fashion world.
the FIRST rook in leaguefits history to go all-drip. no one kid should have all this power. ? pic.twitter.com/CyWJvgHEOM
— LeagueFits ? (@leaguefits) June 23, 2019
During his rookie season, Gilgeous-Alexander was known for posting his unique style to his Instagram, usually associated with the hashtag #DontMindMyDrip. It has become not just a fashion statement, but an Internet sensation of sorts. Even during his time at Kentucky, SGA always showcased a sense for testing the limits of what he could and could get away with wearing. Remember his NBA Draft day suit? It’s the one at the top of this article.
This was the second season that League Fits named an All-Drip team and it’s only fitting that the Drip King makes the first team as a rookie. Joining him on the first team is Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kelly Oubre, and PJ Tucker. Former Louisville guard Terry Rozier was named to the second team.
Here are some examples of Gilgeous-Alexander’s exorbitant taste.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (@shai) on
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A post shared by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (@shai) on
Please. Don’t mind his drip.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 4:30pm
As I wrote about earlier on Sunday, Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein and his camp has made it public that they do not wish to return to the organization for the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, for Cauley-Stein, it’s not exactly going to be up to him.
The former Kentucky big will be a restricted free agent this summer if the Kings offer him the $6.2 million Qualifying Offer (QO) that is a part of the final year on his rookie contract. Meaning, any team that decides to give Cauley-Stein an offer sheet can be matched by the Kings within 72 hours of the initial offer. If Sacramento decides to not extend the QO, then Cauley-Stein will enter free agency this summer as an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team.
Basically, the Kings have a ton of leverage over this situation.
There won’t be much of a reason not to extend the QO and at least attempt to bring back Cauley-Stein. If anything, he’ll be a tradeable asset or they can simply refuse to match an offer sheet from another team if they deem it too expensive. But the reality is that Cauley-Stein doesn’t want to make a return to Sactown and his agent has made that clear. So now we should look at other possibilities.
He may be a non-shooting big navigating through the most inflated shooting stretch in NBA history, but he still holds tremendous value.
Cauley-Stein appeared and started in all but one game last season, averaging over 27 minutes per game. He has some of the quickest hands and feet in the entire league, not just for a seven-footer. His 1.8 steal percentage was one of the highest marks in the NBA among centers. The Kings transition offense posted 132.2 points per 100 transition plays when WCS was on the court, an elite-level mark. His effectiveness as a lob-threat out of the pick-and-roll has made him a roll man with gravitational pull, opening up good looks for surrounding shooters. As a whole, the Kings were 5.1 points per 100 possessions better with WCS on the floor compared to when he sat throughout last season.
The Kings have until June 30th to decide whether or not they want to extend a QO to the 25-year old.
There isn’t much hope for any superstar potential in the Kansas native, but he does fit the Kings system quite well. When Cauley-Stein was surrounded by four shooters with De’Aaron Fox directing the offense, he was the perfect complement. Whether it was sprinting the floor in transition, drawing defenders due to the threat of an alley-oop, or creating havoc with his long arms, he was the perfect mold for the type of basketball that Sacramento instilled with Dave Joerger as head coach.
However, the Kings rebuild has been fast-tracked a bit thanks to surprising leaps from Fox and Buddy Hield along with the stellar rookie season from Marvin Bagley. After the franchise brought in Harrison Barnes (who declined a $25 million player option, which opens up the possibility for the Kings to bring him back on a cheaper, long term deal), the Kings have shown that they aren’t going to take any more baby steps. They want to win and they want to win now. Plus, they’ll have the cap room to do it.
But do they want to invest that money into a player that doesn’t even want to be there? Especially a player that has consistently played himself off the court?
Kings’ general manager Vlade Divac recently told The Sacramento Bee that “It’s a tough question,” in regards to bringing back Cauley-Stein. “We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential, but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.”
Consistency has always been his biggest issue. Often times he looks like the best player on the floor. When he’s fully engaged, I have watched him play excellent defense on superstars such as Joel Embiid. The length he possesses combined with unnatural agility provide him all the tools to become a lockdown defender. But he’s never averaged more than 1.0 blocks per game during his four seasons. Opponents shot 65 percent at the rim when Cauley-Stein was on the floor last season, a horrendous number for a defense. There is something missing. I don’t know if it’s his motor, awareness, or what, but if he’s not playing right on the ball, he isn’t effective on defense.
Also, there are the poor shooting numbers. Cauley-Stein never came into the league with the thought that he would need to develop an outside shot, but the ever-changing landscape of the league has quickly necessitated that. He doesn’t need to start shooting two or three triples per game, but he does need to improve his 15-footer.
As you can see from his shot chart this past season, WCS has two shots in his arsenal: right at the rim or straight on from the free throw line area. Only 6.5 percent of his shot attempts last season came from the 10-16 feet out mark. He connected on less than 36 percent of those shots. For reference, his teammate, Buddy Hield, shot nearly 43 percent from three.
Cauley-Stein himself even acknowledged his limitations back in March, according to The Sacramento Bee.
“I just want to hoop freely,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s kind of the biggest thing for me, just going somewhere, whether it’s here or anywhere else, just taking that next evolution to the game where you’re not just a rim runner. You’re a pick-and-pop guy sometimes. You can get rolling with what the defense gives you. I wanna be that dude.”
In order to be that dude, he has to be more aggressive and less hesitant. If he wants to be a pick-and-pop guy, he can’t shoot under 36 percent on shots from those spots. As the season went on, he became a player who was much better at understanding what was happening around him. I’d argue that running the fastest pace in the NBA for 81 games had something to do with that. Those zip passes from Fox in transition used to go right by him without even a hand raised. But as the season dragged along, his head was always up, expecting those type of tight looks through multiple defenders. However, that attentiveness never truly transferred to the defensive end.
So what teams should be looking at the slender, seven-footer? I’d expect there to be several likely candidates, especially since he shouldn’t come at an unfair price point.
The teams expected to have the most cap space this summer that might be in contention for WCS include the Knicks, Clippers, Mavericks, Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Magic, and yes, even the Kings. I’d say the most realistic options are with the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks. Cauley-Stein would be an upgrade over Robin Lopez (an upcoming free agent) on the Bulls and would slot nicely next to Lauri Markkanen, a sharp-shooting stretch-four. Dallas could use a similar “Tyson Chandler-type” player that helped them win a championship back in 2011 (although the recent experiment with DeAndre Jordan didn’t exactly go as planned). He’d also be a great fit with Luka Doncic in the pick-and-roll as well as a complementary piece to Kristaps Porzingis in the frontcourt.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies are also two teams that could use some solidity at the center position for the future.
As for how much money he might earn, that is up for debate. Last summer, Jusuf Nurkic earned himself a 4-year, $48 million deal ($12 million per season) from the Portland Trail Blazers. Nurkic is arguably a better overall player than Cauley-Stein in almost every area. Players such as Nerlens Noel ($1.8 million per season) and JaVale McGee ($2.4 million) didn’t exactly help Cauley-Stein last summer, either. Derrick Favors, however, earned himself $18 million per season last summer as a traditional big man.
Centers – especially non-shooting ones – just aren’t making high-dollar contracts right now. Avery Bradley and Dante Exum (both guards) received upwards of $11 million per season last summer form their respective teams, and they aren’t even respectable shooters. But Cauley-Stein has youth on his side and more than enough raw talent. I’d expect teams to offer him somewhere in the $12-15 million per year range, possibly even as low as $10 million per season. With the number of teams that have cap space this summer, that is a more than appropriate figure.
Don’t expect to see Willie Cauley-Stein catching lobs from Fox next year, but I would definitely expect a man with a brand new mindset on the type of player he wants to become. And I am incredibly excited to see what happens.
By Brent Wainscott on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 2:00pm
The NBA offseason is something to cherish. With Twitter feuds, petty kings, free agency, and this year even rap battles, the NBA offseason has become one of the most drama-filled and entertaining parts of summer.
Most Kentucky players have usually dodged all the drama, but with no player making more drama this season than Anthony Davis, that was likely to change.
On Saturday, Davis’ former coach Alvin Gentry took a dig at the newest Laker. When Gentry was asked his thoughts on all the Pelicans received for Anthony Davis (Which was A LOT), his response was simple.
“That’s a haul, folks.”
VIDEO: Alvin Gentry on Lakers/Hawks picks & players gained from the Anthony Davis trade:
“That’s a haul folks.”
A very punny response to AD’s “That’s All Folks” Looney Tunes shirt. pic.twitter.com/jlAg5CX86e
— Andrew Doak (@AndrewDoak_WWL) June 22, 2019
His response was a dig at the shirt Davis wore during his final game as a Pelican, which read “That’s All Folks!” AD’s shirt referenced a famous quote from the Looney Toons to signal that he was done with the Pelicans after the game.
It’s safe to say Pelicans fans weren’t too happy about the wardrobe choice, but Davis claimed he had nothing to do with it.
“I didn’t choose it,” Davis told ESPN. “I actually didn’t choose it. It was hanging for me already when I put my clothes on.”
Davis would eventually get traded to the Lakers, and it was announced he would star in the upcoming Space Jam sequel alongside LeBron James.
Subliminals never go unnoticed.
By Brent Wainscott on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 1:00pm
As we near the unfortunate reality that the one and done rule may be coming to an end in the next few years, talking heads from both sides always have their opinion, and if there’s ever an opinion to be had in college basketball, of course, Jay Bilas has one too.
To Bilas’ credit, he has been one of the most prominent advocates for college athletes to get at least some compensation for their contributions to the university through athletics for as long as it has been a topic of discussion.
So in what seems to be Bilas’ anti-college stance until athletes get paid, it was almost no surprise when at Thursday’s NBA Draft, Bilas suggested that no college basketball program produces an NBA talent. Essentially, without college, the players you see in the NBA would be unaffected.
Interesting article on college programs with the most pros. One thing: college programs don’t “produce” pros, they recruit them. Good coaches at every level help players improve, but don’t “produce” pros. Which NBA team “produces” the most NBA All-Stars? https://t.co/YhKYGvV0qp
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) June 17, 2019
Coach Cal, who has prided himself and the UK basketball program on the success of their players in the NBA over the last ten years obviously didn’t take Bilas’ comments lightly.
“I don’t agree,” said Coach Cal at yesterday’s press conference. “What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don’t know; maybe I’m missing something.”
Cal honestly could’ve added Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to that list as well.
Before last season started, everyone had the idea that Herro would play a six man role, who could make an outside jumper to spark a team. Being only ranked four stars and ranked at No. 37 in 247Sports’ composite ranking of high school senior, nobody predicted Herro to go in the lottery a year later.
Same can be said for Shai. Once a four-star Florida commit ranked 31st, people thought he would back up Quade Green in the 2017-18 season, and be a steady two to three year player at Kentucky, but now he is a centerpiece on a rising Clippers team that made the playoffs this season after he was also selected in the lottery.
That doesn’t happen if he doesn’t come to Kentucky, and Cal backed up that claim.
“Everybody must have missed on those kids, and we just evaluated them right,” Cal sarcastically said. “I think there’s two things that come out of this: How are our kids, 75% of them, get second and third contracts? There are other schools who are evaluating just like us, and their kids don’t seem to make it, and when they do make it, it’s about 15% or 20%.”
“What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe?”
“It doesn’t matter what school you go to, you’re going to make it if you’re supposed to. Do you believe that’s true?”
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) June 23, 2019
“I don’t agree with him,” Cal addressed Bilas’ statement head-on. “I think there’s a culture that we have, a system, a process that we have in developing them with an idea of what the end result will be.”
Cal emphasized that during the season it’s about trying to win, but he’s still giving each player the tools to be successful at the next level.
“How many of our guys have gone in the NBA and not known how to defend?” Cal continued. “How many players in the NBA draft as rooking are going in as volume shooters? None. They went to a school to be the volume shooter; now you’re on a team where you’re not the volume shooter. You got to know how to play, and our kids can do both.”
And he’s right, did you know Anthony Davis took the fourth most shots on the 2012 National Championship team?
“I want you to hear: It doesn’t matter what school you go to. You’re going to make it if you’re supposed to. Do you believe that’s true? Does anybody believe that’s true?” Cal said.
“That’s not what I say,” he said. “But to say it doesn’t matter, I don’t know.”
Tyler Herro seemed to agree with his coach, as well.
???? I know I chose the right school ???????????????????? https://t.co/y1m6UTahHm
— Tyler Herro (@raf_tyler) June 23, 2019
What’s your take on Bilas’ comments?
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 23rd, 2019 @ 11:30am
Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein is heading into the most important summer of his young life, and it’s beginning to feel like his future won’t continue in northern California.
According to Cauley-Stein’s agent via The Sacramento Bee, the former Kentucky big “needs a fresh start”.
“I really think Willie needs a fresh start,” said Roger Montgomery, a representative of Roc Nation Sports. “Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it’s time for Willie to move on and we’d really like him to move on.”
Cauley-Stein appeared in 81 games for the Kings – who were the surprise team in the NBA last season – starting all of them while averaging career-highs in steals and rebounds. He also shot the ball at 55.6 percent from the field overall, a five-percent improvement from his 50.2 shooting percentage the season prior.
Following the comments made by Cauley-Stein’s agent, the Kings issued this statement in response:
“Willie is a great player who has shown he can fit our style of play,” the team said. “Beyond that, we can’t comment further.”
Cauley-Stein is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Kings do not extend him a qualifying offer in the final year of his rookie contract. With the remarks made by Cauley-Stein’s agent and the organization, it doesn’t sound too likely that they will extend him that offer. His qualifying offer (QO) from Sacramento would be $6.2 million for the upcoming season, however, he could earn at least twice that on the open market.
If the Kings offer Cauley-Stein the QO, then he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and the Kings will have the ability to match any offer sheet another team gives him. But in any case, it makes the most sense for the Kings to extend the QO and then rescind it if they don’t want to tie him up in the organization’s cap space. Sacramento is in full control of this situation right now.
If we quickly take a look at the Kings roster, they already have the two frontcourt pieces that they would like to build around in the future with former Duke players, Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley. Bagley showed elite promise in his rookie season and a healthy Giles was just as promising. Cauley-Stein already saw a slight drop in his minutes last season compared to the previous year and that could continue with the development of the other two bigs.
“It’s a tough question,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in regards to bringing back Cauley-Stein. “We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential, but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.”
Consistency has always been the biggest gripe with Cauley-Stein, mainly on the defensive end. For a rangy, uber-athletic seven-footer, he’s never been a premier shot-blocker/paint protector. If anything, he’s been below average in that area since he arrived in the NBA.
If Sacramento wants to keep Cauley-Stein around for the long term, it will cost them upwards of $10 million per season and at least four-years in contract length. With the talented young core still improving, he might be closer to his ceiling than most. At that point, it’s up to the Kings to decide if he’s worth the investment. Although, he’s already made it clear to the press that he wouldn’t be. Time for a fresh start.
I’ll have more on Cauley-Stein and his possible free agency this summer including which teams might be in need of his services.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2019 @ 9:00pm
With three first-round picks, two being lottery selections, the Kentucky basketball program had yet another impressive night at the NBA Draft.
For PJ Washington and Tyler Herro, they landed right where they were projected to as late lottery picks. For Johnson, however, he had a noticeable slip to the very end of the first round.
Originally expected to be taken anywhere from the late-lottery to No. 20 or so, it was a drop that left Kentucky head coach John Calipari wondering what happened from the time the Wildcat forward tested the waters and the night of the draft.
“I’m still trying to figure out how Keldon (Johnson) – they said he was a top-10 pick when he left here and then a month and a half later he’s picked 29th,” Coach Cal said. “Knowing the draft the way I do, I haven’t spent time really going into that knowing that there are teams that you didn’t work out for and you slip a little bit and then all of a sudden you slip by those teams, and then it’s like what’s wrong with this kid?”
If you ask Calipari, though, San Antonio’s selection proved that there is nothing wrong with the former Wildcat. If a franchise as historic and well-respected as the Spurs wants you, it means you’ll be just fine in the long run.
“Because there’s nothing wrong with them and what proved it was San Antonio took him,” he said. “San Antonio is about a culture, about good kids who will compete and fight and be coached. By them taking him, it confirms who he is. But 29, I had no idea what went on and I was on the phone the whole time.”
And according to the Kentucky head coach, he didn’t have to sell anything to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs franchise. They were interested all along.
When he saw Johnson falling a bit, Calipari said he went over to the former Wildcat and comforted him, letting him know that he had “two back stops” and wouldn’t fall out of the first round.
“I didn’t sell anything. The only thing I talked to [Keldon], when I saw what was happening and knew he didn’t work out for some teams and knew where this could go, I thought he had two back stops in two different teams,” he said. “I went over to him and his family and I said, ‘Listen to me, I’ve done this a long time. You are in the NBA, you are going to be with a team. This stuff, most of it is ego, and it’s more about being on the right team. So just relax and understand that this stuff happens.’”
With the dust now settled, Calipari said he is ecstatic with where Johnson landed and the opportunity he’ll have to work with a first-class organization.
“He ends up going to San Antonio, which is the best team,” he said. “We’re talking Hall of Fame coach (Gregg Popovich), an organization that does unbelievable work developing young players, and then those guys become – you know they took a kid from Colorado no one heard about, they took a guy, (Kawhi) Leonard, that no one really knew about, so they don’t miss very often.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2019 @ 11:00am
Former Kentucky shooting guard Aaron Harrison is taking another stab at the NBA.
After spending last season playing professionally in Turkey, Harrison is expected to return to the states to play for the Boston Celtics during NBA Summer League, per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
Aaron Harrison will play summer league with the Boston Celtics, a source told ESPN. Harrison is coming off an outstanding season in Turkey with Galatasaray which has drawn him both Euroleague and renewed NBA interest. Harrison played college basketball at Kentucky.
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 22, 2019
Last year with Galatasaray, the former Wildcat averaged 13.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per contest. He also shot 44.2% from three and 80.5% from the free-throw line.
In three years in the NBA, Harrison has played for both Charlotte and Dallas, but the 6-foot-6 guard never found his groove at either location. Playing just 35 games in three seasons, the former Wildcat has averaged 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.5 assists to go with an abysmal 26% shooting overall and 22% from three.
Playing for five different G-League teams in three years, Harrison has averaged 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on 41.4% shooting overall and 36.6% from three.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 6:30pm
While most NBA mock drafts had former Kentucky forward PJ Washington going No. 13 to the Miami Heat leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t help but slide in and snag him a pick before at No. 12.
Why? The 6-foot-7 power forward “checked all the boxes” for the franchise.
During Washington’s introductory press conference, Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak said the former Wildcat was a perfect candidate for their lottery selection both on and off the floor.
“We take into a lot of factors, besides just the ability to play, [we look at] their character, work habits and teammates. [PJ Washington] checked all the boxes,” he said.
In terms of Washington’s specific skill set, Kupchak said he loves his versatility on both ends of the floor.
“He is very versatile. He can be very athletic and skilled,” he said. “He can rebound, shoot the ball and he is long. He made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year. If he can continue to make that kind of jump, then he will be a good player in this league for a long time.”
During the press conference, Washington said he has leaned on his former Kentucky teammates Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for advice when he gets rolling in the league. And according to the newest Hornet, it has allowed him to get a solid idea of what he’ll have to prepare for both physically and mentally.
“I talked to some of my former teammates in the past in Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander,” he said. “They’ve been telling me how long the season and how I have to keep working on my body, and I’m listening to them. I’m ready to come in here focused and ready to learn.”
The former Wildcat couldn’t end the presser without acknowledging Kentucky head coach John Calipari in helping him grow over the two years he was in Lexington.
Without him, he says he wouldn’t be in the position he is in right now.
“He’s helped me grow so much as a person as so much as a player as well,” Washington said of Calipari. “On the court, he has helped me from the second I set foot in Kentucky. I really can’t thank him enough.”
Make us proud in the league, PJ.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 5:30pm
The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, and as expected, former Kentucky Wildcats PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson were all selected in the first round.
Selected No. 12 overall by the Charlotte Hornets, Washington was the first to come off the board, followed by Herro to the Heat at No. 13 and Johnson to the Spurs at No. 29.
Less than 24 hours after the draft, we now have our first look at the official 2019-2020 NBA Rookie of the Year odds, courtesy of our friends at BetOnline (www.BetOnline.ag).
Washington came in as the highest former Wildcat on the list at 33/1 odds (tied for No. 11 overall), followed by Johnson and Herro both with 50/1 odds (tied for No. 16 overall).
Former Duke star Zion Williamson was the overwhelming favorite at 1/2 odds, followed by former Murray State Racer Ja Morant at 4/1 and former Blue Devil RJ Barrett at 6/1.
Take a look at the entire list:
- Zion Williamson – 1/2
- Ja Morant – 4/1
- RJ Barrett – 6/1
- Darius Garland – 10/1
- De’Andre Hunter – 14/1
- Jarrett Culver – 16/1
- Coby White – 20/1
- Cam Reddish – 28/1
- Jaxson Hayes – 28/1
- Cam Johnson – 30/1
- Nassir Little – 33/1
- PJ Washington – 33/1
- Rui Hachimura – 33/1
- Sekou Doumbouya – 33/1
- Ty Jerome – 40/1
- Brandon Clarke – 50/1
- Bruno Fernando – 50/1
- Keldon Johnson – 50/1
- Mfiondu Kabengele – 50/1
- Romeo Langford – 50/1
- Tyler Herro – 50/1
- Bol Bol – 80/1
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker -80/1
- Goga Bitadze – 100/1
- Kevin Porter Jr. – 100/1
- KZ Okpala – 100/1
What do you guys think? Fair?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 3:00pm
DANG PAT RILEY! While telling reporters how happy he was to add another former Cat to his roster in Tyler Herro, the Miami Heat president snuck in a shot at Kentucky’s rival, Duke.
“He’s just right on with his attitude and his approach and how much he wants to be a professional. He really is excited to be here too, so we’re happy to have him,” Riley said of Herro, whom the Heat selected with the No. 13 pick.
::Extends hand to drop mic::
“It’s not a coincidence anymore that we’re drafting all the Kentucky players,” Riley continued. “Getting rid of the Duke concept. So, that’s enough of that.”
Pat Riley had high praise for Tyler Herro, and takes a shot at DUKE.
"It's not a coincidence anymore that we're drafting all the Kentucky players. Getting rid of the Duke concept." pic.twitter.com/pSzxHkg8gl
— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) June 21, 2019
This is almost as good as when he reminded a reporter that he played at Kentucky, not Duke, during Justise Winslow’s introductory presser back in 2015:
Winslow is still with the Heat, starting 52 games last season, but earlier this year, opened up earlier about some “dark times” during his early days in Miami. Hmm.
Regardless, Pat Riley for actual President.
The grades are in for the 2019 NBA Draft, and according to the national media, Kentucky’s guys landed in pretty favorable spots.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo gave a B+ to each team that drafted a Kentucky Wildcat, praising Charlotte for making the safe choice with PJ Washington and Miami for adding “one of the most promising perimeter scorers in the draft” in Tyler Herro. Even though Keldon Johnson didn’t get picked until the end of the first round, Woo thinks he could be a great fit with the Spurs.
“This is a fall for Johnson, but in this range, he’s a really nice value for the Spurs—he profiles best as a role player, and at No. 26, his position is commensurate with that. Johnson has a solid all-around skill set and competes, but has work to do playing off the dribble. He could be a nice piece for them long-term, and makes sense with their pieces. He was projected to go a bit higher than this, but I think this fit ends up being mutually beneficial. Grade: B+”
CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone loved Miami’s selections of Tyler Herro (No. 13) and KZ Okpala (No. 32), in part because of Herro’s swagger.
“Miami wound up with a pretty nice haul getting Tyler Herro in the back end of the lottery and KZ Okpala, a player teams were rumored to be considering in the first round, in the first half of the second round. Need proof on the bargain? Here’s Herro, from Thursday, on his suit: “It speaks for itself. I mean, look at it. Best drip here.” What a treasure. Herro is going to be a star in Miami, and Okpala has star potential and a perfect fit to discover it with the Heat. Grade: A”
Boone also said the Hornets taking PJ Washington at No. 12 will “look like a steal in three years.”
The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks gave Cs to Miami and San Antonio for drafting Herro and Keldon, but liked PJ to Charlotte, giving it a B.
“The Hornets stuck to their preferred mold from the past few seasons: an experienced player from a big-time NCAA program. Washington, a skilled 6-foot-8 forward who can score from all over the floor, can do a lot of different things on offense. He can shoot from the perimeter, score out of the post, put the ball on the floor, and create shots for his teammates. The question is whether he can stretch his range out to the 3-point line: He shot 42.3 percent from 3 at Kentucky but took only 2.2 attempts per game last season. He will need to add that to this game to be a successful power forward in the modern NBA. Washington, like the rest of the younger players in Charlotte, will be a lot better playing next to Kemba Walker, but he could also be a key part of their rebuilding process if Kemba leaves in free agency.”
Here are a few more pictures and videos of the guys from last night:
— Roc Nation Sports (@RocNationSports) June 21, 2019
"What's up, Spurs Nation?!"
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) June 21, 2019
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 1:00pm
After drafting Bam Adebayo back in 2017, it’s no secret that Miami Heat President Pat Riley has been looking to add another Kentucky Wildcat to his roster. Last night, Miami selected Tyler Herro at No. 13, and in a press conference afterwards, Riley called Herro the “perfect pick” for the Heat.
“We’re excited about him. And we need him, so this is a perfect pick for us,” Riley said. “Obviously, I think most of you know and have written, honestly and truthfully, that we do need shooting. We have lost some of our perimeter players over the last year, and Tyler had just an incredible workout with us, great interview. I saw him in three or four tournament games, and [I was] just really impressed with his overall game.”
Riley couldn’t stop raving about how well Tyler did in his pre-draft workout, telling reporters that he made 25 threes in a row in a shooting drill, which is almost unheard of.
“In one of our workouts, we have one particular shooting drill that not one of our guards in all the years that we’ve brought them in for workouts even came close to what he did. And it usually takes the Ray Allens of the world and the Wayne Ellingtons of the world…it’s a challenging three-point shooting drill, and he just buried it. He really did. I think he made his last 25 in a row or something like that…it was just a great workout he had. ”
When will we see Herro on the court? Riley didn’t make any promises, but said the opportunity is there for the taking.
“We feel…that he has an opportunity to play immediately for us, so it’s going to be up to him, it’s going to take lot of hard work, but I’ve never met a more enthusiastic guy when he was here for the workout, when we interviewed him. He’s just right on with his attitude and his approach and how much he wants to be a professional. And he really is excited to be here, too, so we’re happy to have him.”
"We're excited. Really excited about Tyler… we made a great pick today."
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 21, 2019
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 21st, 2019 @ 12:30pm
Last night, PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson all heard their names called at the NBA Draft, taking the total number of draft picks in the John Calipari Era at Kentucky to 38.
I spent the better part of yesterday putting together a reel of each player being selected (except for DeAndre Liggins because the footage has disappeared from the internet), and it gave me great joy to add three more clips to it this morning.
How many more will I get to add next year?