All this chatter regarding the number of scouts in Rupp Arena tonight five Kentucky players declaring themselves eligible for the draft got me thinking: How many legitimate NBA prospects does Kentucky have on its current roster? It’s been awhile since we’ve had more than one at a time, let alone several like we have this year. Some are gimmes, others are works in progress, and there are even a few potential diamonds in the rough buried at the end of the bench. Let’s break down the roster, layer-by-layer, in terms of perceived NBA talent.
The Randolph Morris Group (i.e., guys that really have no business going, but for whatever reason are bound and determined to anyways.)
Well, it finally happened yesterday. All five of Kentucky’s NBA prospects declared for the draft, including Daniel Orton. Without a doubt, Orton’s departure is the most baffling of the group. I think anyone who watched his freshman season would agree that his game doesn’t exactly scream ‘One And Done.’ Orton only averaged three points per game this past season. Ditto for his rebound average. He’s a bit soft for a guy his size. His offensive skill-set is non-existent. And despite being something of a shot-blocking presence, he commits too many silly fouls and is far from a complete defender.
In short, Orton didn’t give Kentucky fans a whole lot to be excited about.
However, he does have one thing that always gives NBA GM’s plenty to be excited about: size.
Despite all his shortcomings, Orton is 6-10, 260 lbs. with a chiseled frame and broad shoulders. Translation: Upside. Forget about all the stuff he can’t do. Think about what he could do. He’s got an NBA body, runs the floor, has shown a talent for blocking some shots, and has the athleticism to play above the rim. Who cares if he couldn’t get on the floor for more than 13 minutes a game in college? This guy has star potential!
But before we go any further, I want to show you the averages of another 6-10, 260 lbs. guy, Randolph Morris, in his freshman season at UK.
Minutes – 19.8
Points – 8.8
Rebounds – 4.2
Blocks – .9
FG% – 53%
Now compare those with Orton’s:
Minutes – 13.2
Points – 3.4
Rebounds – 3.3
Blocks – 1.4
FG% – 53%
Keep in mind, Morris declared after his freshman season and went undrafted. Part of that was attributable to Morris’ poor performances in pre-draft camps and individual workouts, but most of it was because teams got the chance to look past his NBA-caliber appearance and break his actual game down on tape. Upon further review, teams decided that Morris 1) didn’t have much in terms of an offensive skill set and 2) wasn’t exactly hyper-motivated when he stepped on the court. This was due in large part to the fact that 1) he didn’t and 2) he wasn’t.
With that said, could someone please explain to me what Daniel Orton’s game has that Randolph Morris’ didn’t? Whatever it is, it’s making Daniel Orton a projected first-round pick (or lottery, depending on who you listen to) and made Randolph Morris undraftable.
At this stage (post-freshman year), they’re essentially the same player: big, raw, no go-to offensive move, lacking in the intensity department, etc.
I’m not saying Orton will go undrafted, or even get drafted and be a subsequent bust, I’m just saying the red flags are there for everyone to see. And in this case, there’s a recent and obvious player for all GMs – and Kentucky fans – to use as a comparison. I just hope Orton’s first go ’round with the NBA Draft goes better than Morris’ did.
But the Morris comparisons aside, I can’t figure out why an NBA GM would be willing to take a chance on Orton in the first round. Best case scenario, the guy becomes a contributor in two or three seasons. I don’t think anyone actually believes that Orton is ready to step in and play serious minutes for an NBA team next year, so to take him in the first round (and pay him first-round money) would be a serious investment in your team’s future. Throw in the character issues that (supposedly) plagued Orton all season and (supposedly) played a role in his inconsistent playing time, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a serious headache.
Orton may one day end up being a legit NBA center, but I wouldn’t bet on it happening very soon. The kid’s got a lot of stuff he needs to get straightened out.