Cardinal Basketball

Cardinal Connect Mailbag: Post Draft Breakdown Edition

Photo: @KKCards

Photo: @KKCards

With the doldrums of summer upon us, we’re going to start a new weekly mailbag. Its an opportunity to get your questions answered and have a ton of fun. Send in your Louisville related (or not) questions into for next week, or tweet me @GabeDuverge. 

Let’s do this ladies and germs.

The Rockets have to trade Trez, right? They’ll get solid value for him and they really don’t have much use for another power forward. Happy Trez got picked up, but I really think this is one of the worst places he could’ve gone. -Blake

I don’t think the Rockets HAVE to trade Trez, and it doesn’t appear that they’re going to. In fact I think there’s plenty of opportunity for Trez in Houston.

As of this moment there are only two other power forwards on the roster in Houston: our old pal Terrence Jones and this dude named Donetas Matiejunas. Jones is clearly the starter in Houston, he was out for much of last season but played in every playoff game Houston had. Matiejunas did’t record a single minute in the postseason.

If Trez can beat out Matiejunas he’ll find a place in Houston’s rotation quickly. While this guy is seven feet tall, he only averages about five rebounds a game and shoots 50 percent from the field.

Trez certainly has an opportunity to get minutes in Houston. It may not be the perfect place for him, its certainly not the worst. Plus I think Trez really fits with the aggressive Houston Rockets mold. I also think he’s got a big chip on his shoulder now.

I find it hilarious how Kentucky fans spin things. Rick Pitino took two guys who wouldn’t sniff the draft two years ago and now both guys end up drafted one goes in the top 16.

Calipari on the other hand had two guards who were projected to be lottery picks out of high school. They go to Kentucky and one goes undrafted and the other at the end of the draft. That obviously had a lot to do with being overrated, but still.

Also, Aaron Harrison’s stock was never going to be higher than it was after last year’s tourney run. Is Calipari a selfish coach for not pushing him out then? That is certainly how KY fans would spin it. -Drew

There’s a lot to parse through here but I think the underlying question here is comparing how Pitino and Calipari develop players and send them to the NBA. Each way is unique and has pitfalls, but nonetheless you can’t argue one is more successful.

John Calipari’s primary goal every season is to send kids to the NBA. Its not win a championship, its to get these kids to the next level. He’s damn good at it. There’s no way you can argue differently.

Last season’s “platoon” system had its benefits competitively but its biggest negative was the effect on the Harrison twins. The 2013-14 Final Four run truly showed that the Harrisons were streaky players. They needed to play until hot. Being taken out every 12 minutes had more of a negative affect on them than anyone else. Not to mention that Booker and Ulis flat-out shined them all season long.

I think the Harrison’s decision to stay was smart. They weren’t ready for the next level, (in the case of Aaron I’m not sure he’d ever be ready) and there was a belief that the next draft would be far less deep. Cal is pretty strong on letting his kids make their own choice, and honestly I think that’s what the Twins did.

However, you can’t take the one bad case and not look at all the good cases. Calipari has a long and proven track record of successfully getting kids into the draft and into the lottery. You just can’t argue against that.

Would another coach do this if he had as many blue chip kids? Maybe. Duke had a big draft, but Kansas’ was so-so. I do think its fair to say that the gap between Kentucky’s ability to prepare kids and that of other programs is closing.

As for Rick Pitino, he will never be focused on capturing the elite NBA-style talent. He’s not going to play freshman for significant minutes, and his playing style is very much suited to the college game.

That being said, Terry is certainly one of Rick’s best draft successes. Its something he can point to and show recruits. And while Harrell didn’t get drafted in the first round, pushing that on Rick is just immature considering that every mock draft had him in the 1st round.

Speaking of draft prospects:

Would VJ King be one and done? – Bryan

Gut feeling two years away for what would be his draft is no.

While King has the height of an elite wing, I’m not sure he has the physicality or consistency yet. Of course Rick Pitino’s system will prevent him from truly showing some of that NBA level prowess in his first year.

We still get to watch King for an extra year in high school. If he shows some evolution in his senior year and starts developing the physicality he needs, its certainly not out of the question.

It would be fun to have a one and done every once in a while, but I’m not sure King is it.

So with Pitino mentioning this week that he has so many guys on the roster that will play in the NBA, who is he referring to? Which current player has the best NBA upside? -Nate

If you aren’t aware Rick Pitino said in an interview this week he had seven or eight guys on the roster that will play in the NBA. Before breaking this down lets look at who he’s likely talking about:

  1. Chinanu Onuaku
  2. Damion Lee
  3. Trey Lewis
  4. Deng Adel
  5. Donovan Mitchell
  6. Raymond Spalding
  7. Jaylen Johnson
  8. Quentin Snider
  9. David Levitch

Rick said eight but I count nine…weird.

Anyway, of those guys I think the one that has the most NBA potential is Donovan Mitchell.

He’s tall enough to be a guard in the NBA and has a ton of athleticism. The kid can zip to the basket and has enough bulk and size to bust through defenses. The defensive fundamentals are there and with Rick’s help can truly evolve there. He’s the type of kid who might truly blow up once he’s getting significant minutes.

I also think Chinanu Onuaku has a claim to this spot. After his very first game, I told everyone I knew that Nanu reminded me a of a young Dwight Howard. He’s got great rebound senses and will develop as an elite rim defender. He’s just got to develop his abilities around the rim and he will truly shine. I truly believe that this season Nanu can make the “Gorgui leap.”

That’s all for now. Remember to send in your emails for the next mailbag at 

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