Alex Poythress will return to Kentucky for his sophomore season, reports the Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker (via Twitter). Yesterday, we heard that Poythress was leaning towards entering the draft. As Tucker points out via Twitter, Poythress' decision means the Wildcats will have at least eight McDonalds All-Americans and 10 top-40 recruits on the roster next year. Both of those numbers could go up by one if the Cats land Andrew Wiggins, who many believe is the front runner to be the No. 1 pick in 2014.
"I want to come back and do what we said we wanted to do and that's win a national title," Poythress said, adding, "I want to develop more as a player and the competition coming in next year should help me do that."
This decision is a curious one largely because Kentucky's roster is so insanely loaded next year. Per Tucker, John Calipari is quoted in the press release that he has "only scratched the surface" with Poythress. Yes, the 6-foot-7 forward could certainly improve under Cal for one more year. But those improvements may only be visible behind closed practice doors, as Poythress is likely to be buried on the bench unless he significantly improves, as Tucker points out.
According to Jeff Goodman of CBS, Poythress was told by NBA scouts he was a lock to be a first-round pick and could have even gone in the lottery had he come out. With that said, Goodman likes the decision, tweeting that even if Wiggins does commit to Kentucky, it only means that Poythress will stay for three years. Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com agrees with the draft assessment of the NBA scouts, tweeting that Poythress' projection was the middle of the first round. Poythress's announcement comes only one day after teammates and fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer communicated their intent to return to Lexington.
Kentucky shooting guard Archie Goodwin will enter the draft, while center Willie Cauley-Stein will stay in school, the university announced, according to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Fellow CBSSports.com scribe Gary Parrish tweets that Kyle Wiltjer will also remain at Kentucky. Forward Alex Poythress, another Kentucky underclassman, is leaning toward entering the draft, though he has not finalized his decision, reports Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com (Twitter link).
There's no word on Nerlens Noel, the most highly ranked prospect of the bunch, though he seems a decent bet to enter the draft, since he's still in the running for the No. 1 pick despite a torn ACL that prematurely ended his season. Goodwin, Cauley-Stein and Poythress hinted that they might return to school after a disappointing loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT. That Wiltjer is returning is no shock, considering neither DraftExpress.com nor ESPN rank the sophomore in their top 100 prospect lists.
Goodwin is not hiring an agent, according to Kentucky's press release, so he can still withdraw before the NCAA's April 16th deadline to do so. He's ranked No. 24 on ESPN's list and No. 18 by DraftExpress, while Cauley-Stein checked in at No. 18 and No. 21, respectively. Even though the rankings for both freshmen are roughly equivalent, Goodman praised both for their decisions, citing what he feels is Cauley-Stein's need for another year of seasoning (Twitter link).
As we prepare for the NCAA Tournament to get underway in earnest tomorrow, one team is notably absent from the Madness: The defending champion Kentucky Wildcats. Not only did Kentucky fail to earn a spot in the field of 68 -- the Wildcats also dropped their first game of the NIT, losing 59-57 to Robert Morris.
Despite a disappointing season, Kentucky still has plenty of candidates to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft this June. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Archie Goodwin all rank in Chad Ford's top 20 at ESPN.com. Although Noel still seems like a good bet to enter the draft and be a top-five pick, the other three freshmen sound unconvinced about being one-and-done, as they tell Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal.
"I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not," Goodwin said. "I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year … and just try to do better than what we did this year. Because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all. We didn’t come close. So I think think that’s what says we should all come back."
For the most part, Poythress and Cauley-Stein echoed Goodwin's sentiment, indicating they didn't feel ready for the NBA. However, as NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper notes, front offices don't always put a ton of stock in what prospects say after emotional losses, and Cauley-Stein hinted that while he may be leaning toward returning for his sophomore year, he'll consider all his options.
"I’ve just gotta look out for me and my family," Cauley-Stein said. "If it comes down to it, if my family needs me, then I’ll go [to the NBA]. But if not, I’ll stay and get a couple more years of education and develop myself [into] more of an all-around basketball player."
Ford currently ranks Poythress, Cauley-Stein, and Goodwin 13th, 16th, and 20th respectively on his big board, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com has them 16th, 21st, and 18th on his list. Should the trio decide to return to Kentucky for the 2013/14 season, it would be another blow to a draft class that's already being viewed as the weakest in the last several years.
The Western Conference's current seventh and eighth seeds face tough matchups tonight, as the seventh-place Rockets host the Clippers, while the eighth-place Trail Blazers play the Nuggets in Denver. Losses for one or both clubs could give the Lakers, who host the Bucks, a chance to pick up a game in the standings, as they attempt to claw their way back into the playoff picture. While we look forward to tonight's games, let's check out a few links from around the league:
Kobe Bryant continues to make a run at Michael Jordan's number of championship rings and career points, but he doesn't expect to follow in Jordan's footsteps in another area. In a video interview with Bloomberg.com (hat tip to SI.com's Ben Golliver), Kobe said he couldn't see himself owning an NBA team after his playing career is over.
"I’d go crazy," Bryant said. "If a player misses a game because he has a broken fingernail, I’d lose my mind. I wouldn’t be able to take it."
While ownership may not be for him, Bryant did say he hopes to stay around the game after he retires as a player. Here are a few other odds and ends from around the NBA:
Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com surveyed 35 NBA executives, most of whom said they'd rather trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft than select from a thoroughly disappointing crop of prospects that lacks a franchise-changer like last year's No. 1, Anthony Davis (Twitter link). One GM called the field, "The worst I've ever seen."
"I'd trade the pick for sure," another GM said. "No one wants to pick first this year -- and no one can live up to the No. 1 billing."
Goodman compares the draft class to 2006, when Andrea Bargnani was taken first overall and Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams and Tyrus Thomas were also top-five picks. No prospect among this year's bunch was favored by a majority of the executives Goodman polled, though Indiana center Cody Zeller garnered 31% of the vote. Kentucky's Nerlens Noel was second, with 23%.
Zeller's defensive shortcomings worry the executives, while Noel's offense and skinny frame similarly concern them. UCLA two-guard Shabazz Muhammad, the DraftExpress.com No. 1 prospect, tied for third in Goodman's poll amid doubts about his shooting and athleticism. Maryland center Alex Len, who tallied 11% of the vote just like Muhammad, has shot up draft boards thanks to the weight he added this summer, Goodman writes.
Others garnering votes as the No. 1 pick include Alex Poythress, Rudy Gobert, Tony Mitchell, Archie Goodwin and Anthony Bennett, though many of the executives say they wouldn't be surprised if someone emerges "out of nowhere," much like Andrew Bogut did in 2005.
When we unveiled our 2012/13 reverse standings feature last week, a way to track the tentative 2013 NBA draft order, we noted that it was still way too early for most fans to be thinking about the draft. Of course, when you're ESPN.com's Chad Ford or another draft scribe, there's no such thing as "too early." Here's the latest from Ford and others on this year's draft class: