Calipari talks NBA future for Knight, Jones, Liggins, Lamb

John Calipari talked about the current state of his players in terms of their decision regarding the NBA Draft. Calipari said it was a “no-brainer” for Knight, Jones, and Liggins to test the NBA Draft waters, and said Doron Lamb could be a lottery pick if he stayed another year.

Calipari said Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones should put their names in, but not go to the NBA Combine because it may hurt their stock.

“It will be more than a recommendation you don’t go,” Calipari said.

With those two, who are both projected as lottery picks, the NBA lockout — which Calipari said was certain to happen — complicates things.

“This lockout, really kind of screws everything up,” Calipari said. “I think a lot of kids are pulling their names. What if the lockout goes the whole year? What kind of mistake did you make?

“The whole thing is, are you ready to do this? Are you ready for this lockout?”

Calipari brought up a situation in which they could project as the 11th pick but fall to the 17th pick, and on top of that the players would have to be motivated enough to continue paying for training themselves because of not being able to work out with their NBA teams.

On the other hand, because multiple players projected as top picks — such as Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III — have decided to come back to college, that slides everyone a couple picks toward the top of the draft.

“Whatever decision you make, there’s only one person who has to live with it.”

Calipari said DeAndre Liggins should enter his name in the draft and go to the NBA combine, and could work his way into being drafted.

“DeAndre, maybe you’re fighting like crazy to get your way in (to the draft),” Calipari said. “His (choice) will be a little different.”

Calipari mentioned that Liggins, who isn’t on “the board” that projects who gets picked, may not be able to improve enough aspects to move him up in the draft next year. Liggins could improve his ball handling, Calipari said, but his physical ability is already where it should be.

“Here’s the reason I would tell him to do it: what he is, physically, and how he is, it’s not going to change or be projected in any other way,” Calipari said. “If you go and work out for these guys, and you don’t show well, they never change their minds. I was in the league, so I understand. You come out early, and you don’t have it, they won’t even watch you next year.”

Calipari said he did not expect Doron Lamb to enter the draft, but “it would be fine” if he did. He said Lamb would be a lottery pick next year if he came back and put on more weight.

“Now he has to get stronger, get tougher,” Calipari said. “If he does that, he and I talked about gaining 15 pounds of muscle weight, he’ll be a lottery pick next year. His feel for the game is as good as any out there. He finally took on a defensive presence.”

Calipari mentioned that this year Lamb was too easily knocked off the ball, but adding muscle mass would improve that area and make him a better NBA draft pick.

For all of them, Calipari said it was tough to easily project where they would be because of multiple variables, including the lockout, top players returning to college, and the inherent unpredictability of the NBA Draft in which prospects can slide down in the draft. Last year, Calipari said, UK knew where the five draft choices would be going with relative precision, but it’s more uncertain this year.

With all of them, Calipari said they will have to be the ones making the choice, and be ready for different situations both ways. For example, when the NBA lockout happens, will players be ready to sit out months or maybe even the whole season? Will the be motivated enough to work out on their own, and pay agents interest back as they wait to play?

And if they come back to school, are they ready to continue improving? Are they ready to be back in the class room, keep going to study hall, and stay committed to their grades as well as their games?

“If you’re not willing to come back and work like you’ve never worked before, you probably should put your name in the draft,” Calipari said.

Even if a player leaves who Calipari thinks could use another year, he said he would warn the player of potential “pitfalls” but support them. Calipari pointed out Jodie Meeks’ decision as one that worked out.

Calipari also said Josh Harrellson needed to start moving away from the celebrity appeal in the aftermath of the Final Four run and back to basketball.

“He has to shift gears and go back to basketball,” Calipari said. “This is fun. It’s at Kentucky, everybody’s all over him, for the first time in his life. Why are they all over you? Because you played good basketball.”