By Jon Rothstein
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– Terrence Jones looked like a sure-fire top five pick after the first few games of his freshman season at Kentucky but after taking a lesser role during the Wildcats’ National Championship run last year, the 6-foot-9 power forward looks destined to be picked somewhere in the middle of the first round in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
“If he wasn’t on Kentucky, he’d easily average 20-25 points per game,” Kentucky’s Anthony Davis said of Jones on Monday. “He can handle, he can shoot, he’s got a lot of strengths.”
To illustrate the degree of what Jones sacrificed this past season with the additions of Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, look no further than his scoring. As a freshman Jones had just six games in single figures. As a sophomore, he tallied 12.
– Several teams in the latter part of the first round are enamored with Kentucky’s Doron Lamb. The unsung presence for the Wildcats is getting big time interest from Oklahoma City at number 28 as a potential spot up guy next to Kevin Durant and James Harden with the Bulls also a potential option at 29. At times lost in the shuffle of Kentucky’s supreme talent, the 6-foot-4 Lamb shot 47.6% from 3-point range during his two years in Lexington and led the Wildcats with 22 points in the National Championship game against Kansas.
– According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Detroit was gathering all sorts of last minute information on UCONN big man Andre Drummond in case he slips to the Pistons at nine. Drummond is believed to be among the top six picks but could slide if Portland passes on him with their first selection at number six (The Blazers also draft at 11). Detroit is set on taking a big man to pair with Greg Monroe and could potentially choose between Drummond, Illinois’ center Meyers Leonard, and North Carolina’s John Henson.
– Portland has also shown serious interest in Washington wing Terrence Ross and could take the lanky guard with the 11th overall pick. Ross needs to become a more consistent outside shooter but brings solid defensive prowess and could give the Trailblazers security in case they lose small forward Nicholas Batum via free agency.
– A name to keep an eye on as a potential value pick in the late first/early second round is Missouri guard Kim English. English had four solid years in Columbia and has the strength to defend multiple positions in the NBA. Several NBA scouts have compared the 6-foot-6 English to a Quinton Ross type who could develop as a “glue guy” in the league.
– Don’t count out Dallas as a potential landing spot for Iowa State’s Royce White at 17. The Mavericks love everything about the point forward and have the type of veterans in place to fully utilize White’s abilities immediately. Mark Cuban has been talking the past few years about finding a replacement for Jason Kidd and White could be just that in a different type of model. Crazy? No. Not if you’ve seen White play. He’s got major talent and is going to make a lot of teams pay down the road if they pass on him in the lottery.
– Syracuse guard Dion Waiters is unlikely to slide past the Warriors at number seven according to several sources with knowledge of the situation. The 6-foot-4 Waiters could also be in play for Portland at number six but word is he’s not getting past Mark Jackson and Golden State — the entire organization loves his game. If the Warriors add Waiters, it would give them one of the more explosive young perimeters in the NBA with he, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson.
– The Grizzlies are set on drafting a backup point guard at number 25 — as long as they keep their pick. Memphis has been searching for an insurance policy for starting floor general Mike Conley and word is they’ve got their sights set on Kentucky’s Marquis Teague. If Teague isn’t available, Memphis will consider either Washington’s Tony Wroten or Xavier’s Tu Holloway. Many believe there’s also a more than legitimate chance that the Grizzlies trade their way out of the first round.
– Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham may be the best player in this draft that no one knows about. “If he played at Kentucky or somewhere like that, he’d be a lottery pick,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said of Cunningham last week. The 6-foot-4 guard is a terrific defender and has been compared to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook because of his freakish athleticism and defensive instincts. Look for Cunningham to be swooped up in the early part of the second round with the hope that he’ll handle the ball well enough to play both guard positions in the NBA.
– PROGRAMMING ALERT: I will be in studio on WFAN on Wednesday morning to preview the NBA Draft with Joe Benigno and also live at the Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday with Mike Francesa.
How do you think the draft will shake out? Be heard in the comments below…