Julius Randle and James Young are making the jump to the NBA, but Kentucky is returning more than enough firepower to compete next season.
Randle and Young represent 39.1 percent of Kentucky’s scoring from last season (29.3 points per game) and 39.5 percent of their rebounding (10.7 per game). Randle was responsible for the highest win-share (5.9), an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense, while Young was third on the team with 4.7.
Randle, a likely top-five pick in June, only finished fourth on the team in offensive rating (115.9), an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions, and a defensive rating of 97.8 – two outstanding numbers. Young, a likely first-round pick, had a 114.8 offensive rating and 104.3 defensive rating. Not as dominating as Randle, but efficient nonetheless.
That’s what Kentucky is losing, but what are the Wildcats bringing back? The Harrison Twins.
Both Aaron and Andrew were expected to leave school for the NBA after their freshman year, but their decision to stay gives Kentucky two of the most elite guards in college basketball next season. Aaron, known for his late-game heroics, improved in a big way as the season wore on. Andrew did as well, being the floor general of the team.
Fellow freshmen Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee and sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein are also returning.
Cauley-Stein may have been the best player on the team last year, as he led the team in both offensive (122.8) and defensive ratings (91.5). Cauley-Stein was also in the top 20 nationally in blocks per game.
Poythress, another surprise candidate to stay, does a little bit of everything. He was a steady performer as he was in the middle-of-the-pack in almost all the statistical categories on the team.
Lee might be an unfamiliar name to some, as he only saw 156 minutes throughout the season, but saw his playing time increased in the tournament after an injury to Poythress and proved he may be one of the most explosive and athletic players in the country.
This group also adds another impressive class for the fall of 2014; center Karl Towns Jr. and power forward Trey Lyles are top-10 in the final 2014 recruit rankings. The Wildcats also add top-25 recruits shooting guard Devin Booker and point guard Tyler Ulis. Kentucky’s class currently sits at No. 2 in the country according to 24/7.
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That impressive recruiting class combined with the returning players gives the Wildcats nine McDonald’s all-Americans for 2014-15.
One thing is certain: the Wildcats will be bigger, faster and, for once, more experienced in 2014-15 under Coach John Calipari.