You, me, the guy at the office, the neighbor across the street, the mother-in-law, the doctor, the dentist, the cashier at the grocery store, all agree Marcus Lee should collect his books and get on back to school. Same goes for Isaiah Briscoe.
It’s nice to dream big and all, and both Lee and Briscoe have used this new extended NBA Draft evaluation period for all it’s worth, but Wednesday’s decision day is here and the two Kentucky basketball players who haven’t hired agents should withdraw their names from the availability list.
Will they? That’s a murky question. Just because they should doesn’t mean they will. NBA scouts may say the pair is not quite ready, but they may be ready — ready to move on from college and get serious about living out their hoops dream.
Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis made it easy on the Big Blue Nation. The trio announced their intentions early, then cemented their status by hiring agents. They can’t go back now, nor should they. All three have a legitimate shot of being lottery picks on June 23.
Even Labissiere? He’s not ready, right? He may not be prepared, but the NBA is willing to wait until he is prepared. He’s 6-foot-11 and can shoot the basketball. That’s a desirable combination. An NBA franchise will draft Labissiere, assign him a personal trainer, lock him in the weight room and hope the long-term investment matures into a windfall.
I figured Briscoe would take his decision all the way to the deadline. Coming out of high school, the New Jersey native was considered a one-and-done candidate and no doubt Briscoe considered himself that, too. During the season, when asked about fab freshmen on opposing teams — LSU’s Ben Simmons, for instance — Briscoe emitted a thorn-in-his-pride vibe. He answered the questions, but you could tell he wasn’t all that crazy about the subject matter.
Problem is/was Briscoe missed too many shots. A 6-foot-2 guard with a 6-8 wingspan, he can defend, handle the ball and find ways to score in the tall thicket under the basket. But he was not a shooting threat from either the perimeter or the foul line, however. There was a reason he got open shots. And the NBA these days is all about hitting open shots.
Lee’s case has been much more surprising. I was surprised he was so emphatic about his desire to go right here, right now. I was surprised he was invited to the NBA Draft Combine. I’m surprised he, too, is apparently running out the clock on his decision.
It’s not that Lee is a bad kid or a bad player. He’s a great kid and a limited player. Early in the process, the California native strongly hinted that he had offensive skills that weren’t called upon as a Cat. “I did what my team needed me to do,” he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, which seemed odd considering John Calipari made no secret all season how his team really needed better play from its bigs, and Lee was a big.
The problem now for both Lee and Briscoe isn’t so much production as it is perception. Both players have put themselves “out there” so to speak, making their intentions known, submitting to multiple workouts and critiques. If they are judged currently not quite good enough to be drafted — as seems to be the case — can they swallow their pride and do a u-turn back to Lexington? As a player, a longer evaluation period is a good thing, unless you still don’t get the evaluation you’re seeking.
Silver lining: If they do return, Lee and Briscoe have a chance to be a part of something special. Even without Duke-bound prep center Marques Bolden, Calipari has plenty of spices on his rack.
Back in 2012, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb each postponed his NBA dream for another collegiate season and walked away with a lasting consolation prize — a championship ring.