Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kentucky vs. the 76ers

99% of the time, the Kentucky vs. the 76ers storyline is dumb. The best team in college doesn't have much of a chance of competing with the worst team in the NBA. It's a good rule of thumb because 99% of the time, that's what is going to happen. This is still probably one of those 99 times.

However *Stephen A Smith voice* 

I'm not saying I agree with Eric Bledsoe, but there's a chance he isn't completely crazy. Take a look at the match-ups if Kentucky played the 76ers, if we use Philly's line-up from tonight:

C - Nerlens Noel vs. Willie Cauley-Stein - You have to throw out all the NBA vs. NCAA arguments with this one. Noel and WCS were in the same recruiting class. They are peers, except WCS has been playing continuously for the last 3 seasons while Noel is still extremely rusty after missing the last half of his college season and his entire rookie season in the NBA. WCS even knocked down a mid-range jumper against Kansas and if he's making that shot, watch out.

There isn't all that much separates the two former teammates. If Noel had stayed in school, there's no guarantee he would have held off WCS for the starting job. WCS should be in the NBA right now. He had to have ankle surgery after the season, which I guess is why he stayed in school. Once guys are projected to go in the lottery, they usually don't come back. He's an NBA C who is moonlighting at the college level.

PF - Henry Sims vs. Karl Towns - Sims wasn't drafted, which according to Deadspin means you are a complete bum, but he has a chance of sticking in the league. He has good size for an NBA big man - 6'10 250 - but here's the thing - Karl Towns is an enormous human being. He is 7'0 250 and he is much bigger and faster than his NBA counterpart. Kentucky is bigger and more athletic upfront than Philadelphia. That usually wouldn't happen. 

I remember watching Towns in the 2013 Hoop Summit, which featured Wiggins, Jabari, Randle and all those guys, and thinking this guy is 17 and he could play in the NBA right now. He wouldn't be a star or anything, but he is big, fast and skilled enough that he would be able to survive. That's what happens in Europe - 7'0 like Tiago Splitter and Jonas Valanciunas are competing against grown men as teenagers. Towns plays the game like a pro.

He may be only 19, but he is definitely good enough to give Henry Sims and Nerlens Noel the business! Kentucky has a front-court that would give a lot of NBA teams trouble. It's a weird thing to say, but it's true. They go 7'0, 7'0, 6'9 and they have 7'0, 6'9 and 6'10 behind them. That's way more size than a lot of NBA teams.

Where this question falls apart is the back-court, where the Harrisons are giving up a ton of speed and athleticism to MCW and Tony Wroten. They do have the size to at least match-up with them on defense, but if the 76ers started pressing them, I'm not sure what type of shots they could get off. Any game between these two teams would probably swing on Tyler Ulis and whether Calipari could find a place to hide him on defense.

I'm not totally sold on Kentucky's guards, so I wouldn't be stunned if they ended up losing a couple game this season. Even the Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and MKG team lost 2 games. Either way, Kentucky has the big men upfront to where they could at least give the 76ers a game. If I had Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl Towns and Trey Lyles (who could be crazy nice in his own right) on my NBA team, I would be feeling really good about my future. 

That's the thing, though. It doesn't actually matter whether Kentucky could play with the 76ers. It's far more likely than someone on Kentucky ends up playing for the 76ers. 

And if Philly gets Karl Towns and Joel Embiid together ... well, let's just say that people are going to be awfully upset. The amount of whining you would hear from Basketball Twitter, it almost makes you root for it to happen.

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