BOZICH | What must Kentucky quartet show NBA scouts? Fran Frasch - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | What must Kentucky quartet show NBA scouts? Fran Fraschilla speaks

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Tyler Ulis (left) and Jamal Murray are two of the four UK players who will participate in the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. Tyler Ulis (left) and Jamal Murray are two of the four UK players who will participate in the NBA Draft combine in Chicago.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Is Jamal Murray a lock to be taken in the first five picks of the 2016 NBA Draft or a player who must prove he can transition from shooting guard to point guard in the pros?

How about Tyler Ulis? Is he the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year or a guy who could not stay in front of Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell?

Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee? Plenty to discuss with those two players, too.

Those four University of Kentucky basketball players are in Chicago for the NBA Draft combine. What do they need to show the more than 200 scouts and league executives who will be watching?

I asked former college basketball coach Fran Fraschilla, who has studied dozens of videos of every player for his job as an ESPN analyst in Chicago this weekend.

Here is Fraschilla, unplugged:

JAMAL MURRAY, freshman guard

Fraschilla: “Murray’s not going to work out (in Chicago), I don’t think. (Projected lottery picks generally agree to be measured but do not participate in drills or scrimmages.)

“The interesting thing with Murray is teams have a real good sense of what kind of player he is. Jamal’s got a unique maturity about himself for his age. His makeup, his maturity and his competitiveness are sky-high for a guy who has not turned 19 yet.

“They’re not going to see much here of his basketball ability. But most teams are looking at him as a point guard.

“The teams that I’ve talked to know that he played off the ball this year, but they see him with the ball in his hands a lot at the next level.

“There are no true point guards starting in the NBA, outside of Ricky Rubio (with Minnesota) and maybe a handful of others. Everybody else is a scoring point guard.

“You name them. Go down the list from (Damian) Lillard, (Steph) Curry, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving. Just go down that list. All the top points guards are scoring point guards.

“Jamal is what I would call a plus-NBA shooter He’s got plus-maturity. While he’s not an explosive athlete, he does a good job of changing speeds and getting by defenders. He has good court awareness.

“I think his defense is going to be something that will have to be improved on at the next level. Kentucky did an awful lot of switching (on screens) this year. It was more switching out of convenience. It was effective because that’s how John (Calipari, the UK coach) wanted to play with equal-sized guys, switch everything.

“But I think at the next level what he can do on offense is going to be countered by he is going to have stay in front of some of the most dynamic athletes in the NBA (on defense).

“Having said that, he’s going in the top five (picks).

“I saw Jamal play for a week straight at the Pan-Am Games last summer against older, FIBA (international) level professionals. He was obviously one of the best players in the tournament. It had very few NBA players in the tournament, but these were older, more mature men – at a better level than he saw in the SEC. And he had the ball in his hands a lot.

“He’s a scoring point guard. Some people call him a lead guard. I just think of him as a scoring point guard. Now he’s going to play off the ball some as well because he’s such a good shooter.

“I think the biggest thing about him is just the overall package of a guy who is so mature. I’ve always said that he reminds me of young Brandon Roy (former Washington star who excelled with Portland for five seasons before knee problems ended his career in 2013).

“He’s almost 6 foot 5. He has to have the ball in his hands a lot to be at his best. He can make plays for himself. He can make plays for others. And when he plays off the ball he’s proven to be an outstanding shooter.”

SKAL LABISSIERE, freshman forward

Fraschilla: “It’s obvious that he was done an injustice by how high that he was ranked (by the recruiting services) so there’s a disappointment factor there with the kid.

“But when you think of his basketball experience, which was limited coming into this year, and given the fact that he’s long and athletic and has one offensive skill that he can hang his hat on, which is that he shoots the ball very well, particularly in the mid-range, he’s going to be a project and a gamble. But potentially a good one.

“I have him going anywhere between 14 and 25 (in the first round). He’s not going to be ready to help an NBA team next year because he just doesn’t have the physicality to play in an NBA game right now.

“He’s going to be a work in progress. He’ll probably play a lot of D-League basketball. If I’m a team that drafts him in the middle of the round, I have him in training camp, I keep him with our team as much as we can during the season, but once the D-League season starts, I’m trying to get him 35 minutes a night. And I’m trying to speed up his development.

“The best thing he did this year was that he shot pick-and-pop jump shots extremely well. He was very accurate in the mid-range.

“He’s got no low-post game because of the lack of strength, although he’s got a workable jump hook in there. He’s not going to sniff the low post in the NBA game because he’s not going to have the physical ability to park down there. It’s not going to happen.

“The biggest thing for him is to catch up on basketball instincts. His basketball instincts at this point are a little atrophied because of the lack of experience. He’s a project. I say that not in a negative way.

“The way my friends in the NBA describe the draft, they say, ‘Certain amount of all-stars, certain amount of starters.’ This year the starters go to about 10 or 11 (picks). After that you’re just looking for rotation players or guys that you can project out into the future three or four years. That’s where Skal is, he’s a projection.

“I think he should play (in the scrimmages in Chicago). He’s got nothing to lose. Everybody knows that he’s a work in progress.

“I’m going to tell you this: If you can’t play in these games against second-round picks and show well, then there is something wrong. Not knowing who his agent is or who is working him out, if he played in these games, ran the floor and made some mid-range jump shots, he could find his stock rise a little bit.

“Are his representatives going to be willing to put him out there?”

TYLER ULIS, sophomore guard

Fraschilla: “I really like him. I think he could have arguably been the perfect college guard this year. You could have made the argument, and many people did, that he was the best pure guard in college.

“I think he’s going to be a very solid pro but I don’t see him as a starter long-term.

“First of all, he’s an outlier. If you’re gambling, you’re gambling on 450 players in the league and right now there are very few Isaiah Thomases and J.J. Bareas (undersized point guards). So he’s an outlier in terms of being under 6 feet tall.

“Having said that, his skill level is outstanding. He has a competitive toughness about him that is going to serve him well in the NBA. But again, at the most dynamic position in the league, you’re looking at middle-to-late first round pick who at the very worst can have a good long career as a back-up point guard.

“Not to say he can’t start at times. But the one thing that stood out to me because Kentucky switched so much, it was really hard to tell how well he could keep the ball in front of him. I realize he was the SEC defensive player of year.

“In my mind, I still see (Indiana’s) Yogi Ferrell blowing by him three times in that (NCAA Tournament) game. Blowing by him, like he was standing still.

“I think the ability to keep Lillard and Russell Westbrook and John Wall in front of him night after night in the league is going to be a challenge for him.

“I think he’s going to have a long career in the league because he’s skilled and tough and knows how to play the game.”

MARCUS LEE, junior forward

Fraschilla: “Energy big (man). Second-rounder. The frame hurts him.

“I watched him at practice in October, and I actually wrote down to myself that this kid will likely be somewhere in the second round because people love big guys, especially projects. And I say project for the NBA because that’s what he is.

“There is no discernible offensive skill. He’s what we would call athletic but under-skilled for the league. Guys like that have to be great end-to-end runners. They have to be what we call screen-and-roll divers, guys that screen and run to the rim and try to catch lobs.

“They play off penetration on the base line for the dump offs for the dunks and they crash the offensive glass and they defend their position if they can.

“His body type hurts him because it’s a narrow body type. I think his energy level is good enough to get him drafted -- in the second round, obviously.

“I think he plays with a little more force (than Labissiere). He’s older, a little more experienced and physically mature.

“I’ve said this many times, what Kentucky sees in the SEC and Kansas sees in the Big 12 and Ohio State sees in the Big Ten, that’s AA pitching. A guy like Perry Ellis (of Kansas) for example, or Tyler Ulis, Tyler hit .320 this year against AA pitching. That’s good. That’s good for a young player.

“But it doesn’t mean that you automatically make the jump to the major leagues. To me, the Euro League, the league that (Knicks rookie Kristaps) Porzingas come out of last year, that was AAA. And he was playing in AAA. He was playing against men.

“It’s a whole big jump to the NBA. Getting back to Marcus Lee, I can definitely see him on somebody’s Summer League team. I can see him going like 47th and somebody being very happy with him and him playing well in the summer league and sticking on roster because somebody will like the fact that’s a big kid who can run and play hard.

“But guys like that are all over the D-League, and on occasion those guys figure it out and pop up.”

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