I put together an all-tournament team made up of these young NBA players. In fact, a lot of these players are in my weekly Rookie Report. Of course, this list doesn’t assume they would become the players they are now — the NBA develops stars far better with so many more games, and players have so much more time to work on their game — but we can remember who they were when they left college and why they would have been stars in today’s NCAA tournament.
Brandon Knight made that team:
Remember, Knight was really starting to come on late in his freshman season, which is a big reason why he declared for the draft. Taking advantage of that momentum turned out to be a wise move. Had he stayed, it’s easy to believe his Kentucky team would have been among the nation’s top two or three teams, and Knight would likely be its top scorer. The college game is so much more crowded, cramped and tight compared to the pro version of the NBA. So there is a huge premium on shooting. It’s why Knight is on the first team and John Wall is not.
To be sure, Wall was and remains the superior NBA prospect. He is the superior athlete and one of the best passers/athletes ever to play college basketball, but in the college game his lack of shooting ability drops him just below Knight. Knight has many similar attributes to Irving; he’s smart and incredibly hard working. He also has no fear and would thrive as a veteran in the NCAA tournament atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the NBA has so far magnified Knight’s weaknesses. Perhaps Knight’s shift to shooting guard will highlight the strengths that could have made him a star as a Kentucky veteran.