Playing in the NBA is a dream for many youngsters. Former Hurricane basketball stars Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin are one step closer towards fulfilling their childhood dreams by receiving invitations to the NBA Combine. This week, they will be tested both mentally and physically, as their skills and abilities will be compared to 59 other prospective draft picks. Both have much to prove. Kadji, standing at 6’11 and weighing 242 pounds, will have to prove to scouts that he can bruise inside with the big men in the NBA. Although Kadji has the height to be an effective defensive player, questions remain about his lateral quickness and weight. Kadji’s best asset is his jump shot. Multiple teams in the NBA are looking to go small and Kadji would fit perfectly as a small-ball five. Even as a traditional four, Kadji would wreck havoc due to his ability to spread the floor and create space for his guards, which is part of the reason why both Larkin and Durand Scott were so effective last season at getting to the bucket. Kadji should focus on displaying his outside game to woo scouts during the combine in order to solidify a spot in the middle of the second round.
As for Larkin, the biggest knock on him is his height. On a generous scale, Larkin stands at 5’11, weighing around 185 pounds. What Larkin lacks in height, he makes up with gifted athletic ability and a high basketball IQ, both of which he will have to show off to NBA scouts to remove any doubts about whether or not he can play with the big boys. Larkin has two other things working in his favor: his perimeter jump shot and his leadership ability, both of which he proved this past season. Shane should look at Ty Lawson for inspiration, whose height was also questioned before the 2009 NBA Draft. Today, Lawson is the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets and is able to excel because of his quickness and consistency from the perimeter, skills that Shane also shares. Look for Larkin to impress scouts both on and off the court during the week of the combine and improve his draft stock.
If you don’t already know, starting point guard for the Miami Hurricanes Shane Larkin has declared for the NBA. The son of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin is projected as a mid-to-late first rounder or early second rounder. With his combination of tremendous speed, incredible court vision, and lights-out jump shot, Larkin is going to be a much-needed asset for some NBA team. The question still remains though of where the former ACC Player of the Year will end up. Let’s analyze which NBA teams could land Larkin based on their needs and position in the draft.
New York Knicks, Pick Number 24
The Knicks thought that they had their point guard problem solved with the addition of Raymond Felton. However, if you’ve followed the Knicks the last couple of years, you know that Felton’s play has been inconsistent at best and that he has been plagued by injuries. The Knicks added Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni to add depth to the point guard position, but both players are slow and have trouble creating their own shot, forcing Carmelo Anthony in numerous isolation situations. Larkin would add some much needed speed to a slow and injury-prone backcourt. He fits well into the Knicks’ current system under Mike Woodson because of his quickness and ability to hit the long-range jumper. Also, being the defensive minded coach that he is, Mike Woodson would not mind adding the second best defender in the ACC alongside of lockdown perimeter defender Iman Shumpert. Don’t be surprised if Larkin is playing at Madison Square next season if he drops this far in the draft.
Utah Jazz, Picks Number 14 and 21
With the solid frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Utah Jazz barely missed the NBA Playoffs this past season. The Jazz struggled at the point guard position all season, mainly using Randy Foye and Moe Williams, both of whom are better playing the two-guard. The Jazz have no true point guards signed on their roster for next season. Larkin has a great chance to excel in Salt Lake City because the roster has a similar make up to his Miami Hurricanes team of a year ago. The combination of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors is similar to the trio that Larkin had in Miami in the form of Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble, and Kenny Kadji. Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans, and Moe Williams (provided that he resigns) resemble Larkin’s wing players, Durand Scott, Rion Brown, and Trey McKinney Jones. The Jazz will probably look to add two guards with their two first round picks and it is highly probable that Larkin could be one of them.
San Antonio Spurs, Pick Number 28
Everyone knows that the San Antonio Spurs have an All-Star starting point guard in Tony Parker. However, the Spurs have a clear deficit at the back-up point guard position, and it was exposed this past season with Parker’s injury. The Spurs mainly used players such as Nando de Colo, Gary Neal, and Manu Ginobili to run the point during Parker’s absence, all of whom are at their best playing off the ball. Greg Popovich could use a player like Larkin to relieve Parker from playing heavy minutes. Nothing could be better for Larkin than to play for the Spurs because of Pop’s unmatched ability to highlight the strengths of his players. Larkin also fits in well into the Spurs’ system because of his focus on defense and his ability to shoot the three. Although Larkin may not be happy being a back up initially, he has plenty of time to learn and grow under the guidance of Tony Parker and could eventually take over the ropes as the floor general for the Spurs.
I only focused on the Jazz, Knicks, and Spurs because they have an apparent need for a point-guard and are optimally placed in the draft to take Larkin. Wherever Larkin ends up, there’s no doubt that he is going to be a positive contributor for his team in one-way or another.