NBA scouts flock to Alabama-Kentucky showdown, and Brandon Miller delivered | Goodbread
They got what they came for, this pack of NBA scouts that crowded into Coleman Coliseum Saturday to witness the Alabama basketball team absolutely undress Kentucky, the SEC's bluest blueblood, 78-52.
And for once, they didn't really come for the Wildcats.
From the New York Knicks to the Los Angeles Lakers and a whole bunch in between − a total of 33 scouts representing 21 NBA clubs − they filed into a packed house primarily for the headliner: Brandon Miller.
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That's the kind of scouting contingent normally reserved for Alabama-LSU football games around here, but these are different times for Alabama basketball, which further entrenched itself as one of the very best teams in the college game, at least for this season. There have been plenty of years in fairly recent memory when a visit from the Wildcats would pull NBA scouts to watch one (or a few) of coach John Calipari's one-and-dones. And make no mistake: this Kentucky team, although saddled with five losses already, has its share of future pros. And as long as we're talking about draft impact, Alabama (13-2, 3-0 SEC) brings more than just Miller, too − fellow freshman Noah Clowney is regarded as a borderline first-round talent himself, and there are others on this team who will make a fine living at it.
But it's Miller, the Crimson Tide's dynamic freshman, who is being projected in mock drafts as one of the first five selections of the 2023 NBA Draft. It's Miller who has so many tools, he can't latch his toolbox shut − a 6-foot-9 forward who can shoot, penetrate, defend, pass, rebound, and handle the ball. And it's Miller, and thanks to remarkable bench depth, probably only Miller, who Alabama can't afford to be in foul trouble.
He scored a team-high 19 points, peppering Kentucky's defense with a pair of 3-pointers and smooth finishes around the rim. He added seven rebounds, also a team-high, coughed up just one turnover and played 34 minutes without committing a foul.
Even against Kentucky (10-5, 1-2), he had the look of a kid to whom the game comes easily. What looks like lightning-quick action on the floor looks like slow motion to Miller, and that's why he'll get the ball in March when the Crimson Tide is in need of a critical postseason basket. Calipari has churned out one-and-done NBA talents like nobody else in the business, and even the UK coach tipped his hat to Miller's game, particularly as a scorer.
"The biggest thing is, he's consistent shooting the ball," Calipari said. "You've got to be aware of where he is. He spaces the court. He gives the guards more room to move."
Purely from a talent standpoint, Miller just doesn't belong here. College is a pitstop for a gift like his.
"We’re gonna enjoy him for the one year we’ve got him," Alabama coach Nate Oats said earlier this week after Miller sank a 3-pointer from 45 feet away to beat a shot-clock buzzer against Ole Miss. "He’s gonna be really good next year in the NBA."
He's even better than really good right now.
And you'd best hurry and witness it, because soon, the Atlanta Hawks' State Farm Arena will be as close to Tuscaloosa as he gets.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.