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May 18, 2011

Scout: Liggins needs range of skills to make NBA

DeAndre Liggins doesn't need to prove he can defend.

The Kentucky guard spent his junior season emerging as one of college basketball's best perimeter stoppers, and as he enters the NBA, he's sometimes compared to top-notch defenders Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies and former San Antonio Spur Bruce Bowen.

But Ryan Blake, the NBA's co-director of scouting, said Liggins should have different role models.

He points to the Portland Trail Blazers' Wes Matthews and the New York Knicks' Landry Fields, who were more advanced offensive players than Liggins in college, but who made the league in part because of their wide range of skills.

"They were all-around good (college) players," Blake said. "They know how to play and find the right person and set the screens; spacing, all the intangibles. It's more than just defense, and I think (Liggins) has those abilities. Can he prove it? Can he prove it on a consistent basis?"
Liggins is unlikely to light up the NBA as a scorer. He averaged 8.6 points per game as a junior, by far his best offensive season at UK.

But Blake notes that Liggins improved his three-point shooting as a college player (from 23.5 percent as a freshman to 39.1 percent as a junior) and posted a "pretty good" assist-to-turnover ratio in his final season, with 96 assists and 55 turnovers.

"I wouldn't consider him just a defensive specialist," Blake said. "He does have a little bit more than that. He does have the ability to play two spots, as a guard or a small forward."

But defense is where Liggins has built his reputation.

Liggins is comfortable guarding a point guard, shooting guard or small forward. He led UK with 46 steals in 2010-11 and blocked 28 shots. At 6-foot-6 with long arms, he has the prototypical body for an NBA perimeter defender.

His defensive tenacity is Liggins' best bet to earn playing time in the NBA.

But defense won't be enough, Blake said.

"He's going to have to earn his time or earn his spot on the defensive end," Blake said. "He's not going to see any minutes if he can't play defense, if he can't run the sets, set the screens, rebound, all that stuff."


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