Lost in all of the news surrounding John Calipari, the hype of a John Wall-led recruiting class, and the return of Patrick Patterson to Lexington, we find the versatile, excitable, and sometimes immature headliner of Billy Gillespies last recruiting effort. A 6-6 guard capable of playing every perimeter position, Liggins started off last season with a string of productive performances before seeing both his playing time and effectiveness tail off as the season went on. Opting to return to the Wildcats instead of transferring or being shown the door like some of his former teammates, Liggins has accepted a huge challenge by returning to Kentucky. With potential top-draft pick John Wall assuming minutes at point guard along with Eric Bledsoe, a high ranked 2009 point guard recruit in his own right, and a handful of returners joining him on the wing, Liggins will have to improve significantly if hes to earn the trust of his new head coach.
Measuring in at a long and lean 6-6, Liggins is a good overall athlete, and while hes not super explosive, he possesses fine leaping ability and nice speed in the open floor due to his stride length. Born in 1988, Liggins is a year older than most of his classmates due to the additional year he spent at iconic basketball school Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Skilled, smooth, and capable of making some difficult passes look easy, Liggins offers an assortment of offensive tools, but his highly questionable decision-making held him back from being an efficient player last season.
When functioning as a primary ball-handler, Liggins shows solid ball-handling ability, but his tendency to get tunnel-vision to the rim as soon as he receives an outlet pass and the way he seems enamored with holding near half-court in some half-court sets limit him considerably. Liggins is the type of player that on one play will turn the ball over immediately by telegraphing his initial pass to the wing before splitting two defenders in the lane with a no-look pass on the next possession, before forcing a contested three on the next. Posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.23, the Chicago native is a polarizing figure with the ball in his hands, ranking amongst the top-10 players in our database in assists per-40 pace adjusted, but ranking second in turnovers per-possession as well. Not showing much restraint when deciding when to push and when to trot the ball up the floor, Liggins has a natural feel for making the tough pass in traffic, but his penchant for the spectacular doesnt compensate for the wide array of mistakes he makes.
Compounding those mistakes are Ligginss lack of scoring efficiency. Though he ranks amongst the top-5 players in our database in terms of assists per-field goal attempt, the possessions that he does use dont often yield positive results.
Shooting an incredibly mediocre 36.2% from the field, Liggins doesnt get great elevation on his jumper, pushes his elbow out to the side like Ronnie Brewer, and forces too many outside shots with a hand in his face. Though hes capable of connecting from the outside, mainly when given considerable time to catch and shoot, his 23.5% shooting from deep compounds the limitations his lack of blow-by quickness and great leaping ability put on his finishing ability. Ligginss shot isnt terribly quick either, which limits him when he puts the ball on the floor to pull-up. His ability to earn playing time and put himself firmly on the NBA radar will have everything to do with the development of his efficiency and maturation on the offensive end, which may be difficult at this stage with how much he appears to need the ball in his hands to be successful.
Utilizing his length and instincts on the defensive end to create some turnovers, Liggins is not the most disciplined or fundamentally sound defensive player. Often getting turned around as the ball moves around the floor, Liggins makes an effort to keep his man out of the lane, but his defense off the ball leaves a lot to be desired. Lacking great lateral quickness and having some issues getting through screens, Liggins has little trouble using his big wingspan to contest shots, but will need to make some major improvements to have a bigger impact on the defensive.
Considering the obstacles hell face in earning playing time next season, DeAndre Liggins is a player that may not factor into draft conversations for some time. An oversized play-maker at this point, Liggins will need to mold his game to legitimize his stock, as his current feast or famine productiveness and maturity need an overhaul. With John Calipari bringing a new offense to Lexington, Ligginss poise will be tested every time hes on the floor, and if he refines his capacity to pick and choose his spots and works on his game, he could become an interesting prospect. With minutes at a premium at UK this season, Liggins needs to take advantage of this season to learn and improve, even if hes not seeing more than the 16.5 minutes per-game he saw last year.