Despite the struggles of the Kentucky Wildcats' top NBA prospects, they're still projected to go high in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The latest mock draft from ESPN's Chad Ford has Skal Labissiere going No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Lakers. That wouldn't be a bad spot for Skal, who certainly hasn't lived up to his potential thus far, but there's still plenty of season left for him to show off his talent and potential.
Then again, it's hard to see Skal being able to play the 5 spot in the NBA, and he'll likely be a 4 early, if not his entire pro career. That's fine, except with the Lakers, that means he'd be battling Julius Randle for minutes. You'd like to think both Skal and Randle are good enough to be starting players playing 25+ minutes per game, which probably won't happen if they're on the same team.
Here's Ford's write-up of Skal to the Lakers:
L.A. must send this pick to the 76ers if it falls to fourth or lower in the lottery. Finishing with the second-worst record gives the Lakers a 56 percent chance of keeping their draft pick.
Labissiere seems like a terrific fit. He has size, athleticism and a versatile offensive game that allows him to stretch the floor. He's off to a slow start at Kentucky, but skilled bigs are all the rage right now in the NBA and with Roy Hibbert heading into free agency next summer, Labissiere would be a major get for the Lakers. Think LaMarcus Aldridge 2.0.
I actually like the Aldridge comparison and just for the heck of it, I went back and looked at LA's college stats at Texas. He averaged 9.9 points, 1.5 blocks and 5.9 boards his freshman season before becoming an All-American as a sophomore and becoming the No. 2 pick of the 2006 draft.
He's now a top-15 player in the NBA, which I'm not sure Skal will ever be, but it's far too early to say he won't. Skal thus far in his first college season is averaging 11.8 points, 3.9 boards and 2.2 blocks in 22.6 minutes per game. It's just one example, but it does help show that Skal's slow start, and maybe even an underperforming season as a whole, won't ultimately determine how successful he is in the next phase of his basketball life.
The latest mock draft from DraftExpress has Skal going No. 3 overall (no teams projected) while NBADraft.net has him falling all the way to No. 7 to the Portland Trails Blazers.
As for the next-highest projected Cat, most mocks have Jamal Murray in the top 10, and Ford has him going No. 5 to the Sacramento Kings to team up with DeMarcus Cousins:
No one doubts the individual talents of many of Sacramento's players. But their ability to play collaborative basketball is a major issue.
Murray should change that. Not only will he fill a need a point guard (assuming Rajon Rondo bolts for a bigger market next summer), but the Kings also need a player with his poise and leadership. You can bet that Kris Dunn -- who is a flashier, more athletic, but erratic version of Murray -- will also get a long look here.
Draft Express has Murray going No. 7 while NBADraft.net has him no. 9 to the Phoenix Suns. That would give Phoenix an unprecedented five Wildcats on one team, and I'm guessing no NBA team has ever had five guys from one school.
Ford then mocks Isaiah Briscoe No. 21 to the Los Angeles Clippers, which I would love to see. Doc Rivers is one of the game's best coaches, not to mention someone who can bring the best out of his point guards (he's made Austin Rivers look decent for crying out loud).
When Austin Rivers is your backup point guard, you need help. I think Doc Rivers will really appreciate what Briscoe brings to the table.
Briscoe already is built like a 10-year NBA vet, but he also has decided to become a lockdown defender at Kentucky. He sees the floor well, can score and has shown a willingness to take a role outside the spotlight. If he were playing at a program where he was the featured star at point guard, I think he'd go even higher.
DraftExpress has Briscoe going 23rd overall. NBADraft.net doesn't have any other Cats in the first round, but does have Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress going in the second round. DraftExpress only has Tyler Ulis in the second round.