He was the consultation prize for not getting the top point guard in 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay. We all know the story by now. Mudiay chose SMU over Kentucky and then bolted for the pros in China due to questions surrounding his academic career. In desperate need of a point guard, John Calipari offered Tyler Ulis and the rest is history.
Whatever he lacked in height he made up for in leadership, talent, heart, and grit. There is no doubt that Tyler Ulis will go down in history as one of the most beloved players to ever play for the Kentucky Wildcats.
And what's not to love? He did everything he was supposed to do and more. He was a key figure in the best backcourt in America, was a two-time SEC regular season and tournament champ, was the SEC player and defensive player of the year, a consensus All-American, a finalist on the Wooden Award list, and the Bob Cousy Award recipient.
But what once seemed like a sure thing for Ulis, the first round may be out of reach as rumors that the point guard has a serious hip injury and that may have scared off some NBA teams. But he insists that his hip is not an issue and that he is ready to start his NBA career.
2016 Stats at Kentucky:
NBADraft.Net- #45 to the Boston Celtics
Strengths: A true floor general in every sense of the word ... What he lacks in size (listed at 5'9") he makes up for in sheer effort and heart ... Very quick with the ball in his hands ... Puts pressure on defenses by pushing the tempo ... Can be a one man fast break at times ... Pass-first player that looks to get others involved whenever possible ... Teammates will love playing with Ulis ... Competent shooter from the perimeter ... Smooth and compact release that is quick enough to allow him to shoot over bigger defenders ... Seems to always be under control and possesses a calm demeanor ... An extension of the coach on the court ... Very solid grasp of the game and basketball IQ ... Can impact the pace and tempo of the game and knows when to change either when necessary ... A leader of men ... Posseses all the right intangibles ... Uses change of pace moves and crossovers well ... Very good defender for his size ... Quick feet allow him to stay in front and hound ball handlers ... Can pressure opposing players for 94 feet ...
Weaknesses: Lack of height and strength limits his ceiling as a prospect ... Didn't shoot a great percentage from the field ... Has to work hard to get clean looks at the basket sue to lack of size ... Shot got better in his second year at Kentucky, but still a bit of a streaky shooter at this point ... Release isn't the quickest ... Needs the ball in his hands to be the most effective ... Not a high-level athlete ... It will be tough for him to finish at the rim without developing a better in between game ... Must show he has the strength to battle against bigger point guards ... Just about every player he faces will be able to shoot over the top of him ... Has to find and develop a niche as a player to stay in the league ... Was listed at 160 lbs in college, but weighed in at only 149 lbs at the NBA Draft Combine ... Doesn't possess elite quickness ... Will need to find ways to create separation and space against defenders ...
DraftExpress.com- #33 to the LA Clippers
He is very aggressive pushing the ball ahead in the open court, getting his teammates good shots early in the shot-clock, in transition or in early-offense situations. He's also very effective in the half-court, showing an advanced understanding of operating on the pick and roll, while also being capable of going out and creating good looks in one on one situations as well.
Ulis is an outstanding ball-handler, showing great command of the ball getting low to the ground, while using his quickness and ability to operate at different speeds to keep defenders off balance. He has a variety of moves he can utilize to create space, including crossovers, behind the back dribbles and subtle hesitation moves, as if often looks like he's playing at a different pace than everyone else on the floor with how calculated and under control he is.
He surveys the floor wonderfully with great timing and patience, whipping the ball all over the court with vision and creativity. While he's aggressive and decisive with his moves, he does a very good job of keeping mistakes to a minimum, only turning the ball over on 12% of his possessions.
While many floor general types are looking to pass the ball almost exclusively, Ulis finds a nice blend between creating for others and keeping defenses honest by looking for his own offense as well.
That starts with his jump-shot, which is a very effective weapon, having made 37% of his 3-pointers in his college career. Ulis is capable of making shots both with his feet set and off the dribble. He has a quick release and good elevation on his pull-ups, showing range out to the 3-point line and doing a nice job finding space to get it off when things break down for his team in the mid-range area.
Although not a prolific slasher, he has one of the best floaters in college basketball, something he'll certainly need at the next level as well to finish among the trees at his size.
NBA.Com- #24 to the Philadelphia 76ers
Yeah, the height. But Ulis is such a great leader that Kentucky's John Calipari called him the best floor general he has ever coached, a list that includes Derrick Rose, John Wall and Brandon Knight. Ulis was also third in the nation in assist-to-turnover two seasons ago and first in the SEC in 2015-16. NBA teams liked him as a freshman and then really liked him this season in an expanded role after Andrew Harrison went to the pros along with two other members of the Wildcats backcourt.
Wrapping it Up
Unlike Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis will not be at the Draft on Thursday night. Instead, he will be in Chicago enjoying it with his family. The same questions about his height weren't going away and teams were going to look past them, but the rumors about his health are making teams wary, which is a shame for Tyler.
He has the makeup of a guard that will have a long pro career as long as he is durable. He is a winner and a leader, but teams are not going to take a big chance on the health of a player that isn't considered a future star but as a solid career backup.
But if we have learned one thing about Tyler Ulis is that he should never be counted out and it is never good to bet against him or his will to win.