clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA Mock Draft 2018: 3 Kentucky Wildcats in new projection

One writer is very high on three UK freshmen, one of which isn’t even playing.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky Media Day Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball and NBA seasons are still in the early portion, but Sam Vecenie at The Fieldhouse recently released his NBA Mock Draft with three Kentucky players in the first round.

Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt were all projected as first-round picks, with Knox and Diallo going in the lottery. We’ve seen Diallo and Knox consistently in mock drafts, and most expect both of them to leave for the NBA next year.

They might not be top-five talents like Kentucky seems to have every year, but they’re both still in position to hear their names called in the lottery next year. And at the rate Knox is going, he may very well be a top-10 pick.

Vecenie placed Knox at #9, going to the Dallas Mavericks.

Much like Porter, Knox is built like the prototypical modern stretch-4. He’s a fluid athlete for his size, most comfortable with using the threat of a shot to attack the paint. Unsurprisingly given that athletic advantage, Knox is great at grabbing and going in transition, His shot is still streaky, but it's developing as he grows into his game. The downsides: He probably lives on the perimeter a bit too much for his size, he’s not a great passer for a guy who likes to handle it and his hips are a bit stiff. Still, there’s a lot to like about Knox as a matchup nightmare. Knox might be slightly redundant with Harrison Barnes, but the Mavericks need the best talent they can find, pure and simple.

Hamidou Diallo comes in at #13, theoretically joining the Kentucky party in New Orleans with the Pelicans.

Another athletic freak in this 2018 draft class, Diallo came close to setting the pre-draft vertical leap record at the combine last year, at 44.5 inches. And at 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan, he has the length every team looks for. He takes advantage of that, particularly in transition, where he can attack the rim with power. In the halfcourt, his jump shot is still pretty streaky, and his handle is still best in a straight line. Defensively, he has all of the tools and typically plays hard. The key is simply improving his skill set and consistency.

And finally, Vanderbilt comes in at #28, but Vecenie notes that Vanderbilt likely will not be in that spot come draft day, either due to the fact that he comes back from injury and plays well, bumping himself up to a higher pick or by not being in the draft (presumably due to the injury).

This playmaking 4 is one of the most interesting prospects in the draft and one of the more polarizing players among NBA scouts. Some love Vanderbilt's ability to switch defensively and make plays in the open floor. He’s a good athlete, strong rebounder and terrific passer. However, he struggles to shoot it, and there are concerns about his lower body strength. Also, his injury history will cause questions, as his feet have repeatedly been hurt; in fact, he’ll be out possibly until January. It’s hard to see him being in this spot come June. He’ll likely either be much higher or won’t be in the draft.

As of now, this seems like a likely scenario with Kentucky’s players. Knox and Diallo are almost assured locks to enter the NBA Draft, and Vanderbilt likely will if he comes back strong from the injury. Other guys could play themselves into 1st round picks (Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, etc.) but this seems like the most likely projection.

You can read Vecenie’s full mock draft here.