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Success of Past Kentucky Guards Driving NBA Draft Stock of Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox

It is no closely guarded secret that the University of Kentucky is a hotbed for future NBA talents, and the past successes of the likes of John Wall and Devin Booker have only further increased the already-high draft stocks of current guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari has been something of a recruiting wizard throughout his tenure at Kentucky. One need look no further than the fact there are 21 Wildcats currently populating NBA rosters. Some teams have several, such as the Phoenix Suns who boast not only Devin Booker, but also Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis—and prior to this season, also Archie Goodwin (who has been less than successful in the Association thus far at least).

These success stories only help the hype train when it comes to Fox and Monk. Fox has rightfully been compared to former Cats guard John Wall, a perennial All-Star whose status as a franchise player is hardly even in question. Like Wall, Fox is an athletic point guard who can score and distribute the ball, seemingly in perfect balance. He fits the mode of the new NBA point guard, and his sensational athleticism will probably only shine further at the next level.

Fox has shot up draft boards to the point that the Los Angeles Lakers may consider him at No. 2 overall. Similarly, Monk's outstanding NCAA tournament has caused teams to take a close look at him in the high lottery. Monk has the athleticism and shooting ability to be what J.R. Smith would have been if he were not a head case. NBA currently shows Fox slotted to go No. 5 overall to Sacramento and Monk penciled into the No. 8 spot where the New York Knicks shall make their pick.

These projections, if anything, may be a bit low, especially considering the great fit that either guard could be with the Philadelphia 76ers, who own the No. 3 pick. Seeing Fox go No. 3 would be no surprise at all, and it might be that the Sixers trade down to draft Monk. Philly is fairly stacked in its frontcourt, but it started stop-gap point guards like Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell. Fox or Monk would be a fairly massive upgrade over either of those talents, especially in the long-term, which is what the Sixers are most focused on having put together a team with the expressed purpose of contending once LeBron James has reached his most-latter years.

Fox is known to have a good attitude and strong work ethic, two intangibles that would be attractive Philly as it furthers its rebuild. He also could play both guard spots given his 6'6" wingspan and his leaping ability. That is not to say Fox is necessarily a combo guard at the next level, but his immense skills should render him a player capable of filling in at the 2-spot if Philadelphia wanted to go with a smaller lineup (as many NBA teams have trended towards in recent years). He has great elevation on his jump shot and can get to the line frequently (7.5 attempts per-40 minutes last season).

Given the Sixers already have Joel Embiid to draw attention in the post, offsetting that with Fox's strong perimeter game could give Philadelphia the inside-outside combination that often proves to be the most lethal of offensive attacks. Fox also should factor well in pick and roll situations with Embiid or even Jahlil Okafor (should the Sixers keep Okafor), and his crossover dribble will likely be every bit as devastating in a league populated with so many mediocre-defending guards. Should Philadelphia pass on Fox, he would be a great fit in Sacramento (No. 5) or even as a replacement for the erratic-shooting Elfrid Payton in Orlando at pick No. 6.

Orlando would love the opportunity to add Fox, but realistically the Magic may have to take more seriously the option of Monk. Monk would add much-needed court spacing to Orlando's attack, one that was too heavily reliant on the least-effective mid-range shot a season ago.

Orlando Magic GM John Hammond said he is going to take the "best available" player at No. 6 overall, and it may be that Monk is that guy. NBA gives comparisons of Eric Gordon and Louis Williams, but both of those projections seem to be based mostly on the fact that he is 6-foot-3, much like those undersized scoring guards are.

The difference between Monk and that pair is that he is a much better athlete, more like Gordon was prior to his knee injuries that robbed him of a lot of his athleticism. However, like Gordon and Williams, Monk is a driven guard capable of creating his own shot and scoring in a hurry. His best NBA Role may, in fact, be one similar to Williams who has been a great Sixth Man throughout his career. The idea of drafting a non-starter in the mid-lottery may seem unappealing to some fans, but in Monk, they are getting a physically ready guard with a massive upside, and concerns regarding his lack of height for the 2-spot are likely a little overblown.

NBA teams do not exploit undersized guards by running post sets much anymore—this isn't the 1990s— and the only shortcoming would be in closing out on taller 2-guards like Klay Thompson, who stands 6-foot-7. Monk may even someday enter the exclusive and elusive 50/40/90 club, as he was near 50 percent from the floor last year, 40-plus percent from three, and 83 percent from the free throw line.

There is just no substitute for a pure shooter and scorer, and that is exactly what Monk is. With a proper pairing at the 1-spot, he could absolutely defend most NBA 2-guards and the ones he could not Monk could simply matchup with the point guard and shift another defender to the shooting guard. Teams find ways to adapt to shortcomings for great players, and Monk showed last season that he was capable of being great.

But the point has now become clear: Most Calipari products, even being one-and-done, go on to be great players. The precedent has been well-established really dating back to Rajon Rondo and the NBA title he won as a rookie. Kentucky produces NBA players, and Monk and Fox are just going to the next two success stories—most likely. While Brandon Knight and Archie Goodwin have had their struggles, neither received quite the billing of this current pairing.

Goodwin lacks a jumper, which is required in today's NBA, and Knight simply got traded to the wrong team after having an impressive showing while a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. The point remains, with so many Calipari products shining, teams would deem themselves foolish to pass on these players, at least once the top-billed prospects are off the board. Josh Jackson, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum and Lonzo Ball will likely comprise the first four picks of the 2017 NBA draft, in one order or another. But after that quartet is gone, expect Monk or Fox to be two of the next names off the board.