The NBA Finals are in full swing, but it looks like it may not be going on much longer. The good news is the 2017 NBA Draft takes place in just over two weeks, and several Kentucky Wildcats are expected to hear their names called.
The latest NBA mock draft from DraftExpress has three Cats going in the first round. That includes point guard De’Aaron Fox going to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4. He was previously projected to the Sacramento Kings at No. 5.
While more Cats in Phoenix sounds nice, this might be the worst possible landing spot for Fox. The Suns already have four former Kentucky guards on its roster in Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight and Tyler Ulis. They’re trying to unload Knight, but his contract is making that difficult, which means all of those guys could be back next season.
That would make it pretty hard for Fox to earn minutes if he’s got Ulis, Bledsoe and Knight there too. Even if Knight gets unloaded, it’s still not an ideal situation for Fox.
Shooting guard Malik Monk fell two spots to the New York Knicks at No. 8. Monk has been projected as high as No. 3 to the Philadelphia 76ers, but in a draft deep with point guards — a bigger position of need for many teams drafting in the top 10 — it’s possible Monk goes a little later than he deserves.
The good news is power forward Bam Adebayo rose eight spots and is back in the first round, going No. 24 to the Utah Jazz. Adebayo has been mocked in the 30s of most DraftExpress projections, so seeing them put the Kentucky big man is good to see.
Elsewhere, the latest mock draft from SB Nation does have Monk going No. 3 to the 76ers:
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
As I’ve written before, the Sixers hold the keys to the draft at No. 3. I do not think Malik Monk is the third-best player in this draft — I’d give that honor to Josh Jackson — but there’s no denying how well Monk fits Philadelphia. He looks like the ideal running mate for Ben Simmons: A young guard who can hit shots all over the court and has the athleticism to run with him in transition. He’ll always be small for an off-guard, but who cares? He fills the Sixers’ biggest need both positionally and skill-wise.
In the end, I still would probably take Jackson, but in the “fit” mock draft, Monk is an easy pick.
This mock also has Fox going No. 5 to the Kings:
5. Sacramento Kings - De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The Kings were roundly panned for their return in the Boogie Cousins trade, but think of it this way: If Sacramento kept Cousins, it’s like they have lost their first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls by finishing outside of the bottom-10. Instead, the Kings have a shooting guard they love in Buddy Hield and two top-10 selections. I’m going to argue that, ultimately, it’s pretty decent haul.
Now the Kings have to make these picks count in a way they’ve been unable to do since .... they drafted Cousins. Fox would be an easy choice. He has A+ speed, competes on both ends of the floor, and should grow into at least an average shooter. The Kings need a new face of the franchise and Fox can be just that.
Unfortunately, Bam did not crack the first round of this projection.
One other new mock draft is that of CBS Sports, who also has Fox going No. 5 to the Kings to team up with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere:
5. Kings” De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The Kings are desperately in need of a young point guard with a high ceiling, and Fox is exactly that. At 6-4, he has nice size for the position and is super-fast with the ball. He was sensational in Kentucky's Sweet 16 win over UCLA while finishing with 39 points. And though his 24.6 3-point percentage is a concern, it's neither something that can't be improved nor the type of thing that should prevent Sacramento from selecting him here.
Monk ends up going right after Fox as the Magic take the lights-out shooter:
6. Magic: Malik Monk, PG, Kentucky
The Magic shot 32.8 percent from 3-point range this season, which ranked next-to-last in the NBA. So they need shooting in the worst way. And Monk could provide it. The athletic combo guard made 39.7 percent of his 3-point attempts this season while averaging a team-high 19.8 points for a Kentucky team that won the SEC and made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Why he doesn't use his athleticism more to get into the lane consistently remains a mystery. But if Monk ever does that, he could develop into an All-Star.
This mock also has Bam not going in Round 1. It’s pretty clear his stock is very iffy heading into the draft, but all it takes is one team to fall in love with him, or at least like him more than anyone else available.