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NBA Mock Draft 2018: 3 Kentucky Wildcats projected in first round of CBS and SB Nation projections

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to rise in the NBA Draft projections.

Jamie Boggs

The closer we get to the end of the college basketball season, the more speculation there will be about the 2018 NBA Draft. The draft boards are constantly updated, and just this week CBS Sports and SB Nation released the latest versions of their draft predictions.

Every year, the NBA Draft is a big day for fans of the Kentucky Wildcats as several players see their dreams come true by moving on to the next level of basketball. Based on these predictions, the 2018 draft will be no different.

Each of these outlets project that three Wildcats will be selected in the 1st round of the draft: Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Here is what they had to say about these talented freshman.

Kevin Knox

Despite the current funk Knox has found himself in, he is a lottery pick in every mock draft that has been released. His size and skill set will be difficult to pass up by NBA executives, and he is predicted to come off the board early.

Gary Parrish at CBS has Knox joining Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets at the 11th pick of the draft.

Knox can play either forward position but will probably be best as a stretch-4 who uses his athleticism and shot-making ability to cause matchup problems. The 6-9 freshman is averaging a team-best 14.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in a team-high 33.1 minutes per game. And though he’s not shooting a great percentage from 3-point range, he is attempting 4.5 per game. And there’s no obvious reason Knox can’t eventually develop into a real threat from beyond the arc, which would make him valuable in multiple ways at the NBA level.

Ricky O’Donnell at SB Nation believes Knox will be selected 11th as well, but predicts he will join the Utah Jazz in that slot.

There are games where Knox looks like a surefire lottery pick and others where it’s hard to notice him on the floor. Case in point: these are his last two games.

Jan. 9 vs. Texas A&M: 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 shooting from three.

Jan. 6 at Tennessee: six points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 shooting form three.

Knox may be raw, but at 6’9 with good athleticism and a developing shooting stroke, he has a lot of attributes NBA teams like. The guess here is that he ends up in the lottery unless his shooting really falls off.

Hamidou Diallo

Obviously, Diallo’s athleticism is off the charts. He blew folks away at the NBA combine last year, but knew he could improve his stock by returning to college and showing that he has improved his scoring ability.

The predictions have a bit more variability for Diallo. Parrish believes he will be picked 12th by the Utah Jazz.

Diallo could’ve entered the 2017 NBA Draft and possibly been a first-round pick. But he opted to instead play this season at Kentucky — where he’s starting and averaging 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game. What scouts love is how the 6-5 guard runs and jumps. What they want to see is whether he can do anything else well, which is precisely why Diallo making 36.8 percent of his 3-point attempts is the type of thing that could land him in the lottery.

SB Nation predicts Diallo will fall out of the lottery to the 16th pick and will join Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles with the Denver Nuggets.

Diallo is an A++ athlete. That’s the first thing everyone knows about him after he posted a record 44.5-inch vertical jump at the NBA draft combine last year. Kentucky fans had to enjoy this huge dunk against Louisville:

Diallo has also showed his skill level is rising, hitting 14-of-38 threes this season (36.8 percent). If he can learn to leverage his physical gifts on the defensive end, he should be a solid two-way player with better NBA spacing around him.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Last month, SGA was predicted to be a second round pick in the mid-40’s. But after carrying the Wildcats to wins over Louisville, Georgia, and Texas A&M, he is solidifying his spot in the first round.

The CBS mock draft predicts Alexander will sneak late into 1st round and be selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 27th pick.

Gilgeous-Alexander was a rare sub-30 high school prospect for Kentucky. But he’s emerged as the Wildcats’ third-leading scorer and one of their most reliable players. The 6-6 combo guard is averaging 11.5 points and 4.3 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. He doesn’t take a lot of 3-pointers. But he does make 45.0 percent of his attempts.

O’Donnell of SB Nation gives him a little more love and believes Alexander will be the next in a long line of Kentucky guards to play with the Phoenix Suns at the 22nd pick.

Kentucky’s freshman guard was a relative unknown coming into the season, but he’s had some great games on big stages. Most notably: 24 points against Louisville on Dec. 29 and 21 points against Georgia on Dec. 31. With a 7-foot wingspan, he’s long and athletic. If his three-point shot is for real (9-of-20 on the season), he could be Kentucky’s best player and best prospect.

It is important to note that Nick Richards’ recent struggles have caused him to drop out of the first round in many mock drafts. It is also possible that PJ Washington’s name could begin to rise with his recent play.

What names would you expect to be called in the 1st round from the current Kentucky roster?