With the tip-off of Kentucky’s 2018-2019 men’s basketball season less than two weeks away, three freshman on the roster find themselves in the top-15 of 247 Sports’ 2019 NBA Big Board.
Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery and Keldon Johnson made the list, giving Kentucky three players to tie the Duke Blue Devils for most in the top-15. Although, the order of which the three players were ranked may come as a surprise.
Montgomery was the highest-ranked Wildcat, sitting at ninth on the list. Though he had an efficient Blue-White game, it’s unclear yet as to how many minutes the skilled big man shall receive.
Kentucky also has Johnson, Nick Richards, PJ Washington & Reid Travis at their disposal in the front court while head coach John Calipari has been known to play three-guard lineups at times, too.
However, 247 Sports’s Evan Daniels & Josh Gershon said Montgomery is what NBA teams are currently looking for.
“The 6-foot-10 Montgomery is mobile, athletic and skilled. He showed all three attributes during Kentucky’s Blue-White game, where he knocked down a trio of jumpers, including two three-points and scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting.”
Also besting Johnson on the list was Hagans, which was also shocking when considering Johnson has the prototype build & play-style of the modern NBA. Nonetheless, Hagans reclassified to join Kentucky a year early and could certainly earn minutes over Quade Green due to his defensive efforts.
Ranked 12th on the Big Board, Hagans posted a quality, all-around game on Sunday with an effort of 15 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals.
As for impressing NBA scouts, the Big Board story had this to say regarding the growth of Hagans.
“Offensively, Hagans is best in transition due to his athleticism, body control, handle and vision. He changes speeds effortlessly and explodes to the basket with a quick first step. He’s a very good passer who does an excellent job facilitating off the bounce. If Hagans can improve his shooting from the perimeter, he’ll significantly improve his NBA prospects.”
While the first two players advertise their draft stock on their prestigious upside, Johnson seems to be the most NBA-ready freshman on the Wildcats’ roster. Ranked 14th on the Big Board, Johnson’s shooting appears to be his only critique.
“On offense, Johnson is best off the bounce due to his athleticism and ability to finish with contact at the rim. His shot mechanics are fine but he’s still inconsistent as a shooter, especially from the perimeter.”
Johnson’s ability to defend is unquestioned, but his offense will need to develop if he wishes to maintain lottery-pick status.
A few surprising snubs from the Big Board were PJ Washington and Tyler Herro. While Washington’s offense isn’t as polished and Herro’s game-exposure has been limited, the two should expect to find themselves at least in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft.
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