Through the Wildcat’s first six games, there have been a lot of questions swirling around this team.
Although they are 5-1, the games have had some ugly moments on both sides of the ball. With questions regarding the team as a whole to the side, we all realize these players come to Lexington to put themselves in the best position to be drafted. Here is whose stock is moving through the start of the Wildcat’s season:
PJ had a slow start to the season, only scoring 11 total points in Kentucky’s first two games. Since then, he’s averaged 17.3 points over the last four, highlighted by a career-high 25 points against North Dakota. His rebounding has picked up as well by grabbing 10.8 rebounds over the last four with a career-high 18 against VMI. Mix this in with solid defense, good playmaking and high efficiency and we should be looking at a first round pick. Most projections have Washington being selected in the late first round and early second round. If the first round ambitions are still his goal, he’s right where he needs to be.
Keldon has the most NBA upside of this team with his ability on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Johnson is leading Kentucky in scoring with an average of 16.5 points on 49% shooting from the field. In a game with no bright spots, Johnson scored 23 points against Duke. On Friday night, he scored a career-high 27 against Tennessee State through a relentless attack on the basket. Although the team is struggling defensively, Johnson also seems to be the most tenacious of the group. He's a projected lottery pick and will have cement his spot there through the rest of the season.
Travis is doing exactly what John Calipari needs him to do by being a leader and a bully all over the floor. His numbers are solid at 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds, and he’s only going to improve those as he gets more comfortable in his new home. The age and physicality that’s helping him in the college game, though, will only hurt him come draft time. NBA teams are looking for youth they can develop and big men that can stretch the floor, neither being Travis to this point. With that said, I think Travis should be able to do enough over this year for some teams to eye and take a shot on him in the second-round.
Green’s numbers aren’t eye popping at only 9 points and 3 assists per game. He looks much more comfortable in his role coming off the bench, though, and is taking advantage of his opportunity. He’s shooting 44% from the field and 39% from three in about 21 minutes a game. I don’t know how likely it is for Green to be drafted if at all, but he’s shooting the ball well enough to the point where he’s not hurting himself stock-wise either.
With Nick Richards struggling (more on that later), EJ Montgomery has effectively passed him in the rotation. Montgomery has logged 126 minutes this season compared to 86 for Richards, who is still a major work in progress. While Montgomery is still raw and developing as well, he’s showing the ability to make a big impact on the defensive end with his shot-blocking. After not getting a single block vs. Duke, Montgomery has swatted an average of 2.2 shots per game in his last five games.
Out goes the Bahamas version of Richards, in comes the Nick we’ve seen for most of his time in Lexington. Over the summer, Richards looked as if he'd be a difference maker for the Cats. Besides shooting 63% from the field and 80% from the free-throw line, it just looks like he’s the same. He’s only averaging 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds while only playing 14.3 minutes a game, the lowest of all Kentucky’s impact players. When you take away his career-high 19 rebound game against Southern Illinois, his rebound average drops to 1.6 on the year. He looks as if he’s struggling just as much on the court as he is in his head like last year and this poor play and decision-making aren’t doing him or his draft stock any favors.
When it comes to “Boy Wonder”, it really has been a matter of every other game. Against Duke, North Dakota and Winthrop, Herro is averaged 15.7 points and 5 assists on 46% shooting from the field. Against Southern Illinois, VMI and Tennessee State, his averages drop to 4.3 points on 26% shooting from the field, showing that his consistency needs to improve. His shooting slump is hurting him with overall averages of 39% from the field and 30% from three, but shooters shoot and he’s very likely to shoot himself right out of his struggles. He’s all over the board when it comes to the draft, but with as much hype came with him to start the season, he's started slower than expected.
It’s not that Immanuel is playing bad, but he’s not taking a leading role like other points guards under John Calipari. He hasn’t played in the primary role like a John Wall, Tyler Ulis or De’Aaron Fox, and that’s okay because this team may not need that from him. As far as his play, though, he's had a rough start scoring the ball at only 8.5 points on 41% shooting from the field and 29% from the three. He’s only averaging 2 assists a game through the first six as well. Quickley has a lot of time to build on his foundation, but Calipari’s point guard prospects without the hype or numbers haven’t panned out as highly come draft day. It’s too early to know for certain, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Quickley return for another year at this point.
This one is simple: Jemarl Baker can’t play right now due to a lingering knee issue. After missing all of his first season due to knee surgery, Baker has once again been sidelined and unable to play. It’s still unclear what exactly the issue is, as John Calipari has said it’s swelling in the knee and he’s been in and out of practice. Baker’s stock will get a huge bump if he can just make his collegiate debut, but it’s unclear when that could actually come.
It’s not been a great start for either of the freshman point guards, though Ashton Hagans has struggled just to see the floor. He is now last in minutes per game among the scholarship players who are healthy enough to play. He just looks overwhelmed far too often when in the game. He’s in danger of falling out of the rotation before conference play even begins if this keeps up.