There won’t be any players running through paper hoops before the Kentucky Wildcats last home game of the season on Wednesday night against the Ole Miss Rebels. John Calipari doesn’t have a senior on his roster.
Also, this roster isn’t full of one-and-done guys. There will definitely some retention from this season’s team.
But as always, there will be some attrition. While the mock draft boards aren’t filled with Kentucky players, there will be some guys that will be done after one season in a UK uniform.
Let’s take a look at who may be playing their last home game as a Kentucky Wildcat.
Lock: Kevin Knox
The 6’9 small forward is the one Wildcat that has consistently been in the lottery from start to finish. While he hit some rough patches in the middle of SEC play, Knox has bounced back and once again found his shooting stroke.
There’s a premium of 6’9 guys that can knock down threes in the NBA and that is what makes Knox so valuable.
For the season he is averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. During Kentucky’s most recent three game winning streak, he’s averaging 19 points per game. He’s relying more on driving to the basket and working inside out.
If Knox can finish strong and have a big run in the tournament, he could solidify himself as a top ten worthy pick.
Probable: Hamidou Diallo
Kentucky fans didn’t know if they would even get one season with Hami after he wowed at the NBA Draft Combine. Diallo did come back to work on his game and work his way into the lottery.
Unfortunately things haven’t worked out that well this season for Hami. After a strong start in the non-conference where he was averaging double figures in scoring, he averaged 7.5 points in SEC play.
Hami hasn’t been able to showcase much of his athleticism due to the fact that his minutes have dwindled thanks to his poor play. But he has physical tools that very few players in the draft possess; it’s his basketball acumen that is holding him back.
He is still projected as a first round draft pick thanks to his athletic ability but he’s hanging on by a thread. Hami really needs a good run in the SEC and the NCAA tournaments to lock up a draft spot.
It’s extremely unlikely that he comes back, but if he continues to struggle there is a scenario in which he does return.
Possible: Jarred Vanderbilt
Even though he has only played in less than half of the games this season, Jarred Vanderbilt is one of the most intriguing draft prospects on this team. At 6’9 he has arguably the best court vision on the team, he’s a sensational passer, and he can run a fast break like a point forward.
He’s also by far the best rebounder on the team and, next to Hami, he’s the best athlete on the team. The one thing holding him back is his lack of an outside threat. Hell, sometimes he struggles to even make shots right around the rim.
Sometimes the less NBA GMs know about you the better (see Hami last season) so Vanderbilt will be a much talked about name headed into the combine. If he can go and put on a spectacle he could be a first round pick.
No I’m not crazy.
If Vanderbilt does decide to come back next season and work on his offense, he has a great shot of working his way into the lottery. But with his history of foot injuries, I would understand if he left.
Dark Horse: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
It’s tough to argue against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being Kentucky’s best player this season. He’s improved exponentially from the first game of the season and much of that is due to the extra work he put in.
Thanks to that extra work, SGA is sneaking into the first round of the mock drafts. His 6’5 height and 7’0 wingspan makes him a valuable point guard. He isn’t the most athletic guy on the team but he’s steady, he’s a good decision maker, and he’s very crafty with the ball.
He’s Brandon Knight without the knock-down jumper.
I don’t think Shai will leave, but it could be one of those situations where he has to strike while the iron is hot.