Sports Illustrated has released an updated and expanded NBA Draft Big Board by Jeremy Woo. The 80-prospect big board features five Kentucky Wildcats — Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt. Three of the five are in the top 40, but it’s a wide array from top to bottom.
Starting us off is Knox at number 10. That’s a two-spot drop for him from the last board, where they had him eighth.
While Knox hasn’t been able to consistently take over games for Kentucky, he remains a projectable long-term piece with a lot of ability. He fits the bill athletically on the wing and as a rebounder, and looks well-suited for a combo forward role as he improves his perimeter skills. Knox’s jumper can be streaky, but his struggles appear confidence-based at times. He needs to improve his handle and embrace defense a bit more, but has made huge strides since November and has the type of malleable talent most teams will be happy to develop. He takes projection, but he’s a worthy lottery pick.
Knox is sandwiched between Oklahoma star Trae Young at nine and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges at 11.
The next Wildcat on the board is Gilgeous-Alexander at 14. That’s right, the expected backup to Quade Green is a potential loterry pick just like that.
Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the quickest studies in college basketball this season and has taken his game up a notch in March, looking like a more-realized version of the tentative-but-gifted player we saw in the fall. He’s playing with a ton of confidence, and has an unorthodox but effective off-the-dribble game, blending hesitations and dribble fakes to create space for himself to attack. His jumper is passable but not quite consistent yet. He’s unselfish and has made his teammates better, and while not a physical specimen, Gilgeous-Alexander has a good understanding of on-court angles as he probes defenses. Long enough to stick with either guard position, he has terrific hands, length and timing as a defender. He’s put together a nice case for a lottery selection.
Moving up to 14 is a six-spot jump for GIlgeous-Alexander, who was 20th on the last big board. Gilgeous-Alexander has probably been UK’s best player, even better than Knox. But Knox’s frame and his flashes of greatness really jump out. Plus, he was far more highly-touted than Gilgeous-Alexander, making it easy to see why he still sits ahead of Gilgeous-Alexander on this big board.
Second round range
Next is Diallo, who’s no longer a first-rounder in the eyes of SI. He sits at number 36 in this big board.
Last season, Diallo would likely have been a first-rounder. This time around, he’s shown little to really deserve that status, save for his freakishly athletic, scattered highlights. He has begun to turn it on as a defender late in the season and remains a dynamic player in transition, where few can keep up with him. But his skill set is unrefined, his handle is loose and his offensive feel in the halfcourt is extremely limited. Still, if he falls into a draft range where there’s little to no risk, Diallo’s talent is worth a dice roll.
If Diallo continues to do what he did against the Buffalo Bulls, he can perhaps climb the ladder into the first round once again. But the mystery of his potential last draft season helped him a lot more than it hurt him. Now that he’s been seen on the floor, it’s clear that his athleticism is just as amazing as everyone thought, but he needs work in every other aspect. If he holds himself to the same standard that he did last year when considering the draft, he’ll probably return to UK.
Next is Washington, who places 60th, right at the edge of draftability, on this big board. It’s a drop of 10 spots, as he was previously at 50.
Washington has settled in as a member of Kentucky’s optimal frontline as the Wildcats rolled to the Sweet 16, and while he’s not lighting the world on fire statistically, he also doesn’t have a ton of holes in his skill set. He has good touch around the basket, a 7’3” wingspan and powerful leaping ability. He’s been most effective with four shooters around him, and his best NBA role might be as a small-ball five, where he can switch defensively, set screens and be utilized in the short roll. Though Washington is undersized and could end up as a defensive tweener at the next level, there’s stuff to like here.
Washington is good in any offensive system where he can dunk the ball and look intimidating as **** doing it. He struggled early in the year, but one diet program and a few poster highlights later, he’s proving to be a draftable player sooner rather than later.
Finally we have Vanderbilt, who ranks 65th, falling just out of that draftable range right now. He was 52nd on the last big board.
It’s hard to get too excited over Vanderbilt, whose continued injuries have made it difficult for him to live up to the hype. He’s a good athlete and outstanding rebounder when he’s on the floor, but the rest of his skill set has been an odd fit at Kentucky, and he can get caught up forcing his own offense when he does have opportunities. Shooting has always been an issue with him, and his NBA role is also awkward at this stage. His long history of lower-body injuries will likely present red flags. Vanderbilt is best served staying in school and try to get right and making a case for himself next season.
It’s obvious that the draw to Vanderbilt is he’s just a natural athlete. He could probably be good at pretty much any sport. In the limited amount of time on the floor he’s had this year, he’s shown a lot of athleticism but not a lot of refined skill. And the injuries are going to be a huge issue for him if he has aspirations of reaching the next level any time soon.
With not a lot of time left to make moves, it’s likely that big boards will look a lot like this for Kentucky players up until the NBA Draft Combine, when John Calipari will likely have the whole team go through the NBA workout processes. Physicality and athleticism is the strongsuit for a lot of UK’s guys this year, so the combine could help. Either way, it’d be surprising to see many departures from this year’s team unless they just want to get to the league.