They listed 80 total prospects, despite the fact that only 60 selections will be made on draft night. This leaves room for some players to choose to stay in school or to increase their stock via the NBA Draft Combine.
As far as the top guys go, it’s Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton at the top, followed by Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson. No Wildcats cracked the top 10.
Keep in mind that this is not a mock draft, as the picks are not associated with NBA teams. This is simply a ranking of the top 80 prospects, and this could change a lot between now and the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the draft, which is May 30th.
By then, a lot of these guys will have withdrawn and returned to school, which could cause others to move up in the rankings.
Then there’s the NBA Combine, which is always a great chance for prospects to work out in front of scouts and interview with teams. There’s always at least one player who boosts their stock a lot with a godo showing at the combine. Perhaps one of the Wildcats will do that this year.
Let’s look at where the Kentucky guys ended up in this ranking:
No. 11 - Kevin Knox
While Knox was never 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 made all-around strides this season and has the type of malleable talent that should play at the NBA level after a couple years’ growth.
No. 14 - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the quickest studies in college basketball this year and ended his season looking like a confident, more-realized version of the tentative-but-gifted player we saw in the fall. He 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 either backcourt spot, he has terrific hands, length and timing as a defender. He’s the sort of versatile player who would pair well with a more scoring-minded guard.
No. 35 - Hamidou Diallo
Had he come out a year ago, 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 began 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. If he falls into a draft range where there’s little to no risk, Diallo’s talent is worth a dice roll. Best-case scenario, he becomes an above-average defender and hits enough threes to keep himself on the floor as a high-energy utility guy. He’s yet to announce his draft decision.
No. 54 - PJ Washington
Washington will test the draft waters, and with Kentucky’s frontcourt shaping up as crowded next season, it wouldn’t be a shocker if he stayed in, despite likely ending up in the second round. He’s undersized, but 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 could end up as a defensive tweener at the next level if his athleticism doesn’t allow him to play big, but there’s some stuff to like here.
No. 64 - Jarred Vanderbilt
It’s hard to get too excited over Vanderbilt’s situation, after 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 as it’s unclear what else translates, particularly as a scorer. His long history of lower-body injuries will likely create red flags. Vanderbilt could be a second round flier, but is best served staying in school and making a case for himself next season.
That is five Kentucky guys in the top 64 prospects. While that is not uncommon since John Calipari came to Lexington, it does seem like this is a year where fans expect several guys to come back.
What do you think? Who stays and who goes?