What a difference a week can make.
Last week, it seemed likely that Quade Green and Sacha Killeya-Jones were going to be back on the roster.
Now, Killeya-Jones has transferred right after EJ Montgomery committed to UK. As for Green, his status in serious doubt with the likely addition of Ashton Hagans and the potential addition of Tyrese Maxey.
There’s also been some movement on the NBA Draft front, so it’s time for another look at who could be staying and going for next season.
Hamidou Diallo has been viewed as someone almost certain to leave for a while now. When the 2017-18 season began, there were rumblings Diallo was effectively this year’s Isaiah Briscoe — someone who’d decided he was gone after his second year in Lexington, regardless of what happened.
Briscoe wound up seeing his draft stock drop even further from his freshman season, but he still was set on leaving for the pros. Now he’s making money to just play basketball with BC Kalev-Cramo in Europe.
Diallo also saw his stock drop from his first season in Lexington. Even though it was just for a semester, Diallo was still widely expected to be a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He returned in hopes of being a lottery pick in 2018, only to see his stock drop as he struggled to find a role for a team that needed him to step up.
Even so, Diallo is still being comfortably projected into the early second round of this draft. Heck, guys like Grayson Allen and Mitchell Robinson are being projected as late first-round picks, so it’s not crazy to think Diallo could sneak in if enough higher-ranked prospects return to school.
While some will wonder why he’s taking so long to decide, Diallo has typically gone right to the deadline on big decisions, whether it was the move into 2017 and enrolling early at UK, his decision to test the draft waters, and his decision to return to school.
With that in mind, here’s a refresher of all the dates involved:
- April 14 - Deadline for submitting evaluation request to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
- April 22 - Players with remaining college eligibility must declare for the draft.
- April 24 - Teams may start contacting college eligible players who declared.
- April 27 - Player invites for the NBA Draft Combine are released.
- May 16-20 - NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
- May 30 - Deadline for college players to remove themselves from the draft.
It may take until April 22, but expect Diallo to be gone for the NBA by then.
Percentage Chance Gone: 75%
Wenyen Gabriel is considering a move to the pros, even though it’s unlikely he’d be selected in the NBA Draft. There’s still good money to be made overseas, and he’s likely ready to support his family now after all the hardships they’ve been through.
It seems like a near-lock that one of Gabriel, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt is off to the pros. I now think it’s Gabriel who leaves.
Percentage Chance Gone: 60%
By now, you know Ashton Hagans will likely be on UK’s roster next season, and fellow 2019 recruit Tyrese Maxey could follow suit. Along with five-star Immanuel Quickley coming in, that would seem to not bode well for Quade Green being on the roster next season.
It is worth noting that Maxey is more of a combo guard, and both Hagans and Quickley are good enough to make an impact while playing off the ball, so it ‘could’ work with all four guards on the roster next season.
But there has been speculation since the Final Four that Green was considering a transfer, so perhaps John Calipari is pushing for Hagans and Maxey in anticipation of Green leaving.
Still, I’m not ready to call Green a goner yet, as he’s a very competitive kid that probably doesn’t want to give up at UK after just one year, especially since he’s a 3-4 year college player, but I do think it’s at best a toss-up that he stays or leaves for another school.
Percentage Chance Gone: 49%
PJ Washington was thought to be just testing NBA Draft waters when he declared without an agent, but the buzz continues to grow that he’s seriously considering staying in the draft. He’s still got plenty of work to do before NBA teams even entertain spending an early second-round pick on him, but with a good showing at the NBA Draft Combine, Washington could secure his spot as, at worst, a second-round pick.
For some players, that’s all they need to hear to leave for the pros. I’m not sure Washington is in that boat, but there’s no question now that there’s a real chance he stays in the draft.
Percentage Chance Gone: 40%
Jarred Vanderbilt was once on pace to be a first-round pick after becoming arguably the best rebounder in college basketball. But yet another lower-leg injury killed any hope Vanderbilt had of getting a guaranteed contract this year.
There’s also buzz growing that Vanderbilt is going to need surgery at some point this offseason, though it’s unclear if it’s for his most recent ankle ‘sprain,’ or if it’s for one of his many previous lower-leg injuries, all of which has effectively killed his pro prospects.
If Vanderbilt returns and stays healthy next season, he’ll easily be a first-round pick in a 2019 draft class that’s projected to be very weak. Obviously, staying healthy is big ‘if’ right now, so maybe he decides it’s not worth returning to school and risking yet another injury.
If Vanderbilt declares and is healthy come draft night, I do think a team will take a flyer on him with a late second-round pick.
Is that enough for him to leave after one injury-riddled season?
Percentage Chance Gone: 30%
There’s been nothing to suggest Jemarl Baker is even considering a transfer, but you have to wonder about how he feels about all the guards coming in. There’s little doubt he’d be last in the rotation behind Green, Hagans, Quickley, Maxey, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson if they’re all in Lexington next season.
Maybe Calipari is pushing hard for Hagans and Maxey because he thinks Baker, not Green, may wind up transferring. This is pure speculation, and for now, I fully expect Baker on the roster next season.
Percentage Chance Gone: 15%
Nick Richards: Will reportedly return for sophomore season.
- Tai Wynyard: Will transfer.
- Sacha Killeya-Jones: Will transfer.
- Kevin Knox: Declared for NBA Draft and signing with agent.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Declared for NBA Draft and signing with agent.
While the Cats will lose some talent, but expected and unexpected, they still ‘should’ return more experience than most years under Calipari. We may very well see a sophomore-heavy rotation next season that looks something like this:
- Sophomore guard Quade Green
- Freshman guard Ashton Hagans
- Freshman guard Keldon Johnson
- Sophomore forward PJ Washington
- Sophomore center Nick Richards
Key reserves: Sophomore forward Jarred Vanderbilt, freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley, freshman shooting guard Tyler Herro, freshman combo guard Tyrese Maxey, and redshirt freshman shooting guard Jemarl Baker.
That’s an immensely talented roster, though it’s going to be a challenge for Calipari to effectively use it. This would be his most guard-deep roster in his nine years in Lexington if this came to pass.
It’s also going to be a process figuring out what the best combination of big men are, as Vanderbilt and Washington should absolutely be playing heavy minutes, so that could lead to one of Montgomery and Richards spending more time on the bench than expected.
Still, these are great problems to have, and ones that Calipari is paid hansdomerly to figure out.