However, some of the Cats need to think long and hard about returning for another season, not just to continue their growth toward becoming the best version of themselves, but also to capitalize on what’s shaping up to be a very weak 2019 NBA Draft.
ESPN NBA Draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz wrote about how weak the 2019 class looks so far, calling it “abnormally weak.”
Virtually every NBA executive we spoke with was disappointed in the lack of sure-fire All-Star players at the top of this class. This might cause some teams to lower their asking prices during the offseason for 2019 draft picks, as this is widely shaping up to be an abnormally weak group of prospects available to be picked throughout the first round. A trickle-down effect appears to be happening this year, as a number of highly regarded prospects who were expected to enter the 2018 NBA draft reportedly are considering returning to school for another year.
They went on to say that, after Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett, the talent in this draft drops off considerably. Apparently, even Zion Williamson isn’t considered a great NBA prospect, partly because it’s not even clear what position he’d play in the pros.
But even if Zion turns out to be an elite NBA prospect, there’s really not much to speak of after the top 2-3 guys.
The vibe around the league, and high school recruiting experts as well, is that the talent level, at least in terms of the volume of standout prospects, is significantly down from an NBA perspective looking forward to the next couple of drafts.
At nbadraft.net, their 2019 mock has Naz Reid, Kris Wilkes and Kellan Grady projected as top-10 picks. Yes, the same Grady from Davidson and Wilkes from UCLA that UK faced this year. Did either of those guys look like better prospects than Knox?
Even PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Hamidou Diallo look as good of NBA prospects, if not better. Those may be the kind of players the current Cats are fighting for positioning with in the 2019 draft.
Earlier this year, ESPN put out a 2019 mock draft that had Louis King, Quentin Grimes and Romeo Langford listed as top-10 selections.
Again, are those guys really better than UK’s current crop of potential draftees?
In the case of Knox, he’s battling guys like Collin Sexton, Miles Bridges, Trae Young, Wendell Carter and even teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just to be a top-10 pick this year, and it’s not out of the question Knox would fall out of the lottery (first 14 picks) if he comes out this year.
Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones even heard from an NBA scout that Knox should return to school and capitalize on this weaker class:
NBA scout at McDonalds Game just texted me:— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 28, 2018
“Next year’s class is unbelievably weak. Really disappointed. Only one sure thing (Barrett) and 2-3 high upside guys. A guy like Kevin Knox comes back and he could go Top 5 next year.”
In the end, it’s still going to be hard for Knox to pass on the draft this year, but there are still other Cats that could benefit from another year of college and this weaker 2019 class.
Right now, Vanderbilt, Diallo and Washington are all projected as second-round picks. If they returned, all three could very easily be first-round picks next year and get that guaranteed money.
After all, Marques Bolden is projected as a first-round pick in 2019. That’s how thin that class is, so we could see a flurry of first-round Wildcats that would have otherwise been second-rounders or even gone undrafted this year.
That could ultimately be a deciding factor in one, if not more decisions for the current Cats as to whether to stay in school or go pro.
Vanderbilt is the one guy who has the potential to benefit from this more than anyone. Right now, he’s probably squeaking into the end of Round two, if at all in this year’s draft.
But if he returns and can stay healthy next season, there’s no question he’ll get top 10 consideration, at least if the above mentioned names are who he’s truly competing with for that.