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Kentucky Basketball: Tracking the Wildcats in the NBA Draft, plus predictions on who returns

The latest projections for Cats in the NBA Draft, as well as our own predictions on where they land and who returns to UK.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Texas A&M C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been two weeks since standout freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander declared for the NBA Draft.

Shortly before Gilgeous-Alexander’s announcement, Kevin Knox made his decision to leave Kentucky after just one season.

Since then, fellow Kentucky Wildcats such as Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel have also entered their name in this year’s draft.

Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox have all signed with an agent, with Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox expected to land in the late end of the lottery. Diallo will probably go sometime early in Round 1.

However, Gabriel, Vanderbilt and Washington have yet to sign with an agent (leaving the door open to return to Kentucky for another season). They’ll have until May 30th (10 days following the NBA Combine) to make their final decision.

But where do they stand in the latest mock drafts? With less than two months until the draft, here’s how all six Cats rank in the popular mocks.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Kevin Knox

  • Bleacher Report: 10th, Philadelphia 76ers
  • ESPN: 15th, Washington Wizards
  • Land of 10: 13th, Los Angeles Clippers
  • Sporting News: 13th, Los Angeles Clippers
  • Sports Illustrated: 12th, Los Angeles Clippers

Hamidou Diallo

PJ Washington

  • Bleacher Report: N/A
  • ESPN: N/A
  • Land of 10: N/A
  • Sporting News: N/A
  • Sports Illustrated: 53rd, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jarred Vanderbilt

  • Bleacher Report: N/A
  • ESPN: N/A
  • Land of 10: N/A
  • Sporting News: N/A
  • Sports Illustrated: N/A

Wenyen Gabriel

  • Bleacher Report: N/A
  • ESPN: N/A
  • Land of 10: N/A
  • Sporting News: N/A
  • Sports Illustrated: N/A

These mocks have been consistent since the season ended. Gilgeous-Alexander’s play towards the end of the season really elevated his draft stock, while Knox fell out of the top-10 with a rather mild freshman campaign.

Diallo fell out of first round projections following a horrific season, while Washington, Vanderbilt and Gabriel could all use at least another season under John Calipari.

My Mock

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 12th, Los Angeles Clippers

He could go 13th, simply because the Clippers own that pick as well. However, I do think Alabama’s Colin Sexton will be off the board by the time L.A. takes the clock and the Clippers are in vast need of a young point guard. Gilgeous-Alexander has a body and game similar to former Wildcat Rajon Rondo, who also played under Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.

Kevin Knox: 14th, Denver Nuggets

Knox’s lack of ball handling skills and attention on defense will knock him into the back end of the lottery. The Clippers are taking him in a few of the popular mocks but with DeAndre Jordan set to take the free agent market, they may look to center Robert Williams out of Texas A&M. The Nuggets are thin on the wing and seem to have a knack for Wildcat players (see Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles). Knox would come into a high-powered offense and see instant playing time.

Hamidou Diallo: 27th, Boston Celtics

I won’t deny that this is a reach. However, I believe Diallo will have another incredible combine. He’s undoubtedly one of the best athletes in the draft. In a weak back-end of the first round, I believe a strong combine would be enough for him to sneak in.

The Celtics will likely lose one of Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier this summer, leaving Kyrie Irving as the only true guard left on the roster. Diallo’s game has been compared to Tony Allen, one of Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge’s first draft picks. With a high motor and the drive to want to be coached, a match with Brad Stevens may be the perfect fit.

PJ Washington: Returns to Kentucky

Washington would almost certainly be drafted if he left, however, it would be in the second round. His jump shot doesn’t extend past 12 feet and he’s greatly undersized for his position. He’s been able to dominate games in college with his motor and bull-like mentality but in a league of grown men, saying he’d struggle next season would be an understatement. He has the potential to play in the Association. However I believe that time is not yet upon him. Another year at Kentucky should do the trick.

Jarred Vanderbilt: Returns to Kentucky

Vanderbilt would be a first round pick this season if he hadn't been sidelined for most of the year with a troubling foot injury. His shot is shaky but his motor is at the top of the list. He’s drawn comparisons to NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman but in a shooters’ league, he must improve his offensive skill set to stay on the NBA hardwood. One healthy season at Kentucky should be enough to elevate his stock in a 2019 draft class that is expected to be rather weak.

Wenyen Gabriel: Stays in draft, plays overseas

I find it almost impossible that all three of these players return. With surprise recruits and possible transfers looming, playing time will be scarce at every position next season. Having Gabriel’s veteran presence and leadership would be a luxury for Calipari, however I believe Gabriel knows that coming off his strong postseason surge, this is his time to cash in. I highly doubt he goes in the draft, but that shouldn’t keep him from taking his talents overseas or to the NBA’s G-League.

These predictions are pre-NBA Lottery, so much can change between now and late June. That’s not to mention that (as I said with Diallo) the Combine could also greatly affect a few of these players’ stocks.

Until then, check back with A Sea Of Blue for the latest NBA Draft updates.