Now over two weeks later, only one player has entered the NBA Draft, and that’s PJ Washington likely just testing the waters. We should still expect UK to lose at least two players to the draft this year, but it feels like no one is a 100-percent lock to go anymore.
With that in mind, here’s an updated projection on who stays and leaves for the NBA Draft.
Yes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander surprised everyone by pushing his decision to next Monday, and some have speculated it’s to wait and see what Kevin Knox does. However, I still fully expect him to be in the NBA next season. His stock is far too high right now, and there’s a real chance he’s a top-10 pick this season.
Shai will go down as one of the biggest success stories of the Calipari era after going from four-star recruit to lottery pick in one year.
Percentage Chance Gone: 90%
I now consider Hamidou Diallo more likely to enter the NBA Draft than Kevin Knox. I never thought I’d say that at any point this year, but Diallo has been set on leaving for the pros ever since he passed on the draft last year, ala Isaiah Briscoe in 2016 and frankly most Cats who’ve tested the waters and returned to UK.
Think about it. Who’s tested the waters, passed on the NBA draft and returned to UK, then did the same the following year?
Once players test the waters in the Calipari era, they become all but locked into leaving with the next year.
And while his stock isn’t great right now, Diallo will still hear his name called in this draft, possibly at the end or Round 1 depending on what other prospects around the nation decide to do.
Diallo could benefit from another year of college as much as any player on the roster, but he’ll likely take his shot at the NBA now while he still has some positive stock. Another down year, and no NBA team will want to commit to developing him.
Percentage Chance Gone: 65%
I truly believe this has become a toss-up that could easily go either way for Kevin Knox. In most cases, Knox would have been a lock for the draft, but having a family that doesn’t need him to make money now — along with the 2019 NBA Draft offering a chance for him to be a top 5-10 pick — is making him strongly consider another year at UK.
In the end, I still give the slightest of edges to him going pro, but neither decision should come as a surprise at this point, even if it’s a major surprise that he’s even considering another year of college.
Percentage Chance Gone: 55%
Wenyen Gabriel is considering a move to the pro ranks, despite not being on anyone’s draft radar. If he returns to UK, he may be able to boost his stock enough to be draftable in 2019, but he would probably need Knox to leave in order to take on a bigger role for this team.
Anyone who’s followed Gabriel knows he and his family have hard a lot of hardships to overcome in life, so if he wants to make some money playing professionally to support them, you can’t fault him for leaving.
I still think he comes back, but it’s a closer call than most realize. I do think if Knox returns, it will slightly increase the chances of Gabriel leaving.
Percentage Chance Gone: 40%
Jarred Vanderbilt was on track 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.
If Vanderbilt returns and stays healthy next season, there’s no doubt he’ll be a first-round pick in 2019, and he may even sneak into the lottery.
What’s going to be interesting is how far along he is in his recovery from his latest injury. If he declares for the draft and is healthy, he’ll probably get invited to the NBA Draft Combine,
All told, it would be a slight surprise to not see Vanderbilt on the roster next season.
Percentage Chance Gone: 35%
PJ Washington is now part of the NBA Draft process, but I still believe it’s likely he returns to Lexington. Saying this, had UK managed to beat Kansas State — a game in which he was clearly the best player on the floor, he probably would have had big games against Loyola-Chicago, then possibly Michigan in the Final Four. That kind of strong finish along with getting to play in the Final Four likely makes him much more open to leaving for the NBA this year.
But instead, Washington’s season ended in the Sweet 16 in a game he shot 8-of-20 from the free-throw stripe in. That’s certainly not the final image he wants of his college career, and he’s still got plenty of work to do before NBA teams even entertain spending an early second-round pick on him.
Percentage Chance Gone: 25%
Despite being buried on the bench for much of this past season, Sacha Killeya-Jones worked himself into a bigger role down the stretch, which I believe cemented his desire to remain in Lexington.
Had killeya-Jones remained buried on the bench through the end of the season, I think he would have strongly considered a transfer elsewhere, especially if PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards all return.
Percentage Chance Gone: 20%
Look, I know there’s been unsubstantiated rumors of Quade Green considering a transfer, but nothing I’ve heard directly suggests there’s any validity to them.
However, if UK were to add five-star point guard Ashton Hagans to its 2019 class, then I think Green takes a hard look at his role with this team and his future in Lexington. A roster with Green, Hagans and Immanuel Quickely is bound to have one of the three not making a big impact next season.
If Green is worried about becoming a role player coming off the bench again, he may ‘think’ about life at another college. But for now, expect Green to be back at UK.
Percentage Chance Gone: 15%
Calipari has gone on the record of saying Nick Richards can be a top-five pick when he puts it all together. Unfortunately, Richards never came close to that as a freshman, but we saw enough promise to think he gets there at some point during his sophomore season. I fully expect him to make a big jump next season and become a first-round pick in the 2019 draft.
Percentage Chance Gone: 10%
While the Cats will lose some major talent, they still return a lot more firepower than most years under Calipari. We may very well see a sophomore and junior-heavy rotation next season that looks something like this:
- Sophomore point guard Quade Green
- Freshman shooting guard Keldon Johnson
- Junior forward Wenyen Gabriel
- Sophomore forward PJ Washington
- Sophomore center Nick Richards
- Key reserves: Sophomore forward Jarred Vanderbilt, junior forward Sacha Killeya-Jones, freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley, freshman shooting guard Tyler Herro and redshirt freshman shooting guard Jemarl Baker.
Not too shabby.