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ESPN analytics really like Jarred Vanderbilt in 2018 NBA Draft; getting more first-round buzz

Vanderbilt is getting more and more buzz as a potential late first or early second-round pick.

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NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Many have been wondering where the young Kentucky Wildcats who declared for the draft would be landing, especially Jarred Vanderbilt who skipped the NBA draft combine.

Over at ESPN, they did an advanced analytical study of the top 30 prospects in this year’s draft, and Vanderbilt was the true surprise. With many expecting to see him early in the second round, ESPN has put his projection as high as 22nd with a 25% chance to land a starting position.

At 6’9” and 214 lbs he has a big body that’s ready for NBA play. Vanderbilt played in just 14 games this past season; he suffered a left foot injury in September and then missed the SEC and NCAA tournaments with an ankle injury.

While on the court, Vanderbilt was one of the most efficient rebounders in the country, grabbing double-digit boards on five occasions despite averaging just 17.0 minutes. If he’s able to stay healthy he could have a big impact on any NBA team.

This isn’t the first time Vanderbilt has been mentioned as a first-round prospect. Over at The Athletic, their latest mock draft has the Nets taking him with the 29th overall pick.

29. Brooklyn Nets: Jarred Vanderbilt, forward, 19, 6-9, 214, Kentucky

General manager Sean Marks has done well drafting previously in the 20s landing Caris LeVert at No. 20 in 2016 and Jarrett Allen at No. 22 in 2017.

Similar to LeVert, Vanderbilt dealt with injuries before entering the draft, which lowered his draft stock. Foot and ankle injuries forced Vanderbilt to miss the first 17 games of the season before his season was cut short on March 3.

Dr. Martin O’Malley was able to fix Brook Lopez, and the Nets have a ton of confidence in the performance team. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see Brooklyn swing for the fences on a player who was a potential lottery pick entering the college season at Kentucky.

“Vanderbilt can make plays with the ball,” one Eastern Conference executive told The Athletic. “You had to see Jarred in high school to appreciate his skill set. He didn’t get a chance to show it at Kentucky. He likes facilitating.”

The highest projected Wildcat in this study is of course star forward Kevin Knox at 12th overall. Knox is a versatile forward, who earned first team All-SEC and was conference co-freshman of the year.

With a solid frame, standing 6’9”, 218 pounds, that size and length can result in matchup problems for opposing teams. Has solid shot mechanics that should translate well to the next level as he already has NBA range.

ESPN has projected him to start out as a solid role player that can potentially grow into a dangerous scorer at the next level. Knox will likely need to further develop his defense and vision to reach his full potential, but with some time and experience that growth is very possible.

Next up was the breakout guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 18th overall. SGA was huge for the Wildcats throughout the season, but his biggest impact was in the tournament. He averaged 21 points, 6.7 assists, 5 rebounds, and just 1.7 turnovers per game during Kentucky’s run through the SEC tournament on their way to a victory.

His high basketball IQ and slashing ability will be great addition to an NBA team. If he can create a more trustworthy jump shot he’ll be dangerous alongside any NBA guard.

Wenyen Gabriel is another Cat expected to be drafted during the second round but he was not mentioned in this.

The NBA draft will be held at 7pm EST on Thursday, June 21st.