The final heap of NBA Draft analysis is coming out, and that includes a new top 100 big board from Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo.
In that top 100 are five former Kentucky Wildcats: Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel (in that order).
At the top of the UK list is Knox at No. 9.
“One of the youngest players in the draft, Knox brings a bundle of intriguing tools and is beginning to get used to his body,” Woo writes. “He put together a solid year at Kentucky while functioning mostly as a spot-up option off the ball, and his impressive frame and improving set of skills suggest he’ll be able to do more than that at the next level.”
Woo goes on to say that Knox is built to play both forward spots and can do a little bit of everything.
Next is Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 12. The former four-star prospect is still very much a lottery pick in the eyes of major outlets. What’ll be interesting to see is who goes first: Gilgeous-Alexander or Knox. The two have flip-flopped in most mock drafts and big boards, as Gilgeous-Alexander had the more impressive season, but Knox has had a better draft season and seems to have a more intriguing upside to scouts.
“Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the quickest studies in college basketball this year,” Woo said. “He bordered on timid in November, but finished the season looking like one of the most productive point guards in the country, his confidence skyrocketing after being tasked with a larger playmaking load.”
Woo also talked about Gilgeous-Alexander’s physical attributes giving him an advantage in seeing the floor and passing the ball, and his “unorthodox but effective” ability to shoot off the dribble.
A long way down is Diallo at No. 40. Woo’s analysis recites what many have said since the season ended: Diallo’s decision to stay at Kentucky hurt his draft stock.
“Had he stayed in the draft a year ago, Diallo would likely have been a first-round pick,” Woo said. “This time around the picture is much more cloudy, as his immense physical talents are unchanged, but his lack of ball skills was exposed at Kentucky. Diallo began to turn it on as a defender late in the season and remains a dynamic player in transition, where few can keep up with him. But his skill set is still unrefined, his handle loose and his offensive feel in the halfcourt limited.”
Woo goes on to say that Diallo is still worth the pick in a “low-risk situation” which I assume means in the second round.
Woo seems to agree, as many analysts do, that front offices were amazed by Diallo’s physical talents, and he would’ve had to play up to par this year in order to make a jump in draft projections.
Not far behind Diallo is Vanderbilt at No. 46. The versatile forward’s draft projection is affected by his injuries, but helped by his rebounding ability.
“Vanderbilt was viewed as a first-round talent coming into his freshman year at Kentucky, but recurring injuries—a theme throughout his young career—sapped him of a real opportunity to contribute,” Woo writes. “He’s an outstanding rebounder with some ball skills and a good athlete, and could be a useful energy big, but teams will have to feel comfortable with his medical situation to take the plunge.”
The fact that it’s very clear that Vanderbilt knows what he’s good at and does that well is what makes him an intriguing prospect despite such an injury-riddled season. The potential of what he can be if he is healthy is what will likely make a team bite and draft him.
Coming in at No. 91 is Gabriel. The last Wildcat on the list, Woo sees him as a guy that’ll get a summer league workout and go from there.
“Although Gabriel’s role was limited at Kentucky, he was an extremely important player this season and the team was often at its best with him spacing the floor from the wing and corner,” Woo said. “He’s extremely thin, which is a serious concern as it pertains to NBA success, but he plays hard, can shoot effectively and offers some mobility on defense.”
If Gabriel can bulk up, he could make himself out to be a legitimate stretch big man. He knows his shooting role well.
From lottery picks to potential undrafted free agents, these five will learn their draft fate on Thursday. The draft is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.