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Where the Wildcats stand in ESPN’s latest mock draft

This projection would make it even more important for John Calipari to get a big recruiting win for 2019.

UK Athletics

Coming into the season, there was a sense that the Kentucky Wildcats were going to lose much of their 2018-19 roster for the 2019-20 season.

Things changed as the season rolled on, and by the mid-way point, it looked like there was a real chance that Kentucky only lost two players to the NBA this year.

However, with the Cats having a successful season and becoming a title contender, it appears Kentucky may lose more talent than they were expecting.

In ESPN’s latest mock draft four Wildcats are projected to be selected.

The first Wildcat to come off the board, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, is Keldon Johnson, who is projected to be the 12th overall pick of the Miami Heat.

Johnson has been projected as a lottery pick since the pre-season, so this is no surprise. The freshman is averaging 14 points per game with 5.3 rebounds. In Miami, he would get the chance to team up with former Wildcat and lottery pick Bam Adebayo.

The second Wildcat to come off the board according to Givony is PJ Washington. Washington is projected to full just outside of the lottery as the 17th overall pick of the Brooklyn Nets.

Givony had this say about Washington:

He has shown significant improvement in every facet of the game, particularly his rebounding (11.5 per 40 minutes, up from 8.3), 3-point shooting and overall energy. His ability to play on the perimeter (both as a shooter and ball handler) has improved Kentucky’s spacing tremendously, giving him much more versatility projecting forward fitting into the modern game.

It appears returning for his sophomore season was the right call for Washington as he will likely be the first round draft choice he’s worked hard to be.

Coming in as the third Wildcat to be selected in the 2019 NBA draft is Tyler Herro. Herro has been getting a lot of first-round buzz of late, but Giovanny sees Herro as an early second rounder heading to the Philadelphia 76ers with the 32nd overall pick.

Here’s what Givony had to say about Herro:

Herro has been inconsistent offensively over the course of the season, but he seems to have settled into his role for Kentucky. A big part of Kentucky’s 10-game win streak was due to much improved defense, in which Herro played a major part. Early in the season, opponents would pick on Herro relentlessly, as he would be back-cut off the ball while being blown by off the dribble all too often.

Although Herro isn’t a lockdown defender, he’s playing with significantly better energy, awareness and focus since the calendar turned to 2019, becoming far from a liability on that end of the floor. His lack of length (6-foot-4½ wingspan) will always be a limiting factor and might make him best suited for guarding point guards in the NBA, but the fact that he plays as hard as he does -- while demonstrating outstanding instincts and IQ -- bodes well.

Despite the offensive inconsistency Herro has brought above average defense and has always hit the big shot when need be. That is the making of an NBA player.

The final Wildcat Givony has being selected in the 2019 NBA draft is Ashton Hagans. Hagans is also projected as an early second rounder heading to the Sacramento Kings with the 38th overall pick.

Hagans is among the best defenders in the country, but his offensive game is far from complete. Thus, it is no slam dunk that Hagans is NBA bound but if he sees his name start to appear in the first round of mock drafts or his offensive game improves before the season’s end expect Hagans to be one and done.

Here is a look at what the lottery picks of this projection look like:

1. Knicks - Zion Williamson

2. Cavaliers - R.J. Barrett

3. Suns - Ja Morant

4. Bulls - Cameron Reddish

5. Hawks - Romeo Langford

6. Grizzlies - Darius Garland

7. Wizards - Nassir Little

8. Magic - Jarrett Culver

9. Timberwolves - De’Andre Hunter

10. Hawks (via DAL) - Sekou Doumbouya

11. Pelicans - Jaxson Hayes

12. Heat - Keldon Johnson

13. Lakers - Bol Bol

14. Pistons - Rui Hachimura