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New mock draft shakes things up; could an expected departure end up returning?

If Keldon Johnson falls this far, does he actually consider a return to Kentucky.

Keldon Johnson Jamie Boggs - Sea of Blue

There are two recruiting seasons for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The standard one consists of bringing in high school talent, and John Calipari has been great at that during his tenure in Lexington.

Perhaps the more important recruiting season, though, happens when current players contemplate their NBA futures.

Of course, Coach Cal does not view this as recruiting. He encourages players to leave if it is best for them. Prior to, and during most of, this season, everyone was certain of two early departures: PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson.

But if the newest ESPN mock draft is any indication, should Johnson come back for a second year?

Jonathan Givony of ESPN predicts that three Kentucky Wildcats will be taken in the first round (and none in the second round, in case you were curious). Givony leaves room for some flexibility in his order due to team needs and the fact that the draft order may change, so some of the players are listed as being tied with others. Here is how he ranks the Wildcats:

Tied for 12th - Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington

No matter what happens in free agency, the Hornets could use frontcourt help. Washington has the length to defend multiple positions on the interior, he can stretch the floor from the perimeter, and he brings plenty of long-term upside.

His toughness and versatility will fit well next to Miles Bridges.

Tied for 16th - Orlando Magic: Tyler Herro

The Magic have been cycling through backcourt options all season. Although point guard is more of a long-term need, they have Markelle Fultz waiting in the wings and will need to think about Terrence Ross’ impending free-agency situation.

Adding a combo guard such as Herro -- who can play pick-and-roll, make shots while set or on the move and bring competitiveness and feel -- makes a lot of sense.

If true, I would think this almost guarantees that Herro will leave for the NBA. Being this close to the lottery is something that nobody imagined for him, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where he goes higher a year from now.

Tied for 21st - Boston Celtics: Keldon Johnson

Danny Ainge has long valued toughness, versatility and 3-point shooting -- all strengths for Johnson.

Although his struggles creating offense off the dribble caused his stock to fall somewhat, Johnson won’t need to be much of a ball handler on a team with this much star power.

If you will recall during his NBA Draft declaration announcement, Johnson noted his desire to be a lottery selection. If he is projected in the 20-25 range, is there a chance he will return to improve his stock?

The 2019 draft class has long been noted as a weak recruiting class overall, so you would think that would translate to a somewhat less competitive draft in 2020. But is that a chance that Keldon Johnson is willing to take? He has just under seven weeks to decide.

Read Givony’s entire NBA mock draft here.

Now, here is a look at what the entire lottery of this projection looks like, barring some tiebreakers being settled:

1. New York Knicks - Zion Williamson

T2. Phoenix Suns - Ja Morant

T2. Cleveland Cavaliers - RJ Barrett

4. Chicago Bulls - Darius Garland

5. Atlanta Hawks - De’Andre Hunter

6. Washington Wizards - Jarrett Culver

T7. Memphis Grizzlies - Cam Reddish

T7. New Orleans Pelicans - Sekou Doumbouya

T7. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavs) - Jaxson Hayes

10. Minnesota Timberwolves - Coby White

11. Los Angeles Lakers - Bol Bol

Charlotte Hornets - PJ Washington

T12. Miami Heat -Romeo Langford

T12. Boston Celtics (via Kings) - Brandon Clarke