The 2019 NBA Draft is just under two months away, and there is a lot to be settled in terms of draft order. Some players with rise, others will fall. But even before their fates our determined, speculation about the 2020 draft is well underway.
Now that the major high school basketball showcases have taken place and many college players have made their NBA declarations, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN have updated their 2020 mock draft.
While only three Kentucky Wildcats appear at all in their projections, all of them are expected to be taken in the first round.
No. 11 - Tyrese Maxey
Maxey helped himself in a big way over the past month with his shot-making, scoring instincts, touch in the paint, confidence and defensive energy at 6-3 with a strong frame and 6-6 wingspan.
While he wasn’t overly prolific in the Hoop Summit game or Jordan Brand Classic, his talent has really stood out, as he’s an ideal fit in the modern NBA with his ability to shoot off the dribble with range, change speeds to get to floaters and make the necessary reads to eventually become more of a lead guard. Maxey is still wired to score, as he’ll fire contested jumpers early in the clock or fail to deliver basic passes in traffic. But he also showed enough instincts and change of pace to suggest he’ll be able to play more on the ball down the road.
Inconsistent defensively in the past, Maxey guarded with great energy as well, fighting bigger wings in the post and making an effort to slide with guards on the perimeter.
Maxey is currently the No. 12 recruit in ESPN’s 2019 recruiting rankings, and it’s obvious they think he can make a splash in the college game. He will likely spend a lot of time playing alongside Ashton Hagans, who may or may not appear later on this list.
No. 19 - Kahlil Whitney
Few prospects struggled through McDonald’s week and the Jordan Brand Classic quite like Whitney, as his lack of skill level and feel in the half court was more evident than ever. While he’s a physical specimen at 6-7 with a 6-11 wingspan and ideal basketball frame, resembling a young Jason Richardson, he really had issues thinking the game against a set defense. He’s a rigid ball handler who plays with his head down too often and lives off contested midrange pullups regularly.
Although he may never be asked to generate much offense, he still needs to iron out his shooting stroke, as he’s a career 31 percent 3-point shooter (242 attempts) and 57 percent free throw shooter (165 attempts), according to Krossover, which showed with several bad misses in Vegas.
From this analysis, it seems obvious that Whitney has the talent to work his way into the lottery portion of the 2020 NBA Draft. The type of raw talent that Whitney brings is exactly the type of player that excels at Kentucky, so expect his name to make it’s way up this list throughout next season.
The other player listed on ESPN’s mock draft is Ashton Hagans, who is projected to be taken as the No. 28 pick. Hagans made a name for himself in the 2018-2019 season with his defensive prowess, and with another season of work promises to be a force to be reckoned with in Kentucky’s back court.
Notable snubs here are EJ Montgomery and Keion Brooks (maybe Nick Richards?). Montgomery does have his name in the NBA Draft for this season, so that could play a role in his exclusion. But he also has a lot to prove.
ESPN has been underselling Brooks for a while, ranking him No. 33 in their recruiting rankings. He appears as high as No. 13 elsewhere, so it is odd how little respect ESPN gives him. He could certainly be a one-and-done player, so once we see him in action in Lexington he may work his way onto the list.
The only remaining Kentucky target on the list is Jaden McDaniels, who fell from No. 1 to No. 7 with recent struggles.
It has been a tough month for McDaniels. He struggled through McDonald’s All-America week, looking frail and passive, much to the chagrin of NBA scouts given his clout coming into the event.
Left off the Nike Hoop Summit team, the Seattle-born-and-bred McDaniels had a great opportunity to bounce back in Portland, as he suited up for the PDX Generals -- a team of mostly local high school and college players -- to take on USA in a scrimmage in front of what seemed like the entire NBA.
McDaniels again faltered, going at half speed and looking uninspired on both ends of the floor. Struggling to make shots from the perimeter, McDaniels didn’t affect the game in other ways, had issues playing through contact and looked far too flat over the course of the game. McDaniels did remind scouts of his talent for stretches at Jordan Brand, playing with far more aggression in the game by attacking off the dribble into floaters, connecting on pullups with touch and showing some fight on the glass and defensively despite his thin frame.
McDaniels’ recruitment is still up in the air, but even with his recent drop in the rankings it is obvious that Kentucky should do all they can to land him. Even without McDaniels, however, it’s a strong start to the season with three projected first round picks on your roster.
As for the top of the draft, it’s a list of who’s who in terms of former UK recruits, including James Wiseman (1), Anthony Edwards (2), Scottie Lewis (8) and Isaiah Stewart (10).