NBA Draft season will really heat up this week when the Draft Lottery takes place Tuesday, followed by the NBA Combine.
The next few weeks will go a long way in determining where former Kentucky Wildcats PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro will hear their names called in the 2019 draft, while also determining ‘if’ Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery will be drafted at all.
Ahead of the Draft Lottery, ESPN has released a new NBA Mock Draft, and it features three Wildcats going within the first 22 picks.
First up is Washington, who goes 12th to the Charlotte Hornets, where he would team up with Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
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.
The Hornets have a lot of promising pieces on their roster, but they’ll be one of the league’s worst teams next season if Kemba Walker departs in free agency. While going 12th overall would be nice, the Hornets aren’t exactly an ideal organization to land with.
Up next is Herro, who goes 17th to the Orlando Magic.
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.
Statistical projection: No. 24
Herro would land with a solid Magic team that just enjoyed a breakthrough 2018-19 season and have a bright future.
Finally, Johnson lands with the Boston Celtics at 22nd overall.
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.
Obviously, Johnson would be landing in the best situation of the three in terms of playing for a contender that’s an annual playoff team.
Neither Richards or Montgomery are part of this 60-pick projection. It’s looking more and more unlikely that either player would hear their names called in this draft, though it’s no unheard of for teams to spend second-round picks on long-term developmental prospects like them. Both players have a chance to build up some buzz leading into the draft if they shine in private workouts in the coming weeks.
Here is a look at what the entire lottery looks like in this projection:
1. New York Knicks | Zion Williamson
2. Cleveland Cavaliers | Ja Morant
3. Phoenix Suns | RJ Barrett
4. Chicago Bulls | Darius Garland
5. Atlanta Hawks | De’Andre Hunter
6. Washington Wizards | Jarrett Culver
7. New Orleans Pelicans | Cam Reddish
8. Memphis Grizzlies | Coby White
9. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavs) | Jaxson Hayes
10. Minnesota Timberwolves | Sekou Doumbouya
11. Los Angeles Lakers | Bol Bol
12. Charlotte Hornets | PJ Washington
13. Miami Heat | Romeo Langford
14. Boston Celtics (via Kings) | Brandon Clarke