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Nick Richards NBA Draft Roundtable and Predictions

With the deadline to make a decision looming, we gathered the staff to get their thoughts on if we’ll see Junior Nick Richards.

Nick Richards Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The time is nearly here for Nick Richards to make his decision on whether he’s going to stay in this year’s NBA Draft or come back to Kentucky.

Richards has until May 29th to take his name out of the draft and maintain college eligibility, so what is he going to do?

Over the past two seasons, we’ve seen Nick Richards grow and develop in a few different ways. From year one to year two, his FT% and FG% have gone up and he has become a much improved rim protector.

However, it has to be noted that for the second straight year we did not see much of him on the court. He only averaged about 14 minutes a game this season, and much like his freshman year, there were games where his presence was nonexistent. This includes the last game of the year against Auburn where he only logged one minute.

Now, this is not to say that Nick would not be successful in the NBA. He has the body and potential as he stands at 6-11 and weighs in at 244 pounds.

As for the potential, we saw Nick step out in the mid-range much more last season than he did in his freshman campaign. If he can continue to do that and improve his shot, the sky is the limit.

With that, we came together as a staff at our virtual roundtable to offer predictions on whether Nick will stay in the draft or come back to school.

Nick Wheatley

Nick Richards’ decision is a big one for UK. Kentucky is in desperate need of front court players for next season, and a junior Nick Richards would be huge.

The Cats are loaded at the wing and guard positions, but they don’t have anyone like Richards on the current roster. He can rebound and block shots, which is exactly what next year’s team is missing.

If he’s able to stay out of foul trouble and score a little more, his return could end up being more important than EJ Montgomery’s.

While keeping his name in the draft would seemingly make zero sense, Richards will be 22 years old when next year’s draft rolls around. That’s pushing it to get teams to take a chance on “potential.”

I think Nick does have the potential to be a good player, but he needs a lot of work and teams aren’t going to waste a pick on someone that old. That’s the only reason I could see Richards keeping his name in the draft, even though I doubt anyone would even take a flier on him this year.

With that being said, I think it’s a near-lock that we see Richards back in Lexington for his third season. And that’s huge. Don’t forget, we’re talking about a former five-star, top-20 recruit. I know he hasn’t been the best to date, but fans have been begging for guys to stay more than one year. Here it is.

Prediction: Returns to Kentucky

Tj Barnett

Nick Richards is not ready for the NBA as of right now. For the second straight season, Coach Cal did not trust him in games and we saw that with his MPG this season, especially late in games. Nick has a lot of work to do before he’s ready for the NBA, like working on his shot, decision making, and the ability to guard the pick and roll.

With that said, I still think Nick decides to stay in the draft. Why? Well, I believe he’s ready to try his shot overseas or try and play for a G-League team. Frankly, I don’t think he wants to play in college anymore. It made no sense to me when he declared and that’s the only way I can make sense of it. For that reason, I believe he’ll stay in, won’t get drafted, and will pursue his professional career from here on out.

Prediction: Stays in draft

Adam Haste

Nick Richards has been one of the more frustrating players in the Cal era, because he has the body, skill, and athleticism to be a beast on the floor. But it just hasn’t fully clicked between the ears for him yet.

I really want to see a junior Nick Richard next season with the potential for a breakout year, where he’d finally become that consistent rim protector that we all expected to see.

After the Bahamas trip, I think we all expected to see his breakout season last year. Unfortunately, that never happened, as he struggled throughout the year.

Even though he has yet to make an announcement, I think he will end up coming back to Kentucky for his junior season.

Prediction: Returns to Kentucky

Sam Gillenwater

Although Nick Richards does have a decision to make, it’s safe to say he doesn’t have any surprises for us in all reality. Richards’ name hasn’t come up in any mock drafts or big boards, as his game just isn’t ready to make the jump in this NBA.

Nick is a quality player, but he’s just too raw for the league right now. In only 12 minutes a game, he averaged just 4.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. One plus for him is that he does shoot high percentages, albeit from dunks and easy finishes, from the field at 60% and from the free throw line at 69% for a big man. He has an incredible amount of potential, but it has yet to truly be tapped into on a consistent basis.

With less depth in the front court next season, this will be Nick’s opportunity to take back the starting role from his freshman year and really break out. He’s even said he’s open to returning if it’s not his time and he’d be “more than excited to suit up in front of the best fans in the country next season and chase our goal of winning a championship.”

Nick’s a great kid that can really improve with some confidence and another year in college, so the possibility of him leaving is slimmer than slim to none for me.

Prediction: Returns to Kentucky

Jamie Boggs

After missing out on numerous big men in the 2019 class, the status of Nick Richards has become incredibly important. While I have confidence in Nate Sestina to fill a role and for Keion Brooks to spend some time in the paint, the Wildcats absolutely cannot go into next season without a deeper front court.

Richards coming back will be huge. I think EJ Montgomery’s ceiling is higher, but Richards has more experience and has had more time to develop. I think his size instantly changes the game at the college level, and Kentucky will have a much better chance to cut down the nets if Richards is in uniform.

Ultimately, I think he comes back to Kentucky. I do not believe an NBA team will bite, and I think it’s a stretch for him to make a G-League roster at this point. I genuinely believe it’s in Nick’s best interest to play at least one more season for Kentucky, and I expect him to do just that.

Prediction: Returns to Kentucky

Aaron Gershon

If you were to ask me what I thought Nick Richards would do this time in two weeks ago, I would’ve said he would have his name in the transfer portal.

My initial prediction was that EJ Montgomery would surely return, the Jaden McDaniels would choose UK and with already adding Nate Sestina that their frontcourt wouldn’t have room for Richards leading him to play elsewhere.

Now it’s critical the Cats get Richards back. Despite his struggles, the past two seasons there surely have been glimpses of his full potential.

If Richards comes back for a third year he’s only going to improve and boost his draft stock thus, I think ultimately he’ll return in the hope of working his way towards the first round of the NBA Draft in 2020.

Prediction: Returns to Kentucky