With the 2019 NBA Draft just a day away, teams are able to best evaluate what they need based on where their draft picks from the year before stand after a season in the league.
Two Kentucky Wildcats were selected in last year’s lottery, as Kevin Knox was taken with the 9th pick to the New York Knicks, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was taken with 11th pick by the Charlotte Hornets. Shai was then traded later on draft night to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Both Wildcats are still taken in the lottery in CBS Sports’ redraft of the 2018 lottery, but one made a significant leap.
Knox is still selected with the 9th pick by the Knicks in the re-draft. His season wasn’t spectacular, but there were a lot of issues factoring into that. Knox averaged 12.8 points per game, but on inefficient shooting percentages from the field, three-point line, and free throw line.
When you consider how Knox was forced into being the #1 option during the course of the season in one of the league’s biggest markets as a 19-year-old with a frame that’s still becoming NBA ready, his numbers are actually pretty good and will only improve from here.
Shai, though, was impressive in Los Angeles from the start. His season earned him a jump all the way up to the 6th overall pick to the Orlando Magic:
After posting the largest wingspan in the history of the NBA combine, Bamba was underwhelming in a rookie season cut short by injury. If the Magic would have known they’d improve to a playoff team behind an All-Star year from Nikola Vucevic, they might have drafted someone more NBA ready. Gilgeous-Alexander fits the bill, as we saw him become a critical member of a deep and talented Clippers squad. Orlando’s point guard troubles have been well noted over the years, so locking in someone like SGA as a versatile floor leader who thrives on both ends of the floor would have been a prudent move.
Shai averaged 10.8 points and 3.3 assists on 47.6% shooting from the field in all 82 games for the Clippers, plus 6 impressive playoff games against the Golden State Warriors. If Gilgeous-Alexander continues to build on those numbers, the Clippers have their point guard of the future in place.
Both Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander have the opportunity to improve over their next few seasons. With both the Knicks and Clippers among the teams in the best position come free agency, they could very well be playing in even bigger games for contenders in the near future as well. Only time will tell as they prepare for their second season as pros.