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UK has a pair of lottery picks in new ESPN mock draft

And three first-round selections in total, but a notable player is absent.

2019 Powerade Jam Fest Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for Powerade

With the college basketball season now under two months away, ESPN has released a new 2020 NBA Mock Draft.

Of course, it’s too early to be certain of which Kentucky Wildcats will be in the NBA next year, but these mock drafts do give us an idea of who we shouldn’t expect to be in Lexington for the 2020-21 season.

That’s especially true of Tyrese Maxey, who has been widely projected as a one-and-done prospect who could be a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. And ESPN’s latest projection has Maxey sneaking into the end of the lottery, as the Texas native goes 14th to the Dallas Mavericks.

However, it’s Kahlil Whitney who is the first Wildcat selected in this draft, as he goes 12th to the Detroit Pistons. Whitney has been projected as a first-round pick, but this is the first time he’s been pegged as a lottery pick. Because Whitney will be playing the 3 and 4 spots this season, he’ll get a chance to showcase everything he’s got, and that should help him become a high pick next year.

If both Whitney and Maxey end up being lottery picks, then they probably had great seasons at UK and helped the Cats make a deep postseason run.

The only other Wildcat in this projection is Ashton Hagans, who goes 30th to the Boston Celtics. Hagans certainly looks like someone who could have a long NBA career, but he has to improve his offense to ensure he’s a first-round pick next year.

A small surprise in this projection is it doesn’t have EJ Montgomery among the 60 selections. On one hand, Montgomery has the makings of a future first-round pick. On the other hand, he hasn’t shown enough consistency to even assure himself of being a second-round pick if he entered the draft.

Kentucky is expecting a breakout season from Montgomery, and they certainly need it to become a true title contender. But until Montgomery proves he can reach his potential, it’s fair to keep him out of the first-round discussion until he’s got a few games under his belt this season.

And even if Montgomery isn’t firing on all cylinders to start the season, that shouldn’t keep fans from believing in him. After all, PJ Washington didn’t get off to a great start last season, but by early conference play, he was one of the best players in America. Montgomery has the potential to make that kind of jump during his sophomore season, but he’s got a lot of work to do to get there.

As for other Cats who could get drafted next year, I think Johnny Juzang and Keion Brooks can get into the discussion, but both will probably be better off returning for sophomore seasons.

Immanuel Quickley has NBA potential, but with Maxey and Hagans likely dominating the ball this season, it’s going to be hard for the Baltimore native to showcase his full potential.

Nick Richards has the body of an NBA big man, but unless he can find much greater consistency, he’ll struggle just to be a late second-round pick if he goes pro next year.

Here is a look at what the lottery of this projection looks like:

1. Cavaliers James Wiseman

2. Hornets Anthony Edwards

3. Knicks - LaMelo Ball (WHAT?!?)

4. Grizzlies - Cole Anthony

5. Suns - Deni Avdija

6. Wizards - RJ Hampton

7. Bulls - Theo Maledon

8. Thunder - Nico Mannion

9. Hawks - Jaden McDaniels

10. Kings - Scottie Lewis

11. Timberwolves - Precious Achiuwa

12. Pistons - Kahlil Whitney

13. Pelicans - Isaiah Stewart

14. Mavericks - Tyrese Maxey