During the 2018-19 season, Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans was projected as a first-round pick on just about everyone’s NBA Draft Board, earning high praise from head coach John Calipari, who knows a thing or two about talented point guards.
“I believe how he defends and rebounds, he’s the best point guard in the country. That’s what I believe,” said Calipari after watching Hagans score 23 points in a road win at Georgia on January 15, 2019. “This kid can play every position, blow up pick and rolls, blow up dribble handoffs...good player, he can guard and offensively, he’s getting better.”
Calipari was spot on as Hagans finished his freshman campaign as the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, leading the Wildcats to a 30-7 record and a trip to the Elite Eight.
Returning for his sophomore season, the Georgia native continued to thrive and was named one of four finalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year Award and also led the SEC in assists in 2020, ranking 16th nationally. He finished his career with 351 assists, good for 12th all-time in school history.
Over his two-year career in a Wildcat uniform, Hagans seemingly did enough to seal his fate in the NBA. However, as we enter Draft Week, concerns about his perimeter shooting might be enough to keep the 6-3 playmaker on the outside looking in as ESPN currently projects Hagans as the 71st best available player in this year’s draft, but 24th among point guards.
- Position: Point Guard
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 198
- Points Per Game: 11.5
- Assists Per Game: 6.4
- Steals Per Game: 1.9
- Draft Predictions:
NBADraft.Net: 57th to the LA Clippers
NBC Sports: 57th to the LA Clippers
Tankathon: 56th to the Charlotte Hornets
Sports Illustrated: Ranked 55th
Strengths: Hagans has proven himself as a lockdown defender and has a fire and competitiveness that is off the charts. Most importantly, he’s a leader on the floor and has a great knack for being around the ball, causing havoc for opposing guards. He’s at his best in the open court and is a skilled passer who can make things happen during crunch time. Despite being pegged as a poor shooter, Hagans was surprisingly good from the free throw line, shooting 81 percent during his career, coming up clutch down the stretch in every big game.
Weaknesses: Hagans averaged 11.5 points per game in his final season, mostly coming from dribble penetration and the free throw line, as he was never a real threat as a face up shooter. The big knock against Hagans has always been his outside shooting as he shot just 26 percent from three-point range throughout his college career.
The former Georgia Mr. Basketball may also have a tough time breaking down defenders off the bounce in the half-court as his ball handling was typically aided by high ball screens to start the Kentucky offense. At the next level, Hagans will have to create his own scoring opportunities with the ball and must develop a legitimate pull up jumper.
Conclusion: In the end, Hagans is just too tough of a competitor to be left of an NBA roster and would most certainly be a sought after free agent if he drops out of the second round. However, regardless of where he falls in the draft, Hagans might best be suited for a stop in the G League (see Tyler Ulis) or overseas (see Isaiah Briscoe) to follow a similar path of former UK players that continue to hone their skills for the NBA.
At just 21 years old, Hagans still has plenty of time to develop an offensive skill set that takes his game to the next level and helps him carve out a long career.
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