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3 Wildcats make ESPN’s new NBA Mock Draft

Plus a breakdown of Nick Richards’ pro prospects and why he’s not projected higher.

Hagans, Richards Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

The latest ESPN NBA Mock Draft from Jonathan Givony is out, and Tyrese Maxey is, not shockingly, still holding steady as Kentucky’s top draft pick as he is a fringe top-five pick.

Maxey comes in at the No. 6 overall pick going to the Minnesota Timberwolves and teaming up with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to potentially form a very good young core in Minnesota.

Ashton Hagans is projected at the No. 36 overall pick, just slightly missing out on the first round. Hagans’ team projection? The Minnesota Timberwolves joining Maxey, KAT, and D-Lo. The Timberwolves would be loaded at the guard spots with the addition of Maxey and Hagans, but I think Kentucky fans might have a new team to root for.

And finally, Nick Richards is slowly making his way up the draft boards, although he is still not a first round pick as of this moment. However, he is projected to go 50th overall to the Golden State Warriors, which would be a great landing spot for him, playing with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. It is also a perfect style of play as Richards is a rim-running, athletic big man who can hit a mid-range jumper and block shots. Seems like a perfect fit.

In addition, Givony gave a breakdown of Richards’ pro prospects and the concerns he faces in the pros.

Richards’ appeal starts with his tremendous physical tools — a 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan, a chiseled, 250-pound frame and impressive athleticism. That translates to the defensive end, where Richards switches onto guards, covers ground well and uses his length to contest jumpers, while also having the bulk to bang with traditional bigs and protect the rim. Kentucky mostly keeps things simple for him offensively, but his ability to explode off two feet and finish is a huge advantage. Richards has some real touch, even starting to make free throws (75%) and midrange jumpers in small doses.

The game still moves too fast for him at times, which shows most notably on the defensive glass and when asked to make simple passes. No college player in the past 30 years has been drafted with a combined assist and steal rate are as low as Richards’. Considering he’s already 22, his poor feel for the game is certainly a concern when projecting him to the NBA, where his physical advantages won’t be quite as pronounced.

Here is what the lottery of this projection looks like:

1. Cavaliers - Anthony Edwards

2. Warriors - James Wiseman

3. Hawks - Isaac Okoro

4. Knicks - LaMelo Ball

5. Hornets - Deni Avdija

6. Timberwolves - Tyrese Maxey

7. Pistons - Onyeka Okongwu

8. Wizards - Tyrese Haliburton

9. Bulls - Obi Toppin

10. Suns - Nico Mannion

11. Kings - Cole Anthony

12. Pelicans - Killian Hayes

13. Spurs - RJ Hampton

14. Celtics - (via MEM)