Kentucky hasn’t even started its 2018 preseason slate in the Bahamas yet, but we’ve already got mocks of the 2019 NBA Draft incoming.
Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman has released a first-round mock that features three Wildcats, including one in the lottery.
That one Wildcat in the lottery is freshman wing Keldon Johnson, who Wasserman has going eighth overall.
Keldon Johnson should step right in for Hamidou Diallo at Kentucky. Another great athlete with an obvious NBA physical profile (6’6”, 211 lbs), he’s going to turn heads with bouncy plays above the rim. Johnson’s game revolves around attacking and putting pressure on defenses with his driving and slashing.
His draft stock will be tied to how much progress he makes with his scoring skills, particularly around the perimeter. Johnson leans on his tools and explosiveness. He’ll have a chance to draw lottery looks if he can flash enough promise as a shot-creator and shooter.
Johnson’s first shot to start building a draft case will come this week in the Bahamas against international competition.
Johnson seems to be widely regarded as the top draft prospect on the team this year, so him being the top UK player in this mock comes as no surprise.
The next pick comes 10 spots later, as Wasserman puts freshman guard Ashton Hagans at No. 18.
Hagans will earn fans by applying pressure at both ends with his attacking and defense. He may need a second year at Kentucky to improve his shooting and decision-making, but his NBA potential should appear obvious right away.
Hagans is already a year ahead of schedule just getting to college. Him being this close to the lottery before he ever touches the court for game action is a big deal, and an impressive freshman year could really catapult his stock.
It also helps that this is shaping up to be one of the worst point guard classes in recent memory, so it won’t be a shock if Hagans is the first point guard drafted this year. He certainly has as much upside as guys like Darius Garland, Jaylen Hands, Lindell Wigginton and Ja Morant (shout out to Murray State).
Last in the first round is sophomore forward PJ Washington, who Wasserman has going 29th.
Washington couldn’t move the needle at the NBA combine, but he should return to a bigger role with more confidence and skill. He’s strong and long with sound footwork and shooting touch he’ll look to showcase more as a sophomore.
The expectation is high for Washington. He’s expected to be a leader of this team and greatly improve his game to assure his first-round pick status after Year 2. Even if he’s not assured of being a first-round pick, we should expect him to leave for the pros after this season in what’s shaping up to be a very weak draft, and he may not have much room to grow from the player he’s expected to become as a sophomore.
You can read the rest of the mock draft here, which features RJ Barrett at pick No. 1, a G-League player going in the first round, and more.