Going into the last month of the season, there’s almost always as much speculation on which Kentucky players will leave for the NBA as there is on what seed Kentucky will have in the NCAA Tournament.
The problem is that NBA scouts/officials are not allowed to publicly comment on potential draft picks and players are not about to indicate what they might do when the season ends. Then there is coach John Calipari — who is always going to point out the best traits individual players have and tout their future capability because that’s part of his program.
What about all the NBA mock drafts that have sophomore PJ Washington and freshman Keldon Johnson as likely first-round draft picks? Or the ones that have freshman Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro as first-round picks in 2020 (after their sophomore seasons)? Of course, there are also some mock drafts with Herro and Hagans being picked in this year’s draft.
So what will happen? Well, here’s my educated guess — and it’s nothing more than a guess with a little helpful insight from a few folks with NBA connections who have to remain anonymous because of their jobs.
Okay, he’s going to be gone because he’s a fifth-year senior. The question is where, or if, he will be drafted. The guess here is that he’ll go in the second round because his lack of overall athleticism will hurt his stock.
He could have been a second-round pick last year but came back to UK to improve his draft status and has. “He just needs to keep showing he can do it consistently. He has made a lot of profess and has to keep adding on to what he has built,” one NBA source said.
Improved 3-point shooting is one plus for Washington but his more consistent effort/production is even bigger. “He is doing good things on both ends of the floor. If he plays with energy, he’s really an attractive guy. Everybody is looking for winners and PJ is helping himself right now,” one NBA scout said.
The guess is not a lottery pick but middle of the first round.
He’s had some low points this season but Johnson still seems destined to be a lottery pick in part because he plays on the perimeter where teams are always looking for help. He’s become a better 3-point shooter and he is a high energy, dynamic playmaker in the open court that teams like and always need. He’s still a work in progress on defense but no one doubts his skill level or athleticism.
He looks like another UK lottery pick.
Calipari seldom goes more than a few days without touting Richards’ athleticism but the sophomore’s lack of consistency leaves a lot of questions. Many expect him to go ahead and roll the dice by putting his name into the draft despite his tendency to disappear too often.
Could be a second-round pick by a quality team willing to sign him for a minimum amount, put him the developmental league and hope he puts his overall game together.
Hagans can defend as well as anyone, Herro can score as well as anyone. Hagans has to improve his outside shot to where he’s not an offensive liability and Herro could still improve his defense. Most NBA folks I know think both should wait until the 2020 draft.
Herro might become a late first-round draft pick with a huge finish or big workouts for NBA teams. However, the guess here today is that both will be back at UK next year and NBA scouts said that's the advice they would give both.
Don’t be surprised to see him put his name into the draft like Washington did last year. If he does, he’ll likely get the same feedback Washington did — stay at UK, improve his perimeter shooting and show he can produce consistently like Washington has. That's why I expect him back at UK next season.