It's officially "Graduation Day" in Kentucky as many would say; or one person in particular would say...
The night of all nights. The night where college basketball players dreams truly do come true as they get their named called and get to walk across that stage (pre-Covid) and shake NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's hand. The night where Kentucky gets to shine on all of their successes throughout the one-and-done era and further help Coach Cal prove to recruits that Lexington is the place that can get you to where you want to be.
38 players have been drafted from the University of Kentucky since John Calipari took over the throne in 2009. This year SEVEN Wildcats entered their names into the NBA Draft, with the realistic outcome being projected around only 2-3 that end up getting drafted.
Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery, Nate Sestina and Kahlil Whitney, who opted out of the season in late January, all decided to make the jump from college to the pros.
What we know so far is that Tyrese Maxey IS getting drafted, as he's projected mid-first round, as high as 10th and as late as 17th. The star-studded Kentucky point guard is expected to have an amazing career in the league, and follow down the road of other great Kentucky guards like John Wall and De'Aaron Fox. The 10th-17th picks are owned by the Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics (via MEM), Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets (via POR), Minnesota Timberwolves (via BKN), Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets (via PHI) and the Miami Heat. One of those teams will likely be his next home.
Immanuel Quickley is being projected to be a mid-to-late second round pick, still with no guarantee of even being drafted. So we can only assume that Maxey is the only lock for this draft by Kentucky, but a few could go in the late second round. I'd take a strong bet out on Quickley hearing his name called, as many franchises seem to be high on him. Deservedly so, after a monster sophomore season in Lexington.
Just weeks before the Draft, things have been starting to heat up for Kahlil Whitney, who only played 18 games for Kentucky before deciding to leave the program. He averaged 3.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.4 APG and played roughly 13 minutes a game. Not quite the impressive college resume as you'd like to have if you're trying to get drafted, but now it seems to be actually helping him because franchises are going off the limited footage they have seen of him, with concerns of taking a chance on him due to his freakish athleticism that we know is there. I guess it's better to have limited footage of a player than a bunch of flat out bad footage, which I fully believe is the problem EJ Montgomery is battling right now, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Many believe Ashton Hagans has little-to-no shot of being drafted by a franchise, but if he were to, it would be a late second round choice. Now do I think he'll get a pick up in as an Undrafted Free Agent? Yes. A Two-Way contract is a very likely option for Hagans as a team would like to take a chance on him during the next few months.
Nick Richards had a little buzz on a team taking a chance on him with a late 'steal' of the Draft, but now I think the majority of that has died down as the Draft got closer. He isn't currently being projected anywhere, but a lot of teams have expressed interest in him, and could extend a Summer League contract or Two-Way Contract through their G-League affiliate team. Multiple NBA Franchises have said that Nick Richards has the ability to be great, and "definitely has the NBA type body" already, coming off a close finish of nearly earning the SEC Player of the Year award. In my opinion, Nick Richards will slip between the cracks these next few days, but I definitely would not be surprised for when the day comes that he has grinded his way onto an NBA roster and finally reaches what he's out to get.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but EJ Montgomery isn't getting drafted. As much as I hate it for the kid, he just isn't NBA material quite yet. Almost every season, Kentucky has a guy that takes that gamble to the league that just isn't ready.. The Dakar Johnsons of the world, so to speak. Now that doesn't mean he can't make some serious money overseas if he finds his groove on a team. Look at Dakari Johnson right now. He just led the Anhui Oriental Dragons of the NBL (the Chinese CBA’s minor/developmental league) to a title, while getting named the MVP. There are plenty of options to "make it" out of the country, and I think that's EJ's best path right now. His time at Kentucky just didn't work out and everyone except him, believed he needed year three in Lexington.
Nate Sestina hasn't once been projected on any mock drafts over the offseason, as he left Kentucky due to graduation. He spent four seasons at Bucknell, the used a graduate-transfer year with Coach Cal. Nate is a guy who I honestly believe could have an exceptional career through the overseas route, and make a good living such as guys like Reid Travis, Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins are right now. I think Nate is a great player, but the NBA is just way too quick for him. He's not quite as big as you need to be as a power forward, nor is he tall enough. I think he has a long time before getting any chances to play in the NBA, if those chances ever do come.
Round 1 of the NBA Draft starts at 7 pm ET tonight, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have the first pick.
Golden State Warriors
New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Pelicans
Boston Celtics (via MEM)
Houston Rockets (via POR)
Minnesota Timberwolves (via BKN)
Brooklyn Nets (via PHI)
Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)
Denver Nuggets (via HOU)
New York Knicks (via UTAH)
New Orleans Pelicans (via IND)
Oklahoma City Thunder (via DEN)
Utah Jazz (via LAC)
Oklahoma City Thunder (via LAL)
Boston Celtics (via MIL)
Dallas Mavericks (via GSW)
Charlotte Hornets (via CLE)
Philadelphia 76ers (via ATL)
Sacramento Kings (via DET)
Philadelphia 76ers (via NYK)
Washington Wizards (via CHI)
Utah Jazz (via CHA)
New Orleans Pelicans (via WAS)
Memphis Grizzlies (via PHX)
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Pelicans
Chicago Bulls (via MEM)
Milwaukee Bucks (via ORL)
Portland Trail Blazers
Boston Celtics (via BKN)
Golden State Warriors (via DAL)
Atlanta Hawks (via MIA)
Golden State Warriors (via UTA)
Sacramento Kings (via HOU)
Oklahoma City Thunder
Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets)
Charlotte Hornets (via BOS)
Philadelphia 76ers (via LAL)