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NBA PM: Eight Kentucky Wildcats Going Pro?

As many as eight players from the Kentucky Wildcats could be entering the 2014 NBA Draft … Jabari Parker still undecided about future

Yannis Koutroupis

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BasketballInsiders.com’s Yannis Koutroupis and CineSport’s Noah Coslov discuss which players in the Final Four are flying under the radar as NBA draft prospects.

Eight Kentucky Wildcats Going Pro?

When Aaron Harrison nailed the game-winning three against Michigan, he didn’t just send the Kentucky Wildcats to the Final Four. He also earned the coaching staff and athletic director $330,000 in bonuses, adding fuel to the fire that college student-athletes deserve to be paid. While the NCAA and universities netting billions off of amateur athletes and restricting their potential income in the process is an issue that needs to be addressed, no tears should be shed for Harrison and his teammates – because their big pay day is just around the corner.

One of the other byproducts of this unexpected run by the Wildcats is that their entire rotation’s draft stock is rising.

Regardless of how they fare at the Final Four, eight Wildcats are going to have to legitimately sit down and contemplate whether they want to return next season or go pro. For some the decision will be clear cut, while others may want/need to stay, but would have to embrace the risk of losing playing time to another loaded recruiting class coming into Lexington. Calipari already has National Letters of Intent from four of the top recruits in the 2014: shooting guard Devin Booker, point guard Tyler Ulis, power forward Trey Lyles and center Karl Towns Jr.

Here’s a look at each of those eight players individually and where they stand in terms of the NBA Draft:

Julius Randle – Power Forward
Once Randle arrives back in Lexington, he should immediately pack his bags and get ready to move to wherever he is doing his pre-draft training, because his time in college has come to an end. Kentucky head coach John Calipari wouldn’t let him stay if he wanted to. The whole reason Randle signed on to play for Cal was to be groomed into the best prospect he could be and that has happened. He’s put up a double-double every tournament game so far and while Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins have been watching since the opening weekend, he’s established himself as the most pro ready of the bunch.

We’ll have to see just how high that moves him on draft night, but Randle’s stock is firmly in the top four and there is absolutely no reason for him to even think about staying for his sophomore season.

James Young – Small Forward
At times this year, Young has played like a top 10 pick. Unfortunately for Young, that was earlier in the season. He’s been steady, but not as explosive as he was earlier in the year. Still, there’s not going to be much debate for Young when he thinks about staying or going. He needs to go. As one of the top-ranked small forwards in the class with pro-level skills offensively, Young is highly unlikely to last past the middle portion of the first round. He’s going to see the floor right away as a rookie because of his ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways. What will really determine how successful he is as a pro is his defense. Young has all the tools to be a quality defender. If he makes the most of them and continues to polish his offensive game, he could be a starter sooner rather than later.

Andrew Harrison – Point Guard
There are few positions in college basketball that hold more prestige than playing point guard under Coach Calipari. Andrew hasn’t played up to the level of his predecessors Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or John Wall. His numbers are more on pace with what Marquis Teague put up during the Wildcats’ championship run in 2012, but he still ended up being a first round pick despite modest statistics and Andrew could as well. At 6’6, Harrison is a big point guard who has made strides throughout the season, both in his play and his approach. For a young team in need of a leader, Andrew has become one and an NBA team in the later portion of the first round is going to make the investment in him with hopes that his biggest improvements are still yet to come.

Aaron Harrison – Shooting Guard
Few players in the country have been scoring in as efficient a manner as Aaron, the hero in Kentucky’s Elite Eight victory over Michigan. He’s really found his niche in Calipari’s offense, looking comfortable and confident. At 6’6, he too has good size for the next level, although his advantage isn’t as great as Aaron’s is at the point. He’s arguably the second best player on the team right now behind Randle, so don’t expect him to give coming back much consideration either. His decision is made easier by the fact that his brother’s stock has started to rise too. They’ve played together their entire lives and they’ll likely want to go through the pre-draft process together as well.

Dakari Johnson – Center
Calipari has invested a lot of time in Johnson and put his faith in the center’s development. He reaped the benefits from his patience against Louisville as Johnson went for 15 points and six rebounds. He’s shooting a ridiculous 66 percent in the tournament and at 7’0, 265 lbs. he has the size, strength and low-post skills that will help teams look past the fact that he’s extremely raw and likely a couple of years away from being a consistent NBA player. He’s really going to have to work on his body and adjust to the increased speed and athleticism that he’ll be facing, but is potentially playing behind Lyles and Towns the best way for him to do that? Probably not, which is why Johnson could be gone despite the fact that he’s far from ready.

Willie Cauley-Stein – Center
It’s very likely that Cauley-Stein would have been a first-round pick last year had he decided to declare. He envisioned playing a bigger role as a sophomore and moving into the top 10, but his playing time has remained virtually the same and his production has actually declined in some areas. Still, he’s an athletic seven footer who has all the makings of a defensive force at the next level. He suffered an ankle injury against Louisville that looks like it could cost him the rest of the tournament (he did not play against Michigan and has been ruled “doubtful” for the Final Four). That’s not the kind of note he wanted to leave on, but at this time it seems like Kentucky has done all it can for him. Even if he doesn’t play this weekend, he’s still likely to be a mid-to-late first round pick. The perceived upside you have as a sophomore is far greater than as a junior, especially if he doesn’t make monumental improvements. The pressure to produce at a much higher level, while battling projected lottery picks for playing time, makes the risk outweigh the reward in Cauley-Stein’s case.

Alex Poythress – Small Forward/Power Forward
Fair or not, a lot of Poythress’ teammates are going to look at his situation as reason to bolt early. Poythress probably would have been a late first-round pick last year after putting up 11.2 points and six rebounds a game. However, he wasn’t content with how his freshman season went and decided to stick around. His role was reduced to 18 minutes a game this season as he was out-recruited by the arrival of Randle. Cal has tried to use him in different ways and find a way to get more production out of him, to no avail. He did play a vital role in their win against Louisville and winning a national championship would certainly help ease the pain from his sophomore slump, but returning has not paid off for Poythress. As much as his stock has dropped, his decision to leave has probably been made for months now. When playing at his natural position as a power forward, Poythress could help an NBA team as a blue collar reserve. Look for him to get selected in the early-to-middle portion of the second round.

Marcus Lee – Power Forward
This season Lee has averaged 6.1 minutes a game, putting up 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds a game. As a top 25 recruit who would have been seeing far more playing time at California or Louisville, who he spurned to be a Wildcat, it’s been a tough pill to swallow. He didn’t let that frustration prevent him from being ready when his number was called against Michigan, though. He came in and absolutely assaulted the offensive glass, scoring 10 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking two shots to help the Wildcats edge the Wolverines by three. They wouldn’t be alive still if it wasn’t for his outburst. One good game is hardly enough to justify being one-and-done, but Lee is a serious talent with great potential. If he declared, he wouldn’t go undrafted. Remember, Daniel Orton was a first-round pick despite only playing 13.2 minutes a game during his lone season at Kentucky. With Cauley-Stein potentially out for the rest of the season, Lee is positioned to see big minutes in North Texas once again. If he continues to surprise, he may decide to cash in because it’s not like a featured role is waiting for him next season. He’s going to be fighting an uphill battle to start over Lyles and Towns. The only way he stays is if he’s completely confident in his ability to push his stock even higher next year while likely being the third big man in the rotation. That’s a risky proposition – just ask Poythress.

Parker Still Undecided

Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker is projected to be a top four pick by almost every website that covers the draft, but there has always been talk that he could stick around for his sophomore season. Duke’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament increased those odds, as does the appeal of playing with one of Coach K’s best recruiting classes in recent memory, which features his close friend and dominant-low post presence Jahlil Okafor. Parker has just under four weeks to make his decision, and appears to be content to use a lot of it.

“He’s undecided and we know the [NBA’s Early Entry eligibility] deadline is the 27th [of April] so if he’s going to make a decision he has to make it by that date but right now he’s undecided,” Sonny Parker, Jabari’s father, told SNY.tv.

“He’s still in school. He goes to Duke University. He’s hitting the books, man. It’s all about school for him. He has to unwind from the season.

“It’s going to be his decision. I don’t put no pressure on him. He’s gotta make a decision when he’s coming out. He’s 19 years old now, he ain’t in high school right now.”

The fact that Parker is focusing on academics and not pre-draft training, as most of the other prospects whose seasons have come to an end are, is telling. Draft workouts may not hold as much importance for Parker as others, but you still want to go into them prepared and in shape.

If Parker decides to stay, it’s solely because he enjoys the collegiate experience and wants to be a part of a potential national championship team next season. The NBA is calling and he is ready (offensively at least). He doesn’t stand to gain much by returning, but it’s become a regular occurrence for at least one highly-ranked prospect to stick around despite his stock seemingly being peaked. Parker could be the one to do so this year.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: The Top of The 2018 Draft Is Getting Crowded

The top of the projected 2018 NBA Draft is starting to get interesting, mainly because so many potential draft prospects are having incredibly dominant seasons.

Steve Kyler

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Things Are Getting Interesting

While the projected 2018 NBA Draft class doesn’t seem to have a future superstar sitting at the top of the board, there are potentially four players that are really looking the part of future NBA All-Stars and it’s making the top of the class very interesting.

Say what you want about stats, but there is little doubt that the numbers some of the top prospects are posting so far this season are pretty compelling.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is averaging 21.1 points per game to go with 10.9 rebounds. His 61.7 percent field goal average is impressive, especially when you consider he’s knocking in 34.6% of his three (9-26 on the season). Bagley has a 32.2 PER with a 64.6 True Shooting percentage and a 26.7 usage rate. In short, highly productive almost everywhere without having to own the basketball.

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is posting similarly ridiculous numbers, 19.5 points per game with 11.4 rebounds. His 61.7 percent from the field also comes with an impressive 30.4 percent three-point average (7-23 on the season). Ayton’s 32.3 PER is a nose higher than Bagley. He is also posting a whopping 65.6 True Shooting percentage with a 26.7 percentage usage rate. Again, highly productive in every way without being so ball-dominant to skew the numbers. Ayton hit the ground running at Arizona and really hasn’t had a bad game yet.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young has burst into the top-five discussion in a huge way. His 6’2 180-pound frame looks small on the court, but his game has been tremendous. Young is posting 28.7 points per game with a monster 10.4 assists per contest. He is grabbing 3.5 rebounds while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from two-point range and a scorching 41.1 percent from three (44 of 107 on the season). Young’s 38 PER is tops in all of college basketball. He has a 65.2 True Shooting percentage and a 36.1 usage rate. Unlike Bagley and Ayton, Young does control the ball, but that’s typical for an impact scoring point guard. He offsets the ball dominance with incredible assist numbers. He is also pretty spectacular to watch.

International phenom Luka Dončić is having a solid season in his own right, although his averages are lower because he doesn’t play the same volume of minutes as the NCAA collegiate prospects. In 26 games in both the Euroleague and the ACB, Dončić is posting 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest. He is shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from international three (48 of 135 on the season). Dončić is posting a 28.2 PER in Euroleague play and a 23.7 PER in ACB play. Dončić’s True Shooting numbers in Euroleague play are impressive at 66.2 percent. In ACB play his number drop a bit to 58.1 percent. His usage numbers illustrate the same slip. In Euroleague play, he posts a 30 percent usage rate while posting a 26.6 percent usage rate in ACB. Dončić typically plays more minutes and a larger role in Euroleague play. Hence the stat shift. If you haven’t seen him play, he’s so instinctual and gifted it easy to see why many see him as the top pick.

There are some compelling storylines to watch towards the top of the NBA draft board, which is likely why so many NBA executives seem split on who they would peg as the top talent in the projected 2018 Draft class.

So, with that out the way, lets jump into the latest first-round 2018 NBA Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Boston.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.

Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.

The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.

A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.

The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.

This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.

There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.

As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.

So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would not convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

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Mock Drafts

NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

Steve Kyler

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The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out our Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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