Going into the season, Kentucky’s list of potential draft prospects was extensive. Brandon Boston Jr. came in as a likely top-five pick, Terrence Clarke was a sure-fire lottery pick and Isaiah Jackson was emerging as a potential first-rounder with an outside shot at the lottery. And then from there, Keion Brooks Jr. and Olivier Sarr were both seen as potential draft selections, giving the Wildcats as many as five picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.
And then the season started.
Following Kentucky’s 4-9 start to the season and inconsistent play across the board, the team’s collective draft stock has taken a significant hit.
In Sports Illustrated’s latest mock draft released Wednesday, only two Kentucky players were projected as first round picks, with both falling outside the lottery. Boston is the first off the board at No. 18 overall, followed by Jackson at No. 25.
Clarke, Brooks and Sarr were nowhere to be seen.
Here is what Sports Illustrated said about Boston and Jackson:
18. Rockets (from Trail Blazers): Brandon Boston, SG, Kentucky
Height: 6′ 7” | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Boston has been one of the more disappointing players in college basketball this season, and where exactly his stock falls right now is certainly up for debate, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t turn pro, and I still think there’s a fairly good chance he ends up in the first round. The hype surrounding him out of high school was perhaps a bit overwrought, focusing more on the cosmetic aspect of his scoring than his actual ability to impact winning. What he’s done at Kentucky has to be rock bottom, and it’s begun to feel like a lot of his struggles are confidence-based and not as much an indictment of his skill level.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Boston will actually turn his season around. Expectations need to be reset, but I don’t think he’ll be a 17% three-point shooter forever. NBA teams tend to like buying low on players with All-America pedigree—Cole Anthony just went 15th in the draft despite a bad year in college—and Boston could conceivably fall into that category, too. He’s a big wing with the ability to get separation off the dribble, and there’s a reason guys like him aren’t just lying around the G League. I’m personally not all the way there on Boston, but at some point in the draft, someone is going to take a chance. Obviously, will help if he can find any semblance of a rhythm over the next six weeks.
25. 76ers: Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Height: 6’ 10” | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Jackson has put himself in the one-and-done conversation despite not actually playing all that well for Kentucky. His insane 15.9% block rate is notable, as are his athletic tools, but he’s scored in double figures just once and has predictably been foul-prone and undisciplined on defense. Clearly, Jackson is a long-term project, and his scoring derives entirely from being fed easy baskets by teammates. He’s not quite a Mitchell Robinson–level shot-blocking prospect, but the overall package here is going to be worth a shot for somebody. Jackson needs to play better down the stretch to firm up his range, which as of now is unsurprisingly pretty wide.
Does that mean UK could get some surprise returnees for the 2021-22 season? Unfortunately, low draft stock has not deterred Kentucky players from making the jump in recent years.
Would be nice.