Jeremy Woo over at Sports Illustrated released his first “NBA Draft Big Board” of the year now that he and everyone else have been able to see the early talent in college basketball and beyond. Among the 60 NBA hopefuls named to SI’s board of prospects, you will find three Kentucky Wildcats. And only one anywhere in the good money range.
Up first, SI ranks Tyrese Maxey seventh overall behind five point guards and James Wiseman in the top six.
Here’s what Woo wrote about Kentucky’s hot/cold freshman guard:
7. Tyrese Maxey, G, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 200 | Age: 19
Maxey has been Kentucky’s most important player, primarily because he’s the only one who can consistently go get a bucket when they need one. That will be his likely fate in the pros as well, and although he’s an undersized shooting guard, his ability to handle and create some secondary offense is also attractive. Maxey’s strong build should help him on the defensive end and as a finisher, and it’s a fairly good bet that those strengths eventually translate to the NBA. He’s a creative, confident scorer at all three levels, and his enthusiasm can be infectious. Though Maxey can capably handle using a ball screen, the fact he’s not a true lead guard by trade limits some of the upside here. The fact he should be able to stay on the floor defensively helps. Maxey has been up and down to start the season, but as Kentucky settles in together, expect some improvement.
You’ll have to scroll down toward the bottom of the first-round talent to find one of Maxey’s teammates, Kahlil Whitney, at No. 29.
29. Kahlil Whitney, SF, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 210 | Age: 18
It’s not altogether shocking that Whitney has struggled to acclimate at Kentucky, as he’s never really been asked to fit in before. His primary appeal as a prospect remains his appealing frame and athletic tools, and he has the potential to be a strong defender on the wing who can add some secondary scoring, as well. However, it’s clear he’s not especially close to reaching that point, and how he responds to adversity from here will dictate a lot with respect to his draft stock. His upside keeps him in the first round picture for now, but he’s done little to truly earn it thus far. Whitney will need some proof of production to stabilize his stock as a first-round caliber flier.
Three spots lower at No. 32, Ashton Hagans:
32. Ashton Hagans, PG, Kentucky | Sophomore
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 190 | Age: 20
While it’s not necessarily likely that Hagans becomes more than an average jump shooter (if that) the fact he’s a potentially elite-level on-ball defender makes him an intriguing long-term prospect. If he works himself into a capable threat from the perimeter, he has a clear pathway to NBA value, and the fact he’s a good free throw shooter may point to some untapped ability there. If not, his defensive impact might still make him a useful bench player. Hagans’s length, quick feet and defensive anticipation can give opposing guards fits, and the fact he’s capable of running a team and making plays for others should at least tailor him for a backup spot. As it stands, he’s draftable, but more on the first-round periphery.
Nick Richards was not mentioned.