Last night, a whole lot of pressure was lifted off of Coach Cal and UK next season when Kevin Knox committed to the Wildcats. With Hamidou Diallo’s decision up in the air right now, UK needed a leading scorer to carry the team next year, and they got one.
As of now, UK’s team is in great shape for next year, but the addition of a few more pieces could make this team a nightmare for opposing teams.
Here are the next major decisions coming up, with each potentially making a significant impact on next year.
The best defender in high school has yet to announce his decision, but most analysts feel a decision is coming this month between UK, Texas, Michigan, and Duke.
The 6-11 forward/center would immediately give UK the most impressive frontcourt in America, and quite possibly the No. 1 team in the preseason rankings next season. His ability to alter and deflect shots at the rim is second to none, falling right in line with the dominant defenders of the Calipari era in Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Bamba and Nick Richards are both defensive minded talents, which would make it nearly impossible for opposing teams to enter the paint next year.
On the offensive side of the ball, he has a few polished moves and a developing mid-range jumper. He’s still raw, but his ceiling is incredibly high.
Bamba has an incredible relationship with UK’s current commitments and signees, and reportedly talks to them on a daily basis. Texas is making a big push, but I believe Bamba’s connection with Kentucky players pushes him to Lexington next season.
The sharpshooting transfer has narrowed his decision down to five schools, but UK and Arizona seem to be the frontrunners in his recruitment.
The 6’8 shooting guard shot 42% from behind the arc last season for Pittsburgh, giving whatever school he chooses an elite scoring threat from day one. With two years remaining on his eligibility, he provides a veteran presence, which would be extremely beneficial for an extremely young team like UK.
With Knox committing to Kentucky, it will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. Though he claimed UK was his leader a few days ago, Johnson is currently on a visit to Arizona, and UK’s latest addition may very well send him that direction.
While Johnson now has a little doubt, I still think there’s a shot he still ends up at Kentucky. As of now, the shooting guard position is “technically” wide open, and he could come in and start alongside Kevin Knox. Can you imagine two guys over 6’8 on the wings at Kentucky?
I believe Johnson’s decision has a lot to do with another guy…
Prediction: Kentucky if Diallo stays in Draft, Arizona if Diallo comes back.
News recently came out that Diallo will not be performing in five-on-five drills at the upcoming NBA Combine, only going through individual workouts and measurements. But is that good news or bad news for Kentucky?
With the “mystery” aspect still in play for Diallo, he is likely opting out of participating on the chance a team takes him purely based on potential. If he were to participate in live scrimmages and struggled, teams would’ve certainly told him to head back to school. Now that there’s still an “unknown” factor to his game, a team could see Diallo as a 2018 lottery pick, and think it’d be idiotic to not take him a year early late in the first round. The Bucks have done it twice with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker, and they’re reaping the benefits on both decisions.
Reports say Diallo has improved his jump shot immensely over the past four months at UK, and he’s still the athletic freak we knew him as when he got to school. It just takes one team to promise a first round pick…
Many folks believe Knox’s addition signals the departure of Diallo, especially with many NBA executives apparently claiming Diallo is the most athletic player attending the combine. Though some of the latest mock drafts list Diallo as a second round pick, Gary Parrish believes there’s not a doubt in his mind the UK freshman will be taken in the first.
Knox’s addition signals a sigh of relief for UK fans worried about scoring for next year, but Diallo’s loss would still sting.
Prediction: Stays in NBA Draft
Let’s take a look at the best case scenario for next season:
Quade Green/Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Hamidou Diallo/Jemarl Baker
Kevin Knox/Cameron Johnson
PJ Washington/Jarred Vanderbilt/Wenyen Gabriel
Mohamed Bamba/Nick Richards/Sacha Killeya-Jones
Obviously the odds are slim the roster looks exactly like this, with a change here and there likely. Nonetheless, I think it’s a guarantee we see the platoon system activated.