We’ve officially reached the time of year fans dread. The players are in the process of going home and talking about their upcoming NBA decisions with their families, and the majority of the time, the end result sucks. Saying goodbye to our favorite Wildcats is never fun, but that’s what comes with bringing in top talent year in and year out.
Let’s break down the upcoming decisions of each Wildcat:
After a dominant regular season, it was just about guaranteed Fox would head to the NBA following his freshman year at Kentucky. After lighting up future top-3 selection Lonzo Ball in the Sweet 16, it would be the shock of a lifetime to see the fastest player in college basketball return next year. He has all of the tools NBA scouts drool over, showing off unbelievable court vision, elite speed, and beating even the best guards in America off the dribble to finish uncontested at the rim.
The one flaw in his game, shooting, even saw a dramatic improvement at year’s end. He was comfortable taking shots from behind the arc, and his pull-up jumper at the elbow was consistent. His shot absolutely kept defenders honest by tournament time.
I didn’t believe the John Wall comparisons going into the year, but he proved throughout his time at Kentucky he was deserving of such high expectations. He flourished in the spotlight, and showed off everything you can ask out of a college basketball player and NBA prospect.
Prediction: NBA Draft (Top 5)
Similar to Fox, Monk impressed scouts from the minute he got on campus, and that infatuation never wavered. Monk is considered one of the best shooters in the draft, combined with top-level athleticism and dunking ability. On any given night, the freshman out of Lepanto, AR has the ability to drop 20+ points on you, and NBA teams were sold on that alone.
Early criticism of his game centered around his lack of effort on defense, rebounding, and poor shot selection. When Monk struggled to get shots to fall late in the year, he focused on improving on his weaknesses and converting them to strengths. His passing improved, his defensive intensity spiked, and his shot selection was less errant. We began to see the complete player Monk is capable of becoming, and nearly every draft board out there penciled him in as a top-five lock accordingly.
Without a doubt, he’s gone.
Prediction: NBA Draft (Top 5)
Adebayo’s situation is much different than the other two “locks” on the team. To start the year, he would throw down some ferocious dunks and send an opponent’s shot or two into the stands, but he struggled to rebound and thrive on offense. In February, Bam looked like a man amongst boys, and many thought a jump into the lottery was inevitable. He was a walking double-double, as his efforts on the glass increased, and the offense moved through him in the paint.
In March, he still showed spurts of greatness, but never seemed to find consistency at the basket. Even in the Elite Eight game against UNC, Bam’s hands were unreliable and he fumbled the ball in the paint more often than not. He still gets blocked by weaker opponents at the rim, and fails to finish on some of the gimmes he is absolutely capable of converting.
He hasn’t developed much of an offensive game other than alley-oops, open dunks, and one-step jump hooks.
He’ll enter the draft, but it’ll be entirely centered around potential and his NBA-ready body.
Prediction: NBA Draft (Late 1st round)
It’s not a secret Isaiah Briscoe wanted to leave last year, but his atrocious shooting percentage forced him to return. He has always been able to finish around the rim, find the open man, and flourish in the ball handling department, but he struggled to get pretty much anything other than layups to fall.
This year, his shooting behind the arc and from the line improved, he was a veteran leader for the freshman, and came up with clutch plays when no one else on the team did.
On the flip side, he turned the ball over far too often for a guard, and his shot still is nowhere near consistent. His three-point percentage went from 14% to about 29% this year, and his free throw percentage went from 47% to about 66%. Again, the numbers jumped, but not enough for scouts to drool over.
There were reports several teams had promised to select him in the second round last year, but he returned to try to inch his way into the first round. Unless he dominates in workouts, I don’t see a first round selection in his future, but he’ll take the opportunity to get picked up in the second round and earn a roster spot.
Prediction: NBA Draft (2nd Round)
After showing some early success against weaker opponents, many scouts thought Gabriel would be yet another one-and-done for Coach Cal. Against talented bigs, however, his lack of strength became a glaring weakness that wouldn’t go away anytime soon.
When SEC play heated up, as did his three-point jumper, and the idea of Gabriel becoming a stretch four in the NBA sparked some more interest. When he wasn’t able to contribute in the post, he was able to knock down open shots.
To end the year, however, Kentucky was getting just about nothing from Gabriel, and he rarely got off the bench as a result. In the Round of 32 against Lynn Marshall and the Wichita State Shockers, fans groaned as each of his jumpers clanked off the rim (or hit nothing but air). He has converted just 16% of his field goal attempts since UK’s matchup against Alabama on Feb. 11.
The potential is there, and a sophomore season at UK would be massive for both his development and the Wildcats’ on-court success. Right now, however, he’s nowhere near ready to declare for the draft, and would be making a huge mistake by doing so.
Prediction: Stays at Kentucky
The easy choice for Humphries would be to return to Kentucky, but after some of his recent comments about his discontent, that might be up in the air.
After preseason hype was off the charts, Humphries’ production on both ends of the court was extremely inconsistent this season. His touch around the basket wasn’t what it was last season, and he wasn’t as successful on the boards as many expected him to be. He didn’t have a bad year by any stretch, but he admittedly was not impressed with his growth during his sophomore campaign.
When asked by the media a few weeks back, Humprhies said his basketball future at Kentucky was up in the air, and he would evaluate his options this offseason.
When the spotlight hit during the tournament, however, he dominated. If it weren’t for you know what, we’d be talking about Humphries’ MVP performance against UNC, where he managed to drop a career-high 12 points and dominated on the glass. Hopefully he sees that game as a building block for next season as a Wildcat.
Prediction: Stays at Kentucky
He has been adamant on social media that he will be returning next year at Kentucky, but after sitting out 23 games on the year and not logging a single minute since January 21, it makes you wonder.
Say what you want about rotations or being lost on the court, but Brad Calipari logged more minutes than a former five-star recruit since January.
As much as I like Sacha and believe he has the ability to be a big player for UK in the future, I’m not sold he’s returning.
Prediction: Transfers from Kentucky
What do you all think?