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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

SI: Kevin Knox could be the Knicks’ Missing Piece

In less than two days, Kevin Knox has taken New York City by storm.

After the Kentucky wing was drafted ninth overall by the New York Knicks, he chose to wear the No. 20, the same number worn by Allan Houston.  Knox’s decision to embrace the Houston-esque hype has many believing he could be the final piece the Knicks needed to turn around the struggling franchise.

One of those who is buying into the Knox hype is Sports Illustrated’s Kenny Ducey.  It’s not just Knox’s style of play, or his age that has the Knicks’ excited, it’s his tenacity.  He battled in workouts and showed new head coach David Fizdale that he’s willing to fight to be successful.

If that’s the way he grew in just a few short months, it’s tantalizing to consider where he could be after just a year of working with Fizdale, who’s known for turning players into warriors on the floor. It’s also important to consider how young Knox is; over the offseason, after hitting the gym, he’d hop right on his gaming console at night for a few hours of Fortnite. He’s just a kid, and his mental makeup is still very much taking shape.

With Fizdale and a host of promising assistants committed to player development in the fold, the Knicks could be looking forward to a future with a 20-point scorer on their hands, and perhaps even one who can feed off chippiness and sink teams like Durant, who Knox looks forward to facing soon.

Knox has a long way to go, but if he gets there with the Knicks the Kentucky Wildcat can become a New York Legend.

[Sports Illustrated]

Official: Wenyen Gabriel joins Sacramento Kings for Summer League

Official: Wenyen Gabriel joins Sacramento Kings for Summer League


Earlier today, former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel announced on Twitter he was “Coming to SAC!” with an image of him in front of a Sacramento Kings backdrop.

Most assumed it meant he would play with the Kings for summer league, but no one knew for certain or the extent of the signing.

Now, Sacramento reporter Sean Cunningham is reporting Gabriel has officially joined the summer league roster, but whether he will stay with the team or not afterward has yet to be determined.

Gabriel worked out for the Kings back on May 21.

We saw Derek Willis do the same with the Detroit Pistons last offseason, and he eventually played with the team’s G-League affiliate throughout the entire year. Today it was announced he has joined the New Orleans Pelicans for the Summer League.

Now, Gabriel will have to carve out his role in the summer league and hopefully earn a spot at training camp.

Best of luck, Wenyen.

How Kentucky’s Draftees Fit in With Their New Teams

© Brad Penner | USATSI

Now that the NBA draft is over, we finally know where our five (well, four. Wenyen Gabriel went undrafted) former Kentucky Wildcats will be playing at the next level. Let’s take a look at how they project on their new teams.

Kevin Knox – No. 9 New York Knicks

It’s a bit of a shock, but it’s official, Kevin Knox is going to be a member of the New York Knicks.

While he went higher in the draft than I expected (I had him falling off a cliff all the way to No. 17 despite most mock drafts slotting him in the 9-11 range), New York may actually be one of the best possible scenarios for him.

Instead of going in the middle of the first round to teams such as the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, or Milwaukee Bucks – all teams with solidified shooting guards – the Knicks saw the gaping hole in their backcourt and went for the 6-foot-10 guard who can shoot from anywhere on the court.

So how does Knox fit in with the Knicks? Quite favorably, actually.

The Knicks backcourt consists of Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina at the point with Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard. Knox is better suited to play the two, especially early in his NBA career, but will still earn plenty of minutes at the three on a young Knicks team still looking to build. Odds are he’ll see a lot of playing time at the small forward position as they try to work out a proper spot for him in the rotation. The Knicks have invested a large sum of money into Hardaway Jr. and he’s showed promise as their two-guard of the future, so Knox will have to play next to him or soak up minutes when he heads to the bench.

Knox is a good fit for New York because he brings another threat from the perimeter and can help make open shots as defenses will turn most of their focus on Kristaps Porzingis.

Knox still needs to work on becoming more consistent when attacking the rim and playing focused defense, but his shooting stroke is undeniable. He shot 36.9 percent from NBA three-point range in his lone season at Kentucky, per The Stepien, which is around the league average and would be a great number for him to aim for in his first season.

Something that is key here is that he’s going to have opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them, something he wouldn’t have nearly as much leeway with if he were selected by a low-seed playoff team trying to win sooner rather than later.

Knox worked well next to a prolific floor general in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, something he won’t have in New York with Mudiay (who may be the most inconsistent player in the entire NBA) or Ntilikina just yet (who is entering his second year after a solid rookie year but primarily succeeded as a defensive stalwart). Knox will have to rely on working off Porzingis to generate shots until he can become more consistent getting to the rim, which is a blessing more than anything else. He’ll be able to hang along the perimeter and hunt for open looks. He could be an incredibly difficult cover with his height and shooting ability if he dedicates himself to consistent off-ball movement on offense.

Another reason this fit works so well is because of Knicks new head coach, David Fizdale. Fiz is a great players coach who has always been able to make connections and get the most out of guys who specialize in one area. Fizdale was overly impressed with Knox in workouts and the consensus appears to be that Fiz was the one who really wanted to take a gamble on Knox.

It’s hard to tell right now if Knox will be a starter – that’ll become more clear after free agency gets rolling – but he has a clear role on this team without playing one minute. The Knicks needed more outside shooting to complement the backcourt and Knox provides that immediately.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – No. 11 Los Angeles Clippers (via Hornets)

After originally being selected by the Charlotte Hornets, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers were desperate for a starting point guard and they finally got their man, one that fits perfectly into their scheme.

SGA immediately brings a floor general playstyle that the Clippers were obviously missing with the departure of Chris Paul. Patrick Beverley played only 11 games last season due to injury, so they missed his production at point guard, but he can’t run and direct an offense like SGA can. If the Clippers do manage to hang onto DeAndre Jordan before next season begins, he and SGA will form a dangerous pick-and-roll that can beat the defense from every area of the court and – more importantly – create open looks for shooters. SGA is great at attacking the rim, he has a solid outside jumper and reads defenses better than any guard prospect in this draft.

With Lou Williams and Tobias Harris taking on most of the scoring responsibility, SGA won’t be asked to do as much as he was at Kentucky and can focus on setting up his teammates and attacking with perfect precision. He’s a brilliant basketball mind and it will be put on display even more so than it was in college.

Jarred Vanderbilt – No. 41 Denver Nuggets (via Magic)

Of the four drafted, this is without a doubt my favorite fit. Jarred Vanderbilt is a humongous work in progress but with so much unique potential. He plays stellar defense, rebounds at an already elite level, can slip passes through the tiniest windows, and handle the ball like a guard. Going to Denver couldn’t have worked out any better for him, especially since Orlando – one of the two NBA graveyards (sorry, Sacramento) – was the team that drafted him before trading him to the Nuggets (I understand that Denver had Orlando make the pick for them, I’m just happy he didn’t get stuck there regardless).

Nuggets head coach Mike Malone led one of the league’s most dangerous offenses last season with a focus on pushing the tempo and scoring as many points in as little time as possible. Vando is a one-man fastbreak and gives the Nuggets another option to keep a fast pace and constant pressure on opposing defenses at all times.

Vanderbilt is going to desperately need to develop a consistent touch around the rim before he does anything else, but even without it, he can be plugged into a small-ball lineup surrounded by the Nuggets many shooters and thrive.

Vanderbilt joins two other former Wildcats, Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles, who both had the best seasons of their still young careers. The Nuggets slightly missed the playoffs, in large part to a putrid defense and streaky offense, something they’ll bring Vanderbilt in to try and correct. If fully healthy, Vando can make an impact on day one and could end up being one of the steals of this draft.

I think his connection with Nikola Jokic is going to be dangerous (when Paul Millsap is on the bench, at least) and their combined basketball IQ could wreak havoc on underprepared defenses. Off the bench, Vanderbilt could play the point forward role alongside Mason Plumlee, another great passing big. Noticing a trend here? Vando, Plumlee, Millsap, and Jokic are all great passing bigs. The Nuggets clearly value that and it’s worked in their favor thus far. With Murray, Harris, and Jokic all scheduled to have huge seasons, Vando could slide in and quietly make an impact for a playoff team.

Great pickup for Denver. Better fit for Vanderbilt.

Hamidou Diallo – No. 45 Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nets, Hornets)

After being drafted by the Brooklyn Nets (the team most expected him to ultimately end up on) and quickly traded to the Charlotte Hornets, Hamidou Diallo was once again traded, this time to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was on three teams in less than three hours, but Diallo finally found his home in OKC.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the same enthusiasm about Diallo’s fit in OKC as I do with Vando in Denver. The Thunder need shooting more than anything, in my opinion, and all they did was add another version of Terrence Ferguson to their plethora of over-the-top athletic guards/wings. With Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis, Andre Roberson, and Ferguson, the Thunder already have way too many players who aren’t reliable outside shooting threats. If Paul George (and hopefully Carmelo Anthony) find their way to new teams, that only exacerbates the situation.

Playing time will be hard to find for Diallo and I don’t see how he fits next to Westbrook in any way that benefits him more than it hurts him. Then there’s also the history of Victor Oladipo, who was held back like a fourth-year sixth grader until he graduated to Indianapolis where he is now an All-Star. Westbrook is an incredible player, but not one that regularly makes the players that surround him better. The team is in win-now mode more than ever as Westbrook continues to age, and I just don’t see how Diallo is going to fit into their scheme that doesn’t include having him float around the perimeter begging for an opportunity.

Had Charlotte or especially Brooklyn drafted him, I’d feel a lot better about his potential in his rookie season, but I don’t believe in the Thunder all-of-the-sudden going through an entire shift in their offensive gameplan. I think Diallo will get some chances early in the season, but this doesn’t look to be an ideal fit for him at the moment.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

Derek Willis Reportedly Finds Summer League Home

As the Kentucky’s 2018 Draft Class is making headlines, Derek Willis is making a move of his own.

The Big Blue Nation’s second-favorite Bullitt County native (behind Shannon the Dude, of course) will play in the NBA Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans, according to Sportando.  The news comes just a day after Willis celebrated a birthday.

Undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, Willis played his first year of professional basketball for the Grand Rapids Drive, the Detroit Pistons’ G-League affiliate.  The former Kentucky forward averaged 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and made 47 percent of his shots (37.6% 3FG) last year.

The Pelicans have transformed into the PeliCats over the last year.  Anthony Davis was joined by DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller before the start of the 2018 NBA season.  If Rondo and Cousins re-sign, and if Willis earns a roster spot, that’s six Wildcats on one NBA team.  Time to move to New Orleans.

The Odds a Kentucky Wildcat Wins Rookie of the Year

Less than 12 hours after the conclusion of the 2018 NBA Draft, Bovada has updated odds for the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  You can get some action on Kentucky’s two lottery picks.

Kevin Knox is tied with Michael Porter Jr., the player Knicks’ fans clamored for at the Barclays Center, as the seventh choice with 15-1 odds.  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is much farther down the list with 40-1 odds.  A look at

  • DeAndre Ayton, 13/5
  • Luke Doncic, 3/1
  • Marvin Bagley, 9/2
  • Trae Young, 7/1
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., 9/1
  • Mo Bamba, 11/1
  • Kevin Knox, 15/1
  • Michael Porter Jr., 15/1
  • Mikel Bridges, 22/1
  • Collin Sexton, 22/1
  • Miles Bridges, 28/1
  • Wendell Carter Jr., 28/1
  • Donte DiVincenzo, 40/1
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 40/1
  • Zaire Smith, 45/1
  • Lonnie Walker, 50/1
  • Robert Williams, 50/1

If I were a gambling man, Lonnie Walker at 50-1 is awfully enticing.  As always, wager responsibly friends.

Today on KSR: NBA Draft Fallout


It was a late night, so let’s get right into the meat and potatoes, shall we?

So. Many. Trades.

Kentucky fans have been goose-necked in a few NBA Drafts, most memorably with Nerlens Noel in 2013, but last night’s trades were unprecedented for the Big Blue Nation.  There were as many Kentucky Wildcats traded as there were Kentucky draft picks.

Kevin Knox was the only player to stay on the team that originally drafted, remaining with the New York Knicks.  Shai was shipped from Charlotte to the Clippers, Jarred Vanderbilt flipped from Orlando to Denver and Hamidou Diallo went from his hometown of Brooklyn, to Charlotte than Oklahoma City.

Knick Fans are Idiots

When Knox’s name was called, the stands were filled with boos.

He didn’t let the world’s worst fans get to him.  “They booed Porzingis [on draft night] and look where he is now. That’s the same mindset I’m going to have,” Knox said. “They can chant Michael Porter all they want. But they got Kevin Knox, and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to get better.”

Waiting on Wenyen

Kentucky’s “three and D” specialist did not hear his name called during last night’s draft.  Gabriel will sign with an NBA team as a free agent, it’s just a matter of who and when.  We’ll let you know as soon as the news breaks.

Coach Cal Extends a Record-Setting Streak

Kevin Knox’s selection at ninth overall gave John Calipari another Top Ten pick.  He’s coached at least one Top Ten picking each of the last 11 years.  It’s an unprecedented streak, the longest of common draft era (1966) according to ESPN.

Caption THIS:

The Greatest Fall Fail

Michael Porter Jr. was arguably the No. 1 overall pick when he signed with Missouri.  One year later he almost fell out of the lottery.  Health concerns scared away every team until Denver made the move with the 14th overall selection.

Porter Jr. wasn’t the Draft’s biggest loser.  That title belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Process Trusting heroes of yesteryear left the Barclays Center looking like a bunch of jerks.  With the tenth selection, they picked Mikal Bridges, the “3 and D” wing who grew up in Philly, won a National Championship at Villanova and is the son of a Sixers’ staffer.  It was the feel-good story of the night, until they traded Bridges about an hour later to the Suns.

Not only were the Sixers’ jerks, the move makes absolutely no sense.  Philly desperately needs shooters, a role Bridges could easily fill.  Instead they got Zhaire Smith, another athlete who doesn’t have outside range.  They must trust LeBron will ultimately call Philly his new home.

Woj Wins Draft Night

Rules is Rules, but Adrian Wojnarowski found a loophole.  The NBA’s scoop-machine was specifically forbidden by ESPN from tipping picks before they were made on stage.  Instead of breaking the news, he used his thesaurus as a way around the rule.  The best synonyms from last night:

  • “Zeroed in on”
  • “Fixated on”
  • “Unlikely to resist”
  • “Enamored with”
  • “No plans to pass on”
  • “Tantalized”
  • “Has a laser on”

Grayson Allen to the Jazz

“Grayson Allen to Utah” is the least surprising selection of the draft.  It just makes sense.  It also gives us the opportunity to relive that time Donovan Mitchell smacked him in the face.

Click here to see where every single player was picked in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Draft Night Podcast

Aaron Torres and Nick Coffey burned the midnight oil to bring you an NBA Draft Night Special of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast.  They break down the best of the best from the first round, but timing wasn’t on their side.  As Aaron uploaded the podcast for me to edit, Jarred Vanderbilt was selected.  You can’t hear about every single Wildcat, but you can start your day with analysis of the best of the best from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Don’t Get Mad

Because plenty of people did when they read this Tweet from Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel:

Thanks, Lonnie

For all of those men who have to wear hats to cover up their bad hair, Lonnie Walker shamed us by having hair so great, it couldn’t be contained by a hat.  Jerk.