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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Josh Harrellson won Rebounder of the Year in Japan’s B-League

Josh Harrellson won Rebounder of the Year in Japan’s B-League

@OsakaEvessa

This summer, Josh Harrellson will return to Kentucky to compete with The Bluegrass Boys for the TBT $2 million grand prize. He’ll bring Japan’s B-League rebounding title with him.

Last night, Jorts won Rebounder of the Year at the B-League Awards Show after averaging a league-high 12.3 boards along with 15.2 points per game for Osaka Evessa. Contrary to the name, the B-League is the top pro league in Japan, and from the looks of it, they throw one heck of an awards show. Here’s Jorts on the red carpet:

…accepting the award:

…and talking about it afterwards:

Those final seconds are classic Jorts.

If you’re curious, the Chiba Jets mascot won Mascot of the Year:

Well deserved, in my opinion.


© Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Mock Draft Tracker: Where the Cats stand after the Lottery

© Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

With the lottery over, the order is set for next month’s NBA Draft. Here’s where PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson stand in the major mock drafts:

PJ Washington

Tyler Herro

Keldon Johnson

ESPN Top 100 15 17 20
ESPN (Updated 5/14) 12. Charlotte 16. Orlando 22. Boston
The Athletic (Updated 5/14) 13. Miami 16. Orlando 20. Boston
Sports Illustrated (Updated 5/14) 14. Boston 18. Indiana 23. Utah
Sporting News (Updated 5/15) 14. Boston 19. San Antonio 22. Boston
Gary Parrish (Updated 5/15) 12. Charlotte 15. Detroit 19. San Antonio
Bleacher Report (Updated 5/14) 15. Detroit 20. Boston 18. Indiana

And a sampling of comments on each player:

PJ Washington

Chris Stone, Sporting News: 14. Celtics

The Celtics have prized versatility in recent seasons, and Washington fits the bill from that perspective. At 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan, he has the potential to defend multiple positions and even play some small-ball center in certain lineups deep in the playoffs. Washington also made some strides as a shooter at least in terms of 3-point percentage as a sophomore. His value, though, will mostly be felt on the defensive side of the ball.

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic: 13. Miami

For Miami, they’re about as good as any team in the league at getting guys into optimal shape and putting guys into position for success. Washington is a player that got into terrific shape last season, and experienced a legitimate jump in his game and the way he enforces his athleticism on the game because of it. He could use a team that helps him to stay in such shape. This isn’t exactly what I’d call a sexy, high-upside pick for an organization in desperate need of such swings, but this part of the draft is not really loaded with those type of players and Washington is a player that would fit on their roster and give them some added size, toughness, and perimeter shooting. His length could also help them in the smaller lineups that they enjoy employing.

Tyler Herro

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated: 18. Indiana

Indiana can go a variety of directions with this pick, with a good chunk of their roster set to hit free agency. Trying to find help on the wing makes the most sense, and Herro’s ability to shoot from distance and surprisingly well-rounded skill set will make him an appealing fit to a lot of teams. While there are still some physical limitations he’ll face at the next level, he’s proven he’s more than just a specialist and added value in other ways for Kentucky. If he can refine his on-the-move shooting into an elite skill, Herro should be able to hang around the NBA for a long while.

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: 15. Detroit

Herro did a nice job this season proving he’s way more than “just a shooter” — which is what many labeled him coming out of high school, perhaps because of little more than stereotypes. At Kentucky, the 6-5 guard averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 32.6 minutes per game while shooting 46.2%from the field, 35.5% from 3-point range and 93.5% from the free-throw line. So he’s a guard with size who can put the ball on the floor and consistently knock down shots. And that’s what makes Herro a real candidate to be selected either late in the lottery or just outside of it.

Keldon Johnson

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report: 18. Indiana

Johnson will be able to put pressure on defenses by attacking downhill and scoring around the key with his signature runner. He’s also proved to be capable of finding a rhythm as a spot shooter when set, though he offers little as a shot creator or playmaker. He’ll want to shoot well during workouts to ease concerns from his drop-off in accuracy and volume during conference play.

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated: 23. Utah

The Jazz can get younger and add depth on the wing with this pick. Johnson’s stock has dropped a bit as his limitations became evident at Kentucky, but he does enough offensively and brings strong enough intangibles to appeal to a playoff team as a future contributor. His competitive approach is easy to appreciate, and he should be able to shoot and defend enough to find a niche. Johnson has always been wired as a scorer, and may have to rein in some old habits to make it work.

Neither EJ Montgomery nor Nick Richards were listed in any of the major mocks. They have until May 29 to decide whether or not to return to Kentucky for another season.


BBNBA: Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 edition

(Photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

It came down to the very end, but the Portland Trail Blazers found a way to win over the Denver Nuggets, 100-96. It didn’t come easily – the Nuggets were up by 12 at the end of the first quarter, and extended that lead to 17 points in the second. But the Trail Blazers just wouldn’t go away, and a momentum-changing run at the end of the half brought the deficit back to single digits.

CJ McCollum was the star of the show for the Blazers, scoring a game-high 37 points while adding nine rebounds. Enes Kanter finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Remember, Kanter is currently fasting for Ramadan, which means he can’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. To get ready for the matchup, he woke up at 3:25 a.m. to get a meal in before game 7. He refrained from drinking any water, even during timeouts.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic closed out his sensational first postseason with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Fellow Cats Skal Labissiere (Trail Blazers), Jarred Vanderbilt and Trey Lyles (Nuggets) did not enter the game.

After posting an emotional Mother’s Day message this morning, Kanter switched gears just in time for some trash talk following the end of the game.

The No. 3 Trail Blazers will now face the No. 1 Golden State Warriors in the conference finals. It’ll be Portland’s first trip to the conference finals since 2000.


Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jamal Murray’s pick-and-roll is creating something special in Denver

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jamal Murray has emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Consequently, he’s the subject of a new feature on ESPN.com – this one, about his pick-and-roll skills with the Denver Nuggets’ center, Nikola Jokic.

The story, written by Jackie MacMullan, details both players’ skill set and background, including their unique qualities. Jokic grew up in Sombor, Serbia, crying on his way to basketball practice as a young boy. He idolized Tim Duncan because “he wasn’t flashy,” and grew impressed by the ease of his pick-and-roll talents, alongside teammate Manu Ginobili.

Halfway around the world, in Ontario, Jamal Murray was watching history unfold between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Years later, Murray and Jokic are now competing on the same roster, impersonating their childhood idols while making the pick-and-roll their own in an ever-evolving league. The article describes the new-age NBA as a place where “double-teams are scarce and switching is the norm, where 3-point shots are rampant and midrange jumpers are decried.” And yet, Murray and Jokic, a point guard and a big man, make the pick-and-roll work in their favor.

During the regular season, the Nuggets ran 171 plays with Murray as the screener and Jokic as the ball handler. That combination averaged 1.30 points per direct pick, per ESPN Stats & Information, tied for the best in the NBA. Last year, the Nuggets averaged 15 turnovers per game (23rd in the league), while giving their opponents 18.7 points per game off those turnovers (placing them at the bottom of the league). This season, Denver drastically improved those numbers: 13.7 turnovers per game, while only allowing their opponents 15 points off those mistakes. That’s good for sixth-best in the league.

Individually, they’ve earned plenty of praise along the way. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone compliments Murray in the article, mentioning “the underrated fact that Jamal Murray is our best screener.” They’ve also earned comparisons to some of the best pick-and-roll duos in the history of the game. But, don’t feel the need to force the similarities.

“What we’re doing is nothing like we’ve seen before. Of course, there will always be Stockton and Malone, and Nash and Stoudemire, but what we’re doing is different – unique,” Murray told ESPN. “Maybe they’ll be talking about Murray and the Joker someday.”


The Nuggets are currently playing against the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the second-round NBA playoffs. The game can be seen on ABC.

[ESPN]


Washington, Johnson, Herro fluctuate in recent NBA Mock Drafts

With the NBA Draft just over a month away, the mock drafts are beginning to become more and more active and possibly even somewhat accurate. Kentucky is expected to have three players drafted anywhere from the lower lottery to the back end of the first round. A dark horse candidate would be on the outside chance that EJ Montgomery would stay in the draft and a late second round team would take him surely on potential.

The common thread that I see when going through Mock Drafts this year is that there really is no common thread for where the former Cats will go. It is pretty much set in stone that the top three picks will be Zion, Barrett and Morant with the remainder of the first round having a lot of fluidity.

PJ Washington Tyler Herro Keldon Johnson
CBS Sports 15. Detroit 16. Orlando 22. Boston
NBADraft.net 27. Brooklyn 21. Oklahoma City 14. Boston
Yahoo Sports 11. LA Lakers 28. Golden State 23. Utah
ESPN 12. Charlotte 16. Orlando 22. Boston

As you can see, Johnson is tied to the Celtics three times and Herro is tied to Orlando twice, but other than that, you can see a lot of differences in these drafts.

The most notable question mark for me is why NBADraft.net has Washington following all the way to the #27 pick while the other three have him in the Lottery? I don’t like to guarantee anything, but I can almost guarantee that, barring something happening between today and the draft, PJ Washington will not be available come pick #27.