With the NBA Draft a month and a half away, it’s officially mock draft season, which means it’s our job to bring you the latest predictions from the nation’s pundits on where Kentucky’s guys will go in the draft. While this is admittedly easy content for us, it’s sometimes an exhausting process because these days, mock drafts are like podcasts — everybody’s got one. And, how do you determine which one is the best? You can’t, because it’s all speculation.
So, instead of regurgitating Chad Ford or Jonathan Givony’s latest take on Hamidou Diallo, I thought I’d try something different. (Besides, what would I post tomorrow?) I thought it’d be fun to take all of the 28 players drafted in the Calipari era at Kentucky and do a mock draft of my own, adding in Aaron Harrison and Alex Poythress to make it a cool 30. Now, given that some players have been in the league seven seasons now and some are just wrapping up their rookie seasons, it’s not exactly a fair exercise, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. Get ready to disagree with me!
1. Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans
Actual draft position: #1, 2012 NBA Draft
Davis was the MVP of the All-Star Game this year and — when he’s healthy — continues to do things with the basketball that human beings shouldn’t be able to. The top four Kentucky guys in the league are superstars, but based on freakishness alone, Davis shines the brightest right now.
2. Karl Towns, C, Timberwolves
Actual draft position: #1, 2015 NBA Draft
Karl followed up his Rookie of the Year season with an impressive sophomore outing, becoming the only player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 three pointers in one season AND the youngest player (the 15th overall and first since Tim Duncan in 2001-02) to tally 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a season. Right now, some may take Wall or Boogie over Karl, but I’m looking ahead to the future.
3. John Wall, PG, Wizards
Actual draft position: #1, 2010 NBA Draft
Wall’s proving a lot of his doubters wrong this postseason as he leads the Wizards through the playoffs. Finally, Wall has a decent supporting cast, which means people are finally seeing just how talented he is. In a line of great Calipari point guards, he’s still #1 to me.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Pelicans
Actual draft position: #5, 2010 NBA Draft
Now out of dysfunctional Sacramento, Cousins finds himself alongside Anthony Davis. The fact that a star like Boogie is fourth on this list speaks to how many great big men have come through the program. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the top four.
5. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Suns
Actual draft position: #18, 2010 NBA Draft
Man, that 2010 draft was loaded, wasn’t it? The combination of Bledsoe and Devin Booker was a great one this season for Phoenix, and as long as he stays healthy, Bledsoe will remain one of the best guards in the league, especially defensively.
6. Devin Booker, SG, Suns
Actual draft position: #13, 2015 NBA Draft
Booker had the most points in a game in the league this year with 70 and continues to be one of the rising stars in the league, earning praise from Kobe, LeBron, and everyone else who realizes how far he can go given the NBA’s trend toward small ball. Given his talent, drive, and charm, he’s the future of the Suns organization. If you’re looking for a young star to build around, he’s it.
7. Brandon Knight, G, Suns
Actual draft position: #8, 2011 NBA Draft
Unfortunately, Booker’s success has come at the expense of Brandon Knight, who is now the team’s sixth man. This season, Knight averaged career lows in scoring (11 ppg), assists (2.4 apg), and minutes (21.1 mpg), and in March, refused to join the rotation when Bledsoe shut down for the season, citing back spasms. Knight is better than a backup, so he’s still high on my list.
8. Enes Kanter, F, Thunder
Actual draft position: #3, 2011 NBA Draft
Kanter may come off the bench, but he’s a solid role player for the Thunder, averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.3 minutes. He’s got a long career ahead of him, and therefore, is a hot commodity on this board.
9. Julius Randle, PF, Lakers
Actual draft position: #7, 2014 NBA Draft
Randle’s coming off his best season yet, averaging 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Lakers. Unfortunately for Randle, he may be improving, but his team still sucks. If he improves his outside shooting, he can move even higher on this list.
10. Nerlens Noel, C, Mavericks
Actual draft position: #6, 2013 NBA Draft
After being buried in a crowded frontcourt in Philly, Nerlens finally got traded near the end of the season and in 22 games with the Mavericks, seemed to rediscover himself a bit, averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. At 23, Nerlens is still young and has ridiculous upside. Dallas would be smart to keep him once he becomes a free agent in July.
11. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Hornets
Actual draft position: #2, 2012 NBA Draft
Poor MKG. Due to various injuries, he’s yet to live up to his potential in the league. He’s worked on his odd shooting form a lot, but he must continue to improve offensively if he wants to take the next step with his game (the defense is already there). The flashes of brilliance we saw early on this season must become the norm, not the exception. Sadly, I worry I have him too high on here, but I love him too much to drop him any lower.
12. Jamal Murray, G, Nuggets
Actual draft position: #7, 2016 NBA Draft
After an uncharacteristically cold start to his rookie season, Murray warmed back up, and by the time the All-Star break rolled around, won MVP honors at the Rising Stars Challenge. The sharpshooter finished the season averaging 9.9 points and 33.4% shooting from the outside, all the while playing with an injury to his core muscles. He’s had surgery to repair that, and should be ready to roll by training camp. If you believe in small ball, Murray is a steal at #12.
13. Skal Labissiere, C, Kings
Actual draft position: #28, 2016 NBA Draft
Before Boogie left Sacramento, there’s no way you could convince me that Skal should be 13th on this list; however, with Boogie gone, Skal flourished, blossoming into the player we all expected him to be at Kentucky and on the next level. With that sweet jump hook and a solid outside shot, Skal could be the type of big the NBA is trending towards. He certainly looked like it in the month of April.
14. Tyler Ulis, PG, Suns
Actual draft position: #34, 2016 NBA Draft
With Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight sitting out the end of the season, Ulis stepped up and stole the spotlight, earning Western Conference Rookie of the Month in April. As he’s done his entire career, Ulis is proving people wrong, and it’s no longer safe to assume his ceiling in the league is being a backup guard.
15. Patrick Patterson, F, Raptors
Actual draft position: #14, 2010 NBA Draft
Patterson is coming up on free agency and has been a useful role player for Toronto the past four years, averaging 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds this season. Unfortunately, Patterson was hampered by knee injuries, which led to a disappointing end to the year. That being said, this is a guy I want in my locker room.
16. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kings
Actual draft position: #6, 2015 NBA Draft
Like Skal, Willie profited from Boogie going to New Orleans, averaging 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds since the All-Star break. His improvement is remarkable, but I would draft him based on quotes alone.
17. Trey Lyles, SF, Jazz
Actual draft position: #12, 2015 NBA Draft
Man, what happened to Trey Lyles? Before the season began, I would have been tempted to slide him into the top 10 of this mock draft, but he very much underwhelmed in his sophomore season. Whereas Lyles averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in the month of April in his rookie year, he barely got off the bench during the Jazz’s recent playoff run, scoring 7 points in only 10 minutes through 11 games. Woof. Let’s hope it was only a sophomore slump.
18. Terrence Jones, PF
Actual draft position: #18, 2012 NBA Draft
After stints with the Pelicans and the Bucks, the real T. Jones currently has no team. He actually did well in New Orleans, averaging 11.5 points in 24.8 minutes per game, but barely got off the bench in Milwaukee, where he reportedly clashed with head coach Jason Kidd.
19. DeAndre Liggins, G, Mavericks
Actual draft position: #53, 2011 NBA Draft
Liggins earned kudos from LeBron James as a lockdown defender in Cleveland, but was waived before the end of the regular season due to JR Smith’s return. He’s now with the Mavericks. Nineteen may seem high for a player who only averaged 2.4 points this season, but if I’m a team with some issues defensively, I want Liggins.
20. Archie Goodwin, G, Nets
Actual draft position: #29, 2013 NBA Draft
Archie just signed a new deal with the Brooklyn Nets after averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists through 12 games. After a rough year, most of which was spent in the D-League, here’s hoping Brooklyn continues to be a good fit.
21. Andrew Harrison, PG, Grizzlies
Actual draft position: #44, 2015 NBA Draft
Andrew turned heads early on in Memphis with his impressive play, and despite some ups and downs this season, proved himself as a capable backup point guard. There are a lot of great point guards on this list, otherwise Andrew would be higher.
22. Alex Poythress, SF, 76ers
Actual draft position: Undrafted, 2016 NBA Draft
Poythress signed on with the 76ers in early April and immediately proved his worth, averaging 10.7 points and 4.8 rebounds over six games. Alex hasn’t always been the most consistent player, but he’s sure looked good at the next level so far. I would take a chance on him over several other guys that actually were drafted.
23. James Young, SG, Celtics
Actual draft position: #17, 2014 NBA Draft
The Celtics are in the playoffs, but you wouldn’t know if it you were looking for James Young, who’s averaged only 2.3 points this season. I’m almost tempted to take this next guy over him…
24. Dakari Johnson, C, Thunder (D-League)
Actual draft position: #48, 2015 NBA Draft
Dakari continues to shine in the D-League, earning All-Star honors. With Taj Gibson set to become an unrestricted free agent, Dakari might finally get his shot to play for the actual Thunder next season. Nazr Mohammed has proved there’s a long career in the league for a reliable big man.
25. Aaron Harrison, SG
Actual draft position: Undrafted, 2015 NBA Draft
After earning a spot on the Charlotte Hornets’ roster, Aaron was waived in January and is now in the D-League, playing with the Delaware 87ers.
26. Darius Miller, G/F
Actual draft position: #46, 2012 NBA Draft
After three years with New Orleans, Darius is now doing very well for himself overseas playing for Brose Baskets. Last year, he was named the finals MVP after leading his team to its second consecutive league title.
27. Josh Harrellson, F
Actual draft position: #45, 2011 NBA Draft
Jorts carried his folk hero status to the Knicks, where he looked like a promising role player until injuring his wrist and being traded. From there, he played with the Heat and Pistons before moving his game to overseas. He now plays in Japan.
28. Marquis Teague, PG
Actual draft position: #29, 2012 NBA Draft
After struggling in Chicago, Teague continues to make the rounds in the D-League. I’ll always wonder what his future would have looked like had he come back to Kentucky for a 2nd year.
29. Doron Lamb, SG
Actual draft position: #42, 2012 NBA Draft
Doron Lamb is one of the best three-point shooters Kentucky’s had in the Calipari era, but he just didn’t have the drive to make it at the next level. He now plays for the Westchester Knicks in the D-League. If this were a Twitter draft, I’d take him first.
30. Daniel Orton, C
Actual draft position: #29, 2010 NBA Draft
Orton had a lot of promise, but unfortunately, could be his own worst enemy. From clashing with Calipari at Kentucky to pissing off Manny Pacquiao and being thrown out the Philippines, I don’t need that kind of drama on my squad.