John Calipari has already coached 35 former Kentucky players into the NBA Draft and three more (possibly four) are about to join them. The 2019 NBA Draft is on Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN and all three Kentucky players expected to go in the first round – P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson – will all be in attendance as members of the Green Room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Reid Travis is the fourth player with a possibility of being selected in the upcoming draft, but he did not receive an invite to the Green Room and it’s widely expected that the former grad transfer will go undrafted.
As for the trio of Washington, Herro, and Johnson, they’re all clumped together in the same general draft range. Mrs. Tyler recently did a roundup of different mock drafts from various outlets and all three Cats found themselves as early as the late lottery to the middle/late first round. Basically, keep your eyes open for picks 12-22, that’s where most experts have our three future pros being slotted. But which team is the best fit for each individual player? Let’s start with Washington.
P.J. Washington – 6-foot-8, 230lbs (stretch-forward)
Best fit: Miami Heat (#13)
- Joining fellow Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat would be the perfect fit for Washington’s early years in the NBA. If you haven’t heard much about the “culture” that is instilled within the Heat organization, a quick Google search will give you an idea of the intensity with which every member of the team goes through as an employee of the franchise. It’s a constant boot camp, determined to get players in the best shape of their lives. After the transformation Washington went through from freshman to sophomore (with college-level facilities, I should add), his potential has yet to find it’s ceiling. Miami is the organization that will get the most out of the first two or three years of Washington’s career.
- However, with Hassan Whiteside opting into his (ridiculous) $27 million player option with Miami for next season, the Heat likely won’t have enough playing time to spread around (unless they end up trading Whiteside), especially if they plan to incorporate Adebayo to a more impactful role. Kelly Olynk and James Johnson will soak up the minutes that would otherwise go to Washington. Regardless, Washington has legitimate potential to become a starter in the NBA and the first few developmental years will be key. Miami can get the most out of that potential.
Worst fit: Detroit Pistons (#15)
- There are several reasons as to why I wouldn’t like this fit but the two main reasons go by the names of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Once you look past teams such as the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets, you arrive at the epitome of mediocrity over the last 15 seasons, which is the Detroit Pistons. The franchise is in a stranglehold due to its own previous financial tragedies and is locked into a long run with Griffin as the star. That isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, because Griffin is a top-15 player, but it handicaps the team’s ability to improve outside of the draft.
- In Detroit, Washington would likely find himself a steady dose of minutes. With only Jon Leuer and Thon Maker as the big men in front of him, it wouldn’t take long for Washington to be able to earn some playing time. My worry is the Pistons recent track record of developing talent. Even if we take away an underperforming Luke Kennard – who will be entering his third NBA season – it’s hard to remember a player coming from Detroit who was developed within. Drummond is the only player who comes to mind and even then he’s been an underwhelming All-Star on what has been typically below average teams. It’s not an organization that has shown they can turn a player with raw potential like Washington into a star. They’ve had Drummond for over half-a-decade and his game has shown minimal noticeable improvements in that span. Having Dwane Casey at the helm might shift the course of team’s trajectory, but until it happens, keep any former Kentucky player away from Detroit.
Tyler Herro – 6-foot-5, 195lbs (guard)
Best fit: Indiana Pacers (#18)
- I’ll be pleasantly shocked if Tyler Herro isn’t selected before the 18th pick. The experts have been beginning to suggest that Herro might not last that long into the night, but it would be the perfect fit if he did. The Pacers filled the gap of Victor Oldaipo’s knee injury with sharp-shooter Wesley Matthews, who they added in the buyout market over halfway through the season. Matthews averaged 10.9 points per game while shooting nearly 37 percent from three and was a big reason why the Pacers were able to stay afloat without its star into the playoffs. He was the perfect player to fill the void because he was the perfect complement to an already unselfish roster. If Matthews was open – and he was a lot – he had full freedom to pull. You’ve probably heard this saying before but here it comes again: If you can shoot in today’s NBA, you will always find a home. Not only can Herro shoot, but he also has the potential to be a multi-faceted scorer on the wing. The Pacers have a ton of free agents they have to deal with this summer and if they can’t retain them all, bringing in a reliable shooter like Herro can immediately replace some of that lost production. Indiana is a team I expect to have a massive roster turnover once free agency begins and Herro could be the one who benefits the most. If he comes into training camp looking sharp surrounded by relatively newer roster pieces, his playing time could spike early into the year. The Pacers are an organization with a solid track record of developing mid-tier prospects.
Worst fit: Charlotte Hornets (#12)
- If Kemba Walker ends up forgoing a potential supermax contract with the Charlotte Hornets, then we can upgrade this to the worst-est fit for Tyler Herro. The Hornets are in no hurry to go anywhere anytime soon. They are the least memorable team in the NBA and that’s with an All-Star on the roster. Charlotte is in salary cap hell and will likely be stuck there for another season or two – especially if Walker signs a max deal. Teaming Herro up with Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a BBNBA dream, but good luck watching all two Hornets games on national TV next season.
- Charlotte could use some more shooting, especially if Herro can develop into a dependable two-way defender. But they’ve already tried to accomplish that through the draft without much success. Monk has yet to find a rhythm after two full seasons, Dwayne Bacon found some improvement from year one to year two, and Miles Bridges is still a giant question mark. Cody Zeller, MKG, Frank Kaminsky are all players drafted by Charlotte who has still yet to take a significant leap.
Keldon Johnson – 6-foot-6, 210lbs (wing)
Best fit: San Antonio Spurs (#19)
- Most mock drafts have Keldon Johnson projected to land in the 18-22 range, and I’m a bit shocked that he isn’t making first impressions with any lottery teams. I believe teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 11 pick) and Atlanta Hawks (No. 10) should be keeping a close eye on Johnson. Outside of Cam Reddish, there isn’t a more tantalizing swingman prospect than the former Kentucky player. His scoring can stretch across the entire floor, he’s an underrated rebounder, and an athletic freak. He’s also about as raw a prospect as they come, which is why the Spurs would absolutely be the best fit for Johnson. He has the shooting ability to play the two and the size to play the three in the NBA. The Spurs can mold him into whichever style of player they deem fit, not to mention he’ll be learning under Gregg Popovich.
Worst fit: Boston Celtics (#20)
- The Celtics are in a bit of turmoil at the moment. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford both appear to be headed for the exit while Anthony Davis heads for L.A. Clogging the position that Johnson would likely see minutes at are Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward. If Irving and Horford do indeed leave Boston, the team’s best three players will all play a similar position to that of Johnson. If two superstars are looking for greener pastures, it’s probably a sign that the internal vibe of the franchise isn’t ideal. If that’s the case, Johnson should hope to avoid being drafted by the Celtics.
Only 24 hours until the NBA Draft. Jack Pilgrim and I will be with you all throughout the event to bring you up-to-date analysis.