Cleat Geeks

What Kentucky Players will Head for the 2015 NBA Draft?

The 2014-15 NCAA Men’s Basketball season is winding down. As we still await to crown a national champion, rumors will be spread about which underclassmen will leave. For big name schools like Kansas, Kentucky or Duke, it isn’t surprising to see more than one young fella leave. However, this year’s Kentucky team is special. They are loaded with NBA talent, so let’s play a game called “Who Will Go to the NBA after This Season?”

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Karl-Anthony Towns
6’11” Freshman PF/C
Karl-Anthony Towns is easily the Cats’ best NBA prospect this year. Early on in the Big Blue Bahamas tour he showed off an advanced low post game, a smooth mid-range game, a usable but unreliable three point shot, and impressive all around defense. Later in the season, he became almost automatic from the block, scoring almost every time he didn’t get double teamed. He still struggles fighting for rebounds at times, but every 19 year old basketball player has a weakness. If he leaves, he could challenge Duke’s Jahlil Okafor for the #1 overall draft pick.

Will He Go?
Is the Pope Catholic? Of course KAT is headed for the NBA.

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Willie Cauley-Stein
7’0” Junior C
Willie Cauley-Stein was the heart and soul of this year’s Kentucky team. After Alex Poythress went down early on with an ACL injury, he was the lone veteran left on the team. He has greatly improved in each of his three years at Kentucky, which should make NBA GM’s be even more excited about him because he isn’t done improving yet. You know what you’re getting if you draft him. He is arguably the best defender in the country who uses his athletic tools to help offensively. He has shown off solid post moves and a 12 foot jump shot this year, but both aren’t consistent enough to where he can be relied on heavily for offensive production. If he leaves, he could go as high as #4 depending on team needs. He’s tough to predict, because everyone thought he was going to go last year and the year before, but it is publically known that he really loves everything about the University of Kentucky.

Will He Go?
It’ll hurt, but WCS is going to move on to bigger and better things.

devin-booker-a458564ef8dc4c91Devin Booker
6’5” Freshman SG
Early on in his young college career, Devin Booker looked out of part with the rest of the highly talented Kentucky roster. He struggled shooting in the Bahamas, and when a shooter can’t shoot he doesn’t look good. The season went on, and next thing we knew Devin Booker was shooting nearly 50% from behind the arc. He isn’t just a shooter, though. He is a very good finisher in transition, an adequate defender, and he knows how to attack the hoop when a defender closes out too hard. Though he probably isn’t one of the most talented or NBA ready prospects in college this year, shooting the ball is a skill NBA teams are willing to pay a high price for. If he goes, he could go anywhere from the middle of the lottery to the late first round. It’ll also be important to see what his teammates do, because if everyone else stays it might get too crowded for someone that’s on the fence.

Will He Go?
No, he’ll stay and become a lock for a lottery pick in next year’s draft.

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Andrew Harrison
6’6” Sophomore PG/SG
Before even playing a game in college basketball, many experts had Andrew Harrison going top 10 in the 2014 NBA Draft. He had all of the physical tools to dominate anyone he went up against, and he also had a coach with a pretty good reputation of developing young point guards. However, once his freshman season rolled around, he looked lost. He was often found dribbling too much and not being as aggressive as he should’ve been. He wasn’t playing like a point guard, and that hurt him. He was forced to stay another year after falling from the top 10 to going possibly undrafted. Early on in the season, people were calling for Tyler Ulis to take over the blue platoon, and do they look foolish now. Over the final stretch of the season, he has absolutely taken over. His 6’6” size gives him an advantage over basically any point guard not named Magic Johnson, and he has learned to control the game by setting the pace and scoring whenever he sees a weakness in the defense. Many experts still have him pegged as a 2nd round pick, but I think that’ll change. I think that he really wanted to go to the NBA last year, but leaving after one year to go undrafted was too risky. He’s also in a unique place, because I’m not sure if one of the twins will leave UK without the other.

Will He Go?
If he moves up draft boards like I predict, we can say goodbye to Andrew Harrison.

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Marcus Lee
6’10” Sophomore PF/C
Marcus Lee is sort of the forgotten one on this Kentucky team. Once Alex Poythress went down with a season ending injury and Cal got rid of the true platoon system, Marcus Lee’s minutes completely diminished. Even in small minutes, he has still shown why he will be valuable to an NBA team. He is active defensively and dunks just about anything that goes near the rim. If you want proof of this, go watch the Elite Eight game when Kentucky squared off against Michigan. Some people thought that he would go to the draft last year after just a few NCAA tournament games.

Will He Go?
To the draft? No. but if too many players stay and if Kentucky lands a few more recruits, he may transfer to another school.

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Aaron Harrison
6’6” Sophomore SG/PG
Aaron Harrison, just like his brother, was supposed to dominate from the start of his freshman year. He had a much smoother transition to the college game than his brother, primarily because playing PG under John Calipari is not an easy task. He is mostly remembered for his three straight game winners in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and he continued to hit clutch threes during his sophomore campaign. He still isn’t consistent enough from the outside as his teammate Devin Booker, so that devalues him. Right now, he is considered by many to be a late 2nd round pick if he leaves. Just like his brother, he has all of the physical tools to be successful at the professional stage, but at times he doesn’t use his 6’6” frame to his advantage. He often settles for jumpers against smaller defenders as opposed to finishing at the rim. He still doesn’t look quite ready for the NBA, but it wouldn’t shock me if he left. I thought that he really didn’t want to stay for a second year.

Will He Go?
If Andrew goes, I would expect him to leave. However, look for Aaron to stay for his junior year. Leaving to become a 2nd round pick is too risky. He could be overseas in two years.

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Alex Poythress
6’8” Junior PF/SF
Alex Poythress exploded onto the college scene during his freshman year in a game against Duke, where he grabbed just about every rebound possible and dunked everything possible. In the earlier part of the 2012-13 season, he looked like a lock for a top 10 pick. However, as the season progressed he showed some extreme flaws in his game. Even during the beginning of his junior season before he got hurt, he showed an extremely limited offensive game. He can knock down the occasional spot up jump, has only one dribble move, and can’t score from the post unless he is physically superior compared to his opponent. The good thing about Alex though is that he has really strong strengths. Teams stopped looking at him as a potential star, and just a great role player. He is one of the most gifted rebounders I have ever seen, mainly due to his effortless ability to jump. He can guard just about any position on the court, and he also has the body of an NFL tight end. Whenever he leaves for the NBA, he’ll most likely be a late 1st round to middle 2nd round pick that’ll have a long NBA career. After the Wildcats took over the Bahamas, I thought for sure that he was going to leave for the draft. However, a torn ACL limited his junior year to just a few games.

Will He Go?
Due to his injury, he will stay.


Trey Lyles
6’10” Freshman PF/SF/C
Trey Lyles wasn’t able to showcase his skills in the Bahamas with his teammates in August this year. He was sidelined with an injury. Later on in conference play, he was sidelined multiple games with an illness. Once he was able to consistently stay in the Wildcats’ lineup, he showed a fundamental game that made us all see why he compared his game to Tim Duncan’s. He has a very smooth post game, a decent three point shot, and a phenomenal shot from anywhere inside the arc. He is instinctive on defense, and rarely makes mistakes. I don’t really know what else to write about Trey, and that sort of sums up his game. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t necessarily impressive, but it is extremely efficient. As of right now, he is a mid-1st round pick according to multiple mock drafts.

Will He Go?
Trey will be headed to the pros next year. I think a team will fall in love with his game and reach for him a few spots higher than he should go.

Tyler Ulis
5’9” Freshman PG
Tyler Ulis instantly became a fan favorite when he put on the blue and white due to his playmaking ability, passing instincts, ball security, and lack of height. He is arguably the best pound-for-pound player on the Kentucky roster… too bad there aren’t a lot of those pounds. Even though he lacks height, he still does an absolutely phenomenal job of managing the pace of the game and getting all of his teammates involved. He is great on the defensive end, where he constantly gets right up into his opponent for the entire defensive possession. He reminds me of Chris Paul because he plays the point guard position exactly how it should be played.

Will He Go?
No. I think he will be a four year player for the wildcats strictly because of his size, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be an NBA player at some point in his career.

Dakari Johnson
7’0” Sophomore C
Last but not least is Dakari Johnson. A load down low, he can bully his way into position against practically anyone in the country. He lost a lot of fat this offseason, so he has the ability to run the floor much better than expected. He isn’t very gifted athletically, which limits him defensively, but he still does a good job of battling for position on the low block. He plays with a whole lot of passion, and that showed in the NCAA tournament. He doesn’t have a really high ceiling, but similarly with Alex Poythress, you know what you’re getting with him. He isn’t selfish when he gets the ball in the post, and he does a fantastic job of finishing through contact. A physical 7 footer will always find his place in the NBA.

Will He Go?
If Willie stays, he will go. However, I don’t think he will leave this year voluntarily because he is still considered a 2nd round pick.

That wraps it up for my way-too-early predictions on which Kentucky players will stay. I plan on writing another one once the NCAA tournament concludes. A lot of these players will probably base their decisions off of other players in the country. And I once learned back in high school that it was wrong to use someone’s data without giving them credit, so I would like to thank Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress.com. His mock drafts tend to be the most accurate, so when I stated where the players were predicted to go, chances are it was off of his mock draft.

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