Analyst Matt Kamalsky of Draftexpress.net knows a lot could still change between now and Thursday night’s NBA draft. Yet he’s fairly confident Kentucky fans are going to see Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter going early in the draft.
“As of today, Knight No. 3 to Utah, a good spot for him, and Kanter 6 to Washington. Kanter is an absolute no brainer for both parties, an incredible fit,” Kamalsky said.
Knight left UK after his freshman year when his point guard play led UK to the Final Four. He’ll continue the legacy former coach John Calipari point guards Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose and John Wall have by going early in the draft after only one season of college basketball.
Knight was projected as a likely lottery pick when he made his decision to leave UK, but his size, shooting ability and court intelligence have helped his stock skyrocket.
Knight averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game during the Wildcats’ run to the Final Four. He’s been concentrating on changing speeds and using both hands to handle the ball to reduce turnovers during his draft workouts.
Kanter did not get to play at UK after being declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting improper payments from a club team in his native Turkey. However, he did practice with the Wildcats and go to classes both semesters. Some mock drafts have him projected as an even higher pick than Kamalsky has him.
Former Kentucky All-American Kyle Macy, an NBA veteran and point guard, thinks he would take Kanter ahead of Knight.
“It goes back to a team’s need, but without knowing specific rosters when you look at Kanter and Knight, Kanter did not play last year and Knight had an outstanding year. But I will still pick a big man over a guard,” Macy said.
DeAndre Liggins, a defensive specialist who improved his offense during his junior year, go could anywhere from pick 45 (midway through the second) round to not being drafted at all in Kamalsky’s estimation.
“It will come down to who drops and who he impressed when,” Kamalsky said.
That leaves senior center Josh Harrellson, who was one of the biggest surprises in college basketball last year.
“He likely will be undrafted with the caveat that he's going to be in an NBA camp if the labor dispute gets settled fast enough with a decent shot to make that team as a 14th/15th guy,” Kamalsky said.
Macy worries how Harrellson matches up with others in the draft when it comes to overall skills and natural talent. “But he is going to make money somewhere. I think he could still get drafted by the right team,” Macy said.
A lot of teams have shown interest recently. Harrellson worked out at Utah and Atlanta last week and has workouts scheduled in Philadelphia, Toronto, Memphis and Boston this week. He turned down several other workout requests, including one from the Los Angeles Lakers, because he could not fit them into his schedule.
He remains optimistic about draft night.
“I am having a big party back home and inviting all my close friends and family back in St. Charles (Mo.). Pretty much whoever wants to come is showing up. It will be a good night with food and fun. Hopefully we will see my name on the (draft) board, too,” Harrellson said.
One name Kentucky fans won’t see on the draft board is sophomore Terrence Jones, who opted to return to UK after his freshman season despite being projected as a lottery pick in hopes of becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. Kamalsky sees that as an unlikely scenario.
“I think he has almost no chance of being the first overall pick next year, but I think he'll be more than happy if he has to settle for a national championship,” Kamalsky said. “Too much talent around him to allow him to blow up the way he'd need to. He might be fighting just to be the second Wildcat selected come this time next year, let alone the first overall pick.”