With only two picks in the upcoming NBA Draft for the Kentucky Wildcats, it is somewhat of a down year by John Calipari standards. While this outlier year might be the beginning of a stockpile for years to come, it should not be expected that only two prospects leave the program every year. In fact, Sports Illustrated did a 15 for ’15 article, outlining the top 15 prospects for the 2015 NBA Draft. In this list, SI included four current Kentucky Wildcats, which could include more the four if the list were expanded to the full top 30 prospects. The four players making the list are the Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Check out the synopsis for each player below.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
The modest 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game Cauley-Stein averaged as a sophomore don’t matter. Nor does the fact that he came off the bench for most of last season. What does matter are his 7-foot, 250-pound frame and 166 career blocked shots. Even with a foot injury suffered during the NCAA tournament, Cauley-Stein likely would have been a first-round pick this year for his size and ability to protect the rim. The overcrowded Kentucky frontcourt for next season – Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee return while touted recruits Karl Towns and Trey Lyles arrive – shouldn’t alter perceptions of what Cauley-Stein offers.
Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
The twins were borderline first-round draft picks by most estimations before deciding to return to Lexington for their sophomore seasons. Even with the arrival of touted recruits Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, the Harrisons should hold down the bulk of the backcourt minutes. At 6-6 apiece, they have the size to intrigue NBA teams. If Andrew Harrison progresses into another Deron Williams-type point guard and Aaron Harrison scores consistently and retains the clutch touch he demonstrated with multiple NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters, they should be more comfortably in the first-round range next summer.
Dakari Johnson, Kentucky
The Wildcats’ returning starter at center will have to share space with three other players – Cauley-Stein, Towns and Lyles – who could be first-round caliber prospects. And like Cauley-Stein, Johnson isn’t defined by his 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per night. A 7-foot, 265-pound frame will do that, as will the fact that he still will be just 19 years old when the NBA draft rolls around next June. That potential should be too much for a team to ignore.
With these four players returning to Kentucky, all of whom could have easily gone this year, is it possible that the Wildcats could have the best season in history. Also, with these being four of the top 15 players in college basketball for the 2015 year, what does this mean for the incoming freshman, as well as the Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress. If a guess had to be made, I’d say it’ll leave them at UK for another year after next season. However, this might not be a bad thing, as working with these great talents could provide a great benefit for the rest of their careers. For now, however, sit back and enjoy next years team. It’s going to be one of the best!