Ex-Cats

Three ex-Cats likely won't be 1st-round picks. Here's what that could mean.

Wenyen Gabriel got down on defense during a workout in Sacramento on May 21.
Wenyen Gabriel got down on defense during a workout in Sacramento on May 21. Sacramento Kings

For the most part, it's great to be an early entrant into the NBA Draft from the University of Kentucky.

UK has produced 24 first-round picks — all underclassmen — in eight drafts beginning with the 2010 edition, the first in John Calipari's tenure. That's more than half of UK's total first-round selections (46) and equal to the number of first-rounders that have ever come out of Louisville. It's more than the total amount produced by several basketball powers, such as Arizona (21), Connecticut (20) and Michigan State (19).

But what about the guys who haven't had their name called in the first round? That has been the case for 14 players under Calipari: seven were picked in the second round and seven went undrafted.

Of the seven players who declared but went undrafted, only three were underclassmen: Isaiah Briscoe, Aaron Harrison and Isaac Humphries. The other four — Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder, Alex Poythress and Derek Willis — were seniors.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox are the only players among UK's five early entrants who are considered locks to be drafted in this year's first round, which means guaranteed money from and a good chance they'll play big minutes for whichever franchise drafts them. Hamidou Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, on the other hand, could see their futures go in a number of directions.

To get a sense of what could happen with those three, let's look back on what's happened with past Calipari players with similar profiles.

Second-rounders

Diallo and Vanderbilt are projected to be taken in the second round, which has been a mixed bag in terms of NBA success for the seven previous selections under Calipari.

Just two of the picks — Josh Harrellson in 2011 and Darius Miller in 2012 — were seniors. Harrellson was selected 45th overall by the New Orleans Hornets but was traded the same night to the New York Knicks, for whom he played 37 games in the 2011-12 season. He briefly ended up on the Miami Heat's roster in the 2012-13 season but was waived in January and went on to sign subsequent pro contracts in Puerto Rico and then China, where he won the National Basketball League Player of the Year award. He played in 32 games for the Detroit Pistons in the 2013-14 season but has since spent his playing career with other international teams.

Miller, Kentucky's Mr. Basketball winner in 2008, was drafted by New Orleans with the 46th pick and appeared in 102 games from 2012-2014 before the team waived him on Nov. 30, 2014. He signed with Brose Baskets, a pro club in Germany, in Feb. 2015, going on to win three German Basketball Bundesliga championships and a Finals MVP award. Miller remained with the team until July 2017, when he pursued an NBA return; later that month he re-signed with New Orleans, for whom he played all 91 games (82 regular season, nine playoff) and averaged career-high marks in scoring, minutes and shooting last season.

Tyler Ulis was drafted 34th overall by the Phoenix Suns but accepted a contract offer equivalent to that of a late first-round pick: two guaranteed years worth about $2 million with team-option years in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He has averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 132 career games, primarily coming off the bench (he started 43 games last season). Phoenix has not yet indicated whether it will pick up its team option for next season.

DeAndre Liggins, the first underclassman selected in the second round during Calipari's tenure, was picked by the Orlando Magic in 2011 and played 17 games for the team in 2011-12. He has since been in and out the league, twice earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the NBA's developmental league (2014 and 2016). Liggins played a career-high 61 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016-17 season. He played 58 games between two teams last season — 31 for Milwaukee and 27 for New Orleans. He signed two 10-day contracts with the Pelicans before signing a two-year deal with the team guaranteed through the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Between the regular season and playoffs, only Miller (193) has played in more NBA games than Liggins (188) among Calipari's second-round picks.

Andrew Harrison was drafted by Phoenix with the 44th pick in 2015 but was immediately traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He spent the 2015-16 season in what is now called the G League but in July 2016 signed a four-year deal with the team, the first two guaranteed for about $2 million with a partial guarantee of $100,000 in the third year. Harrison has played in 128 NBA games, averaging 7.5 points and 2.9 assists.

The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Dakari Johnson in 2015 with the 48th pick but he didn't play a game for the franchise until last season, making 31 appearances after signing a two-year guaranteed deal with the team last July. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds while averaging about 5 minutes per game. Johnson prior to his turn in the NBA was a standout with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League, earning All-Rookie status in 2016 and an All-Star nod in 2017.

Doron Lamb was drafted by Milwaukee in 2012 and played 23 games for the Bucks in the 2012-13 season before he was traded midseason to the Magic, for whom he played 24 games. Lamb played in 53 games for the Magic in the 2013-14 season but was waived that June. He spent some time in the G League before playing overseas, most recently for Lavrio, a team in Greece.

Undrafted underclassmen

Gabriel is the only Wildcat not expected to be a draft selection this season. Of the three underclassmen under Calipari who went unselected, only Aaron Harrison was on an NBA roster last season.

Harrison after the 2015 draft signed a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal with the Charlotte Hornets and spent much of his time in the G League. He signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks on March 22 before ultimately agreeing to a deal to remain with the team through the rest of the 2017-18 season; he's currently an unrestricted free agent.

Briscoe played with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017 Summer League and signed a training-camp deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. He appeared in six preseason games with Portland but was waived in October. He then signed with BC Kalev, a professional team in Estonia, for whom he won All-Star game MVP honors in February. Briscoe earlier this month became the VTB United League's first American recipient of the Young Player of the Year award, given to the league's best player under the age of 23, after averaging 22 points, four assists and 1.3 steals in 30.1 minutes per game.

Humphries, a star in Australia before coming to UK, returned to his home country and last July signed with the Sydney Kings; he went on to win the National Basketball League Rookie of the Year award. He signed with KK FMP Beograd, a team in the Basketball League of Serbia, in February.

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