Ex-Cats

Will John Calipari's epic run of lottery picks end in 2019 NBA Draft?

Oak Hill Academy’s Keldon Johnson will play for Kentucky next season.
Oak Hill Academy’s Keldon Johnson will play for Kentucky next season. AP

Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander became John Calipari’s 18th and 19th NBA lottery picks in nine drafts as Kentucky’s head coach Thursday, a total that nearly doubles the next-best college program in that timespan.

(Duke has had 10 lottery picks in the past nine years).

On six of the past nine NBA Draft nights, Calipari has had multiple players go in the lottery. At least one Wildcat has been a lottery pick in all nine of those drafts.

Is that streak in jeopardy a year from now?

Less than 12 hours after the final pick had been made Thursday night, a slew of NBA mock drafts for 2019 started popping up across the web.

A few of the more prominent ones placed zero UK players in lottery range, and that would be a first in the Calipari era.

Mock drafts from CBS Sports, NBC Sports and the Big Lead — a USA Today website — did not have a single Kentucky Wildcat among the top 14 picks.

Heading into the season, freshman Keldon Johnson appears to be the Cats’ most likely lottery pick in 2019, according to the national pundits. Johnson — a five-star wing out of Oak Hill Academy (Va.) — was the only UK player listed in lottery range in two other websites’ mock drafts Friday morning.

Sporting News has him at No. 10 overall, and SB Nation placed him at No. 12. ESPN updated its 2019 mock draft Saturday morning, putting Johnson at No. 13 overall, the second-to-last pick in the lottery.

Five of those six mock drafts have Duke freshman RJ Barrett in the No. 1 spot. The other — SB Nation — placed Duke freshman Cam Reddish at No. 1 and Barrett at No. 2.

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Johnson obviously isn’t the only UK player with a realistic shot to become a lottery pick a year from now. Several other Wildcats on the 2018-19 roster were also listed in first round territory.

Sporting News has Ashton Hagans at No. 15 — one spot outside of lottery range. Hagans might actually be UK's most likely lottery pick next year, and national college basketball writer Jeff Goodman placed him at No. 9 overall in a list he tweeted out Friday afternoon. Goodman has Johnson projected at No. 11 overall.

The Big Lead put PJ Washington at No. 17 overall, followed by Johnson at No. 19 and Nick Richards at No. 29. ESPN, which went a full 60 picks deep, has Washington at No. 20 overall but lists no additional UK players. Sporting News has Washington at No. 27 and SB Nation placed him at No. 29.

SB Nation was also the only mock draft in this group to include EJ Montgomery, the Cats’ top-ranked recruit in the 2018 class. Montgomery is No. 30 on that list, the final pick in the first round.

Calipari could very well end up with one of his best rosters as UK’s head coach this season, a group that boasts plenty of incoming talent along with returning experience from Washington, Richards and Quade Green, and the late addition of graduate transfer Reid Travis, an all-conference selection in the Pac 12 last season.

That expectations will be high — a few national websites are already proclaiming UK as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the summer — but it’s clear there are no "sure-thing" NBA lottery picks among this group of talented Wildcats.

Since John Calipari began coaching Kentucky in the 2009-10 season, the Wildcats have had more players selected in the NBA Draft than any other school or foreign country.

2018

Kevin Knox, New York Knicks (9th pick)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Charlotte Hornets (11th pick)

2017

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (5th pick)

Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets (11th pick)

Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat (14th pick)

2016

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets (7th pick)

2015

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (1st pick)

Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings (6th pick)

Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz (12th pick)

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (13th pick)

2014

Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers (7th pick)

2013

Nerlens Noel, New Orleans Pelicans (6th pick)

2012

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets (1st pick)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats (2nd pick)

2011

Enes Kanter Utah Jazz (3rd pick)

Brandon Knight Detroit Pistons (8th pick)

2010

John Wall, Washington Wizards (1st pick)

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (5th pick)

Patrick Patterson, Houston Rockets (14th pick)

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