Tyler Ulis draft preview: ‘I feel like I can use my size … my IQ to my advantage’

University of Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis announced he will enter this year’s NBA Draft during an afternoon news conference in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington on April 6. To his right was his mom, Kelly Reed, and stepdad Andre Reed.
University of Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis announced he will enter this year’s NBA Draft during an afternoon news conference in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington on April 6. To his right was his mom, Kelly Reed, and stepdad Andre Reed. cbertram@herald-leader.com

About Ulis

The 5-foot-9 point guard from Chicago was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore, the 21st player in school history to earn the distinction … He was the first Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year winner in school history. … Ulis was the the second player in league history (Anthony Davis being the other) to win SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. … He was named the 2016 SEC Tournament MVP after averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 assists while leading UK to the championship. … He broke UK’s single-season assists mark with 246. … Reports of a hip injury that might require surgery have made it difficult to project how high Ulis will be drafted.

What analysts are saying

Chad Ford, ESPN: “Teams are all over the board on him just because of his size. …There’s not a lot of precedent for guys that size excelling in the NBA. And people point to Isaiah Thomas (of the Boston Celtics), but Isaiah Thomas is a good 30 pounds heavier than Ulis is, and he’s more of a scoring, super athletic, stocky guard. … He has elite court vision. He is possibly the best passing point guard in this draft.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “Yeah, the height. But Ulis is such a great leader that Kentucky’s John Calipari called him the best floor general he has ever coached, a list that includes Derrick Rose, John Wall and Brandon Knight. Ulis was also third in the nation in assist-to-turnover two seasons ago and first in the SEC in 2015-16. NBA teams liked him as a freshman and then really liked him this season in an expanded role after Andrew Harrison went to the pros along with two other members of the Wildcats backcourt.”

Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress: “Ulis established himself as arguably the best point guard in college basketball as the leader of one the NCAA’s most efficient offenses, upping his draft stock tremendously in the process. … He’s your consummate floor general who runs a team exceptionally, while also finding ways to put the ball in the basket himself when needed. … He surveys the floor wonderfully with great timing and patience, whipping the ball all over the court with vision and creativity.”

What Ulis is saying

NBA.com (June 21): “I don’t really think about what people say. Everything’s always worked out well. I was this small at the high school level and it worked out. Obviously it worked out in college. And I feel like it’s going to keep working out. … I feel like if I was 6-1, 6-2 I’d be (picked) No. 1 or No. 2. But I’m not 6-1, 6-2. I’m 5-9. I got what I have, I love it, I feel like I’ve worked for what I got. I’m just going to keep playing.”

DraftExpress (June 8): “I like the NBA (three-point) line. I just keep working on my shot, that’s an everyday thing. You got to get in the gym and get shots up because that’s what you do for a living. … I’m just hoping someone gives me an opportunity. Look past my size, look at my game, and just give me an opportunity to get out there and show what I can do.”

Kentucky.com (June 17): I’ve never had hip pain, my hips are fine. I just worked out two times and nothing bothered me, but I honestly don’t know what it was. My hips are fine.”

NBA.com (May 31): “I feel like I can use my size to my advantage, my IQ to my advantage. Being small isn’t as much of a disadvantage as people think. Using your quickness and your hands, most guys can’t really see you. It helps you out a lot.”

What Coach Cal is saying

“Tyler Ulis is the best floor general that I’ve ever coached. What I loved is he grew into that position. You couldn’t speed him up and you couldn’t slow him down unless he wanted to do one of those things. He coached the team this season as much as I did, and I’m proud to say that. … Tyler Ulis is going to have a long career. Tyler Ulis will sell a lot of tickets in that league because people are going to want to go watch him play and not believe that he can have an effect on the game at that size. … Every player in that league is going to want to play with Tyler Ulis because they’ll get the ball more. … The kid played every game, played 38 minutes a game, was defensive player (of the year), was the energy of our team, and he went all year with it. When he had to take over a game — so if the hip there’s a question it’d be — wow. … If he could ever play with the Spurs and that organization, I would do a backflip on draft day. And the reason is, you’re around true professionals who are teammates that understand, what do we all have to do to win and how winning supersedes everything else. It’s amazing what gets done when no one cares who gets the credit. That saying has the Spurs logo beside it.”

Draft projections








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first round

Basketball Insiders



CBS Sports









NBA.com Consensus

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