Three thoughts on how Kentucky players fared in Thursday night’s NBA Draft:
1. The Kings, yes, the Kings were the kings of the draft
Long known as a dysfunctional organization, the Kings put together an impressive collection of talent from blue-blood programs. That started with the No. 5 overall pick when the Kings tabbed Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox. They then traded their 10th pick to Portland for the 15th and 20th selections. They grabbed North Carolina’s Justin Jackson at No. 15 and Duke’s Harry Giles at No. 20. Early in the second round, with the 34th overall pick, Sacramento picked up Kansas guard Frank Mason.
Fox will be a star in the league. He’s ultra-quick, can defend and has the personality to be the face of the franchise. Jackson is a solid player who can score from the perimeter. Giles has battled chronic knee problems, but if healthy has tremendous upside. Mason is a tough, mature player who should be an able backup to Fox.
Andrew Sharp of SI.com gave the Kings an A+ grade in his evaluations. “Fox is great, and instead of trading up to get him, the Kings waited for him to fall at five,” Sharp wrote. “Then they turned the No. 10 pick into 15 and 20. Justin Jackson should be an excellent role player for them, and Giles is a smart gamble at 20. I don’t want to get too excited, and I’m worried about jinxing this, I don’t know what to trust here, but. ... The Kings had a great draft? It really was a crazy week in the NBA.”
Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee gushed over Fox. “While members of the Kings front office had spoken favorably of Jackson, Giles and Mason, all of whom visited in recent weeks, Fox is clearly the prize,” she wrote. “In a point guard-centric era, he is the critical piece of the massive rebuild, both because of his enormous talents and because he wanted the job. During his visit. At the draft combine. On social media. In interview after interview. His message was consistent: He wanted the responsibility and was willing to withstand the heat.”
2. Charlotte tickled to see Malik Monk at No. 11
Judging from the build-up to draft night, the Hornets didn't think Monk would fall to their No. 11 pick. The Kentucky guard did exactly that, however. Expected to go anywhere from No. 7 through No. 10, Monk watched Minnesota trade No. 7 to Chicago, who picked Lauri Markkanen of Arizona. John Calipari said afterward that he wanted Monk to go to New York at No. 8, but the Knicks drafted French guard Frank Ntilikina. In need of a point guard who can score -- Dallas was dead last in scoring at 97.9 points per game -- the Mavericks took Dennis Smith Jr. from North Carolina State. Using the pick it acquired from Sacramento, Portland took Gonzaga center/forward Zach Collins.
That left Monk for the Hornets, who were all too happy to snap up the sharpshooter. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wrote that Monk might remind Charlotte fans of the Hornets famous owner. “Monk said he met with Hornets owner Michael Jordan earlier in the week via Skype,” Bonnell wrote. “The Hornets closely monitored the Monk situation this week, with his stock seemingly slipping to a point that he could reach No. 11. Kentucky coach John Calipari said on ESPN that he knew the Hornets would select Monk, because Monk’s game is reminiscent of Jordan’s when he played for the Chicago Bulls.”
The Hornets ranked 18th in three-point percentage last season at 35.1 percent. Monk should be able to stretch defenses and allow more room for the just-acquired Dwight Howard to operate inside. “I believe Monk will land with a thunderclap,” wrote Scott Fowler of the Observer. “I just keep thinking about that 47-point game Monk had against eventual NCAA champion North Carolina in December, when he got as hot as I have ever seen any college player get.”
Sharp gave the Hornets' draft a B+ and wrote, “As a full-fledged Malik Monk acolyte, let me say three things about Thursday. First, I’m bummed that I have to watch Dwight Howard anytime I want to check in on Monk next year. Second, between adding weight and learning how to score and finish in the lane, Monk will probably take a year or two before he’s effective in the NBA. But third, at some point there will be a new center in Charlotte, and we gotta bring the Dunk and Monk nickname to life. Dunk and Monk is the future in Charlotte.”
3. Bam Adebayo proved that teams pay attention to workouts
By the latter part of the regular season, the Kentucky center had slipped to either late first round or early second round in the various mock drafts. There was some doubt whether the North Carolina native should stamp himself a one-and-done. Adebayo picked up his play late in the year and on into the post-season, but it was his performance in team workouts that raised his stock.
Almost exclusively a post player at UK, Adebayo showed the pro scouts that he could in fact shoot the basketball. In fact, in a workout last Sunday with Charlotte, Adebayo reportedly wowed the Hornets’ brass with his three-point shooting. There was considerable speculation that Charlotte would take Adebayo at No. 11. That ended, however, when Monk fell into the Hornets’ lap. Miami, at No. 14, ended up taking Adebayo with the final lottery pick of this year’s draft.
Greg Cote of the Miami Herald wrote, “Call Adebayo a ‘reach’ if you wish, based on most mock-draft projections that had him going a bit lower. But you know what I call him? A 6-10, 245-pound kid promising enough to be recruited by John Calipari, and then promising enough again to be drafted by Pat Riley. That earns a little benefit of doubt. Make that a lot. “
Most scouts compared Adebayo to Howard, but Bam showed that he has potential to stretch defenses. He’s certainly athletic and can get up and down the floor.
Ryan DiPentima of the Palm Beach Post was not as complimentary as Cote. “One of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the draft, Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside will create a formidable frontcourt in Miami,” DiPenttima wrote. “That said, drafting a player with the same skill set as Whiteside doesn’t make a ton of sense.”