Ever since John Calipari got to Kentucky in 2009, the Wildcats have consistently fielded some of the top NBA draft prospects. Calipari is considered one of the pioneers of the “one-and-done” approach and recruits players based largely on this philosophy. It is rare to see a top talent stick around in Lexington for more than one season.
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Julius Randle and Bam Adebayo all went through the Kentucky program before starring in the NBA. The likes of De’Aaron Fox, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter, PJ Washington and Tyler Herro also shined while in Lexington. Kentucky has been a consistent producer of top NBA talent, which makes this upcoming draft class intriguing for several reasons.
Kentucky went 9-16 during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, easily the worst mark for the program under Calipari. The team started 1-6, its worst start since 1911. Calipari endured his worst season since 1989 at UMass.
None of Kentucky’s prospects truly broke out this year, making this group a difficult one to gauge ahead of the draft. Terrence Clarke, one of Kentucky’s early entrants, tragically lost his life after a car accident in April.
Here’s how the UK players entering the 2021 draft shape up.
BJ Boston - Boston headlined Kentucky’s heralded recruiting class, but failed to make a major impact in 2020-21. He’s got an intriguing frame at 6-7, 185, but failed to take advantage of this in Lexington. Boston struggled from the floor, shooting 38.5 percent. His defensive skills should be decent given his physical profile and he will ultimately be a better passer than his Kentucky stats showed. His shooting mechanics seem better than the 30 percent clip he shot at Kentucky and can only improve under NBA coaching. Boston can develop into a decent guard in the NBA if given time.
Isaiah Jackson - Jackson was a defensive force in college, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. He’s a solid rebounder as well and slots in as a rotation big on most NBA teams right away. He probably won’t ever turn into a star, but Jackson can provide immediate help down low to whichever team drafts him.
Olivier Sarr - Sarr is a very intriguing prospect for NBA teams due to his potential to shoot the ball as a big man. The scoring and rebounding numbers will be there, but can Sarr consistently hit from deep? He shot 44.4 percent on 27 attempts at Kentucky, but only 23.4 percent on 47 attempts over three seasons at Wake Forest. If an NBA team can hone his shooting, he could be a steal.
Davion Mintz - Mintz is the rare upperclassman at Kentucky, averaging 11.5 points per game after transferring in from Creighton. Mintz shot the ball well from three, but remained inefficient overall. He has decent defensive tools and projects well at the next level on that front, but his offensive game needs more development.