Although Kentucky’s football season-opener vs. Southern Miss is less than two weeks away, it’s always basketball season in Big Blue Nation.
ESPN’s Chad Ford released his first 2017 mock draft (Insider) on Tuesday, and it features three Wildcats in the first 15 picks. None has played a minute in Rupp Arena, though.
Ford projects point guard De’Aaron Fox to be the first Wildcat off the board, going 10th to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jason Kidd has been churning through point guards, and the current crop of Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis was on the trade block all summer. Although Matthew Dellavedova was a solid pick-up, he isn’t the long-term answer.
Fox is often compared to a young John Wall. He’s super quick and aggressive getting to the basket. If he can get stronger, cut down on turnovers and improve his jumper, he’d be a very interesting addition.
Two picks later — the last in the lottery — Ford has the Knicks taking Fox’s backcourt partner, Malik Monk, at No. 14.
The Knicks added some veteran help this summer in Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee. That should put them on the brink of the playoffs when teamed with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
Monk might be a bit undersized (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), but he’s both an explosive athlete and a scorer. He could be a good long-term fit for the Knicks at the 2.
To round out the first half of the first round, Ford projects back-to-back Wildcats being taken, with the Wizards selecting 6-foor-9, 240-pound forward Edrice Adebayo.
Bam Adebayo already has the body of an NBA veteran. He’s tough, physical and athletic.
His on-court decision-making and offensive game are raw, but on a team such as the Wizards, he’d have plenty of time to develop. You can’t teach his sort of toughness and motor.
Fox, Monk and Adebayo are three members of Kentucky’s Class of 2016 that 247 Sports ranked second in the nation, behind only Duke. All three were 5-star recruits, with Fox ranked sixth, Adebayo ninth and Monk 11th nationally.
The five recruits in the class — Fox, Monk and Adebayo, joined by fellow 5-star forwards Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones — are projected to make all-freshman starting five for the Wildcats this season.
In ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early” top 25 for 2016-17, the Wildcats ranked third, behind Duke and defending champs Villanova.