5 SEC players with first-round NBA Draft potential
Some years, the Kentucky Wildcats have five first-round NBA Draft prospects all by themselves. This year, though, has been different.
The Wildcats still have as many as four first-round candidates, but only two are likely to be sure things should they declare.
However, that doesn’t mean the SEC is lacking in first-round talent, as there should be plenty of players who hear their names called early in the draft, continuing a trend. The SEC has had multiple first-round picks every year since being shut out in 2009.
- 2017: 3 first-round picks (all Kentucky)
- 2016: 5 first-round picks (including No. 1 Ben Simmons)
- 2015: 6 first-round picks (including No. 1 Karl-Anthony Towns)
- 2014: 2 first-round picks
- 2013: 3 first-round picks
- 2012: 8 first-round picks (including first three picks)
- 2011: 2 first-round picks
- 2010: 5 first-round picks (all 5 Kentucky, including No. 1 John Wall)
- 2009: 0 first-round picks
Here’s a quick look at five players who will likely head to NBA after this season:
1. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
Porter was one of the most-heralded recruits in Mizzou history, but his college career might be over after only two minutes. He scored two points in those two minutes before injuring his back, so if you project that out (ridiculous, I know) over about 30 minutes a game, he’d be averaging 30 points.
He has talked in recent weeks about returning this season, but since he is seemingly a consensus top-five pick, it would appear the risks of him returning outweigh the reward.
The Tigers would love to have him back next season, but the NBA is calling, and it might be too good for Porter to pass up.
2. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama
Sexton, also a freshman, was the No. 1-rated point guard in the 2017 class. He is an all-around great player, but what makes him special is his competitive edge. When the Crimson Tide faced Oklahoma and star guard Trae Young earlier this year, Sexton out-dueled him, leading the Tide to a victory.
Sexton’s ability to play with the ball in his hands and as a slasher who can get to the rim with ease make him an intriguing NBA prospect. He’s also 6-3, bigger than Young. Plays like this show he’s ready to play at the next level:
Collin Sexton in transition. FILTHY 🔥 pic.twitter.com/15vBFFEUrc
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 10, 2018
If he finishes the year strong, he could work himself into the top 10.
3. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
Knox, a 6-7 freshman, isn’t the home-run prospect Kentucky has produced in recent years, but his size and athleticism make him a near-lock to be drafted in the first round.
However, scouts will want to see more consistency down the stretch. Though Knox has scored 20 or more points six times, he’s also scored fewer than 10 points six times.
His inconsistent play is a microcosm of Kentucky’s season, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can turn things around. Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament hopes might hang in the balance. The Wildcats have a big opportunity tonight, at No. 10 Auburn.
4. Robert Williams, F/C, Texas A&M
Interestingly, Williams is drawing comparisons to DeAndre Jordan, another former Aggie. That’s understandable, as Williams leads the SEC in rebounds per game (9.5) and is second with 2.4 blocks per night.
Williams’ sophomore season has been remarkably similar to his freshman year, and NBA teams will value that consistency. He isn’t going to score a ton of points (averaging 10.8 points per game this year), but at 6-10, 241, he can serve as a defensive anchor and will get second-chance points off offensive rebounds.
5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky
Kentucky signed six 5-star prospects in 2017. Gilgeous-Alexander was their seventh-ranked signee and a 4-star.
Coach John Calipari has been very complimentary of SGA recently, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to averaging 13.1 points per game, SGA is also fourth in the SEC in assists (4.6) and third in steals (1.7).
As a 6-6 point guard, NBA teams will love Gilgeous-Alexander’s size and versatility, and he could work his way into the 10-15 range in the first round.
On the fringe: Jarred Vanderbilt, Kentucky; Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky; Jontay Porter, Mizzou; Daniel Gafford, Arkansas