The NBA¿Draft is becoming a tradition in Kentucky.
A¿year ago, Big Blue Nation watched as five players — four of them freshmen — were drafted in first round of the league’s annual event.
One of those former Kentucky players — John¿Wall, was the top pick, a first-ever feat for a program that rightfully prides itself as the “Greatest Tradition in College Basketball.”
Usually the summer months aren’t heaped with an abundance of news on current and former players, but the draft provides a relief for the summertime blues when it comes to discussing Kentucky basketball. It’s a welcomed relief between the NBA¿Finals and the start of college football season.
The NBA¿executives and its players are discussing a new labor agreement, but will continue on with the draft, scheduled for 7:30 tonight in Newark, N.J. The event will be televised on ESPN.
Although Kentucky doesn’t have a shot at producing a second straight top pick, at least two of four former Wildcats in the draft likely will be chosen in the first round tonight. If those two are picked, it would bring the two-year total to seven players taken in one of the first 30 slots.
Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight figure to be two of the first players who will be drafted in the opening round.
Although Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA and didn’t play for the Wildcats last season, he practiced with the team on a regular basis and remained in tip-top playing shape. Kanter arrived at Kentucky with a reputation as a player with soft hands and a nice shooting touch. Along with his shooting skills, Kanter also is versatile in the post.
Because of his size and versatility, Kanter is a hot commodity among the list of players available, and don’t be surprised if the Turkey native is among the first selections in the opening round. The early odds are that Kanter will be Cleveland’s second pick in the fourth slot. The Cavaliers also have the first pick, giving the organization four selections in the first two rounds.
Knight followed in Wall’s footsteps and helped lead the Wildcats to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. The former Kentucky guard averaged 17.2 points and 4.2 assists per game and has better range from the perimeter than Wall displayed in his one season with the Wildcats.
Knight has just as much quickness as Wall and has a solid first step to the basket. Knight has been working on his ball handling skills in preparation for the draft.
Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins also are on the draft list. Harrellson appears to be a lock for the second round, while Liggins’ stock has apparently dropped since declaring for the draft. Liggins’ strong suit is his defensive skills, while Harrellson’s old-fashioned work ethic make him an intriguing prospect.
Knight and Kanter have been invited to the “Green Room” and will be joined by Kentucky coach John Calipari. It’s not certain where Knight and Kanter will end up, but odds are, both players will be among the first two names called by NBA¿Commissioner David Stern.
It’s basketball time again in the Bluegrass.¿Well, sort of. Just enough to fill the chatter bucket for a few more moths.