By LARRY VAUGHT
The more mock NBA drafts you see, the more you will might understand that why staying in college to improve a player’s draft stock does not always work.
Sometimes it’s because a player does not make enough improvement. Other times a player can make dramatic improvement but see no change in his draft status.
Just consider Kentucky’s Nick Richards, who had a fabulous junior season and if not for teammate Immanuel Quickley would likely have been SEC Player of the year. He averaged 14 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game — all career bests. He shot 64.4 percent from the field, also a career best.
He led the team in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, which was fourth nationally and best in the SEC. He had 10 double-doubles after getting just one total his first two years at UK.
For a 7-footer, he has way above average speed. His athleticism is fine. And he dramatically improved his shooting range as a junior.
Yet when Sports Illustrated updated its mock draft last week, Richards was not listed anywhere. Not in the first round, not in the second round. Some mock drafts have him going in the second round but being left out by Sports Illustrated shows what an uphill battle he might face in the draft — and likely not being able to work out for pro teams before the October draft is not going to help him.
Tyrese Maxey was listed 15th overall, slightly below where he is in some mock drafts and higher than he is in others.
“Maxey still figures to land between 10 and 20 but has become one of the more divisive prospects, with some scouts optimistic about his scoring chops and makeup, and others unimpressed by his year at Kentucky,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo.
“Granted, he wouldn’t be the first Kentucky prospect to take off after the fact. There’s a scenario where Maxey emerges as a Marcus Smart-level player who can be invaluable in multiple ways without necessarily being a high-efficiency scorer. He should at least be an average shooter moving forward, and if he embraces defending and improves as a secondary playmaker, Maxey should be a useful rotation piece.”
Quickley and his SEC Player of the Year season was listed No. 32, just out of the first round. His stock has risen in the last few weeks as teams apparently took a closer look at his skills.
Ashton Hagans was slotted No. 52 by Sports Illustrated.