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Nick Richards’ junior season improvement not reflected by mock draft projections

Nick Richards (UK Athletics Photo)

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.

3 comments

  1. I think there are going to be a lot of value players in the NBA second round this year and I really believe Nick is one. He’ll be a better pro player than college player in my opinion, like a lot of Calipari players who don’t get the chance to show all their skills because of the role assignment they accept as team players. His game was just beginning to blow up when the season ended abruptly. Certain pro teams like Miami value Kentucky’s player development and aren’t about to tip their hand on a talent like Nick-nothing but the best to a player that made us all proud last year.

  2. That is because the guards quit feeding Nick the last 12 games of the season. They were all focus on where their draft spot would be, and Coach let it slide. That is why Nick didn’t come back one last year. He knew Coach loves his guards and lets them take most of the shots.

  3. Richards needed another year at Kentucky with stats like he produced in 2019-20. I still think he gets drafted.

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