Kentucky’s Top NBA Prospects
By: Matt S.
If you know John Calipari, you know about his reputation for putting college basketball players into the NBA. From Derrick Rose at Memphis to the likes of John Wall, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns, Coach Cal has developed the top overall picks in the draft along with several other lottery picks and first rounders. In fact, Coach Cal is yet to have a season at Kentucky without at least one first round pick. Here are the top candidates to be next on the long list of NBA players under Coach Cal.
The best place to start when looking at a potential NBA prospect is the highest rated five-star incoming freshmen. For Kentucky, that would be none other than combo guard Cason Wallace. Cason, like many of the top freshmen in the country, possesses a wide variety of skills. He can handle the ball, create for others, and also play off of the ball and knock down open jump shots. But what really sets him apart is his defense. He already possesses the physicality and athleticism that many young college athletes lack, and he uses every bit of it to be a nightmare for the opposition’s best perimeter scorer.
Kentucky’s other five-star freshman this season is forward Chris Livingston. If I am an NBA GM, I am clamoring over this prospect as Chris has modern NBA written all over him. He has a great combination of skill, size, and athleticism, allowing for him to play positionless basketball anywhere from the 2 to the 4 spot, a trait that we see in a lot of the NBA’s best stars. I compare him to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics due to this versatility as well as his two-way production. Chris can get to the lane and finish with ease, knock down jumpers, and also defend at a high level for his age.
We often see examples of players that are great college basketball players, but their skill does not translate over to the NBA. With Oscar Tshiebwe, there will always be that chance, but you can already see his emphasis on making sure that will not be the case. He has always been able to rebound as good as anyone and be a physical presence in the paint. But with the NBA transitioning into a more modern version of basketball, we now see Oscar try to keep up. This offseason, there has been a huge emphasis on him being able to step outside and occasionally knock down three point jumpers, and the ability to handle the ball and drive to the rim as well. Oscar was projected as an early second rounder last year, so if he can add to what is already a very talented skill set, we can easily see him get that bump to the first.
It may come as a surprise that I have Antonio Reeves over the likes of more commonly brought up names like Jacob Toppin or Daimion Collins. But I have already seen enough from the four games in the Bahamas, which Antonio Reeves led Kentucky to a dominant 4-0 record, while taking home the MVP trophy as well. Modern NBA basketball is all about shooting and scoring, and Reeves has demonstrated that he can do a whole lot of both on a high level. If he can continue this success through Kentucky’s tough 2022-23 schedule, there is no reason why professional teams will not give him a chance.