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Two Kentucky freshmen among Top 10 in ESPN’s updated NBA Mock Draft

Obviously, Kentucky’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament was disappointing for the Big Blue Nation. But on a lesser scale, it was also disappointing for NBA scouts, who were hoping to watch the Wildcats’ talented freshmen take the sport’s biggest stage.

In ESPN’s latest 2024 NBA Mock Draft update from Monday, the first few paragraphs focused on that very fact, and even called out Kentucky for being a “poor defensive team all year”.

“This result put a major damper on NBA scouting this month,” ESPN wrote. “As Kentucky had the top two prospects in the NCAA tournament and seven of the top 33 prospects in the competition.”

And yet, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo still have a pair of Wildcats projected to go among the first 10 picks in this summer’s draft. In total, they have five Kentucky players getting picked in the 2024 NBA Draft, three in the first round.

At the bottom of this mock, Givony went in-depth on the performances of Dillingham, Sheppard, Edwards, Wagner, and Antonio Reeves (who was not listed in the mock) during Kentucky’s postseason loss to Oakland. He did not further break down Onyenso, who finished with four points, six rebounds, and dive blocks in Kentucky’s season finale.

On Dillingham and Sheppard, Givony pointed to their hesitant and erratic play against Oakland as some possible red flags but did note the season-long body of impressive work. Givony still expects Sheppard to find his way into the Top 10 of this year’s draft, even with his physical limitations.

With Edwards, Givony mentioned the freshman wing adding 20 pounds of “bad weight” from the start of his high school senior season and Kentucky’s Pro Day in October, which has apparently been discussed among NBA personnel. While Givony does believe that Edwards has worked his way back into being a possible first-round selection, a “distinct lack of explosiveness” continues to give NBA teams pause right now.

As for Wagner, Givony doesn’t seem to think the young point guard is ready for the NBA right now. He adds that Wagner could return to UK for a sophomore season, transfer to a lower level, or work his way up through the G League ranks. But regardless, Givony doesn’t see a market in the NBA for a player like Wagner at this moment.

Finally, with Reeves, Givony praised the veteran’s shot-making prowess and how he “turned himself into one of the best shooters in college”, but mentioned Reeves’ shortcomings on defense and with his playmaking. Givony doesn’t see Reeves getting drafted (he ranks Reeves No. 64 overall in his Top 100 prospects list) but does foresee him receiving plenty of opportunities to show he’s worthy of a spot in the NBA.

The 2024 NBA Draft is set for June 26-27 in Brooklyn, NY.