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NBA Draft prospect rankings: Three Kentucky stars make the top 13 SEC players who could be drafted

For the first six years of John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats could stake claim to bragging rights about having the first player from the SEC drafted. It played a huge role in his rise to building the UK empire — and now that trend is turning. In 2016, LSU’s Ben Simmons was drafted ahead of Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere. In 2018, it was Alabama standout Collin Sexton who going ahead of Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And this past summer, it was Vanderbilt standout Darius Garland who got the nod at No. 5 over PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson.

2020 could see another program steal the crown Kentucky once cradled. For a third consecutive year, it’s looking like (for now) a non-Kentucky SEC program is in line to have a player drafted ahead of a Kentucky product. With five-star incoming Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards, the Bulldogs have a top-two prospect and an opportunity to keep the streak alive.

Not to fear for Big Blue Nation, though. Kentucky (stop me if you’ve heard this before) is still loaded with talent. An embarrassment of them, really. And while UK doesn’t have the best NBA Draft prospect from the conference this cycle, it more than makes up for it with depth; the Wildcats have more on the SEC’s draft radar than any other program.

1. Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Measurables: 6-5, 225 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Draft projection:Top 5 pick

What to know: Here’s the full list of higher-rated players to come through the Georgia basketball program: *crickets.* Yep, Anthony Edwards is the highest-rated recruit in 247Sports’ index of UGA signees. And expectations have been set thusly. He’s an explosive two-way guard who makes the game look easy. He’ll have the ball in his hands a lot as a freshman and should put up numbers that rival any other incoming freshmen in the country.

2. Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

Measurables: 6-3, 198 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Draft projection: Top 10 pick

What to know: How will Kentucky use him? He’s a reliable ball-handler, but with Ashton Hagans back, Tyrese Maxey could occupy space on the wing. Either way, his playmaking, vision and knack for scoring will allow him to carve out a huge role right away. He should lead UK in scoring and finish in the top two on the team in assists.

3. Scottie Lewis, Florida

Measurables: 6-5, 185 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Draft projection: Top 10 pick

What to know: Lewis is a blue-chip freshman with all the credentials: McDonald’s All-American, former five-star recruit — a likely one-and-done. What makes him such a fascinating prospect is his lockdown perimeter defensive instincts and out-of-this-world athleticism. He’s still long and slender and needs to grow into his 6-5 frame, but the base skills and size are set for him to develop into one of the best wing prospects in the 2020 draft class.

4. Kahlil Whitney, Kentucky

Measurables: 6-6, 210 pounds
Position: Small forward
Draft projection: First round

What to know: I could tell you that Kahlil Whitney is an incredibly gifted, explosive athlete, but y’know what? How about I just show you:

That’s the type of athleticism Kentucky is getting with Whitney, who boasts a 6-foot-6 frame and can jump out, over and through the gym. His skills are still raw — as 247Sports’ Jerry Meyer noted here, he’s turnover prone and tends to be a ball-stopper — but in UK’s system he should thrive in the role he’s asked to play.

5. Trendon Watford, LSU

Measurables: 6-7, 235 pounds
Position: Power forward
Draft projection: First round

What to know: LSU is getting a winner here in Trendon Watford, who in his high school career won three consecutive Class 7A state championships before signing with the Tigers in May. Watford can score, rebound and assist at a high level. He should slot into a starting role right away for a team that lost its top two scorers from last season.

6. Kira Lewis, Alabama

Measurables: 6-3, 167 pounds
Position: Point guard
Draft projection: First round

What to know: Kira Lewis was the youngest player at the D-I level to play in college basketball last season, the result of a late-summer reclassification in 2018. That he averaged 13.5 points and 2.9 assists only shows his sky-high potential. He should benefit greatly from the offseason coaching change that brought Nate Oats and his guard-friendly system to town.

7. A.J. Lawson, South Carolina

Measurables: 6-6, 178 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Draft projection: First round

What to know: The list of sub-100 high school recruits turning into legitimate NBA prospects is short every year, but Lawson’s nearly a lock to make it. Ranked as the No. 146 overall recruit in the Class of 2018, his scoring instincts, range and size have earned him first-round buzz heading into his sophomore season.

8. Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee

Measurables: 6-6, 208 pounds
Position: Point guard
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Opportunity awaits for Josiah-Jordan James after Tennessee lost starting point guard Jordan Bone to the NBA Draft. He’s prepared to make the most of it. The McDonald’s All-American enrolled in May and is on track to take the starting job and run with it.

9. Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

Measurables: 6-6, 213 pounds
Position: Small forward
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Lost amidst a no-good, very bad season for Vandy last year — its worst in school history — was the developmental bright spot of Aaron Nesmith. He’s a long, rangy wing who can do a little of everything from defending to scoring to distributing. Vanderbilt might very well be a no-good, very bad team again, but Nesmith’s on the radar as a guy capable of sliding into first-round consideration by season’s end — or sooner.

10. Isaiah Joe, Arkansas

Measurables: 6-5, 167 pounds
Position: Shooting guard
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Shooting is the NBA skill for Isaiah Joe. He knocked down 41.4% from the 3-point line as a freshman last season while breaking the SEC freshman record for 3-pointers made per game. He also rated in the 90th percentile as a spot-up shooter, per Synergy. If the Razorbacks have a serviceable point guard who can feed him the ball, Joe should be among the best sophomores in the SEC this season.

11. Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

Measurables: 6-3, 198 pounds
Position: Point guard
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: The offensive production leaves a little to be desired, but you’d have a hard time finding a more sound pressure defender on the perimeter in the league than Hagans. He led all SEC freshmen in steals per game and ranked second in assists per game.

12. Rayshaun Hammonds, Georgia

Measurables: 6-9, 235 pounds
Position: Power forward
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Georgia got hit with a gut punch when big man Nic Claxton went from under-the-radar draft prospect to first-round selection this past offseason. It might happen again in 2020, but this time we’ll see it coming with Rayshaun Hammonds. Hammonds started the first 27 games of last season before sustaining a late-season foot injury that effectively ended his season, but he’ll be a key piece of UGA’s return to relevance this season.

13. Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Measurables: 6-6, 225 pounds
Position: Small forward
Draft projection: Second round

What to know: Still a work-in-progress offensively, but Okoro’s 6-6 built-out frame should earn him hefty playing time because of what he can both defensively and on the boards for Auburn. Sneaky intriguing long-term prospect to monitor, particularly if his offensive production comes closer to what he can do defensively.

Honorable mentions: Andrew Nembhard, Florida; Reggie Perry, Mississippi State; Tre Mann, Florida; EJ Montgomery, Kentucky; JaVonte Smart, LSU; Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky; Johnny Juzang, Kentucky; Skylar Mays, LSU; Emmitt Williams, LSU; Christian Brown, Georgia; Devontae Shuler, Ole Miss; Savion Flagg, Texas A&M

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