Herro shines on NBA Draft stage, Johnson slips

Published 10:43 am Friday, June 21, 2019

One of the biggest nights in the NBA for upcoming players has come and gone. Each year, teams gather inside the office to debate top-level draft prospects that they hope will help their team reach the next level. As has been the case for many years over the past decade, multiple players from Kentucky were taken in the first round of the draft.

Two-year big man PJ Washington was the first to hear his name with the power forward being selected to the Charlotte Hornets, a short drive for Kentucky fans wanting to see him play in person once again. The next was the sharpshooting Tyler Herro when the Miami Heat selected the 6-6 guard with the 13th overall pick in the draft.

One of the bigger shockers of the draft, Keldon Johnson barely made the cut in the first round when the San Antonio Spurs picked the guard/forward with the 29th overall pick in the draft.

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The real winners and losers from this draft will not be known until at least three years down the road, but there is nothing wrong with a little instant reaction to those Wildcats picked in the first round.

Below are the grades for each Kentucky player picked in this year’s draft based on fit and the team’s roster:

PJ Washington to Charlotte — C+

PJ Washington was the best player on a Kentucky team that advanced to the Elite Eight last year. He averaged 15.2 points per game and averaged 7.5 rebounds. Probably the biggest thing that helped UK’s big man in his second year was his ability to improve his outside shot.

As a freshman, Washington knocked down only 24 percent of his shots from long range. Last year, that number improved to 42 percent — one of the highest on the team. His overall field-goal percentage stayed roughly the same.

With that said, Charlotte probably isn’t the best place that Washington could land from a player development standpoint. The team is in danger of losing their elite point guard, Kemba Walker, and doesn’t really have much else to offer. If history has shown us anything, the Hornets haven’t developed their young players very well. Miles Bridges and Malik Monk underperformed in recent years with Dwayne Bacon being the only prospect to have some success.

One plus for Washington is that he should see plenty of minutes to help with on-the-court development. Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller are the only big mean under contract that will play power forward for the Hornets. My guess is that Washington will be at the least in the rotation by the halfway point of the season.

Tyler Herro to Miami — A

While Miami didn’t draft the best player available when their 13th overall draft pick rolled around, they did fill a pretty big gap when they drafted Tyler Herro. While his numbers at Kentucky weren’t off the charts (14 points per game while shooting 35.5 percent from long range and 46.2 percent overall), he has the mechanics to be an elite shooter in the NBA.

Herro improved defensively throughout his tenure at Kentucky as well. The biggest knock on Herro coming out of the combine was his negative wingspan, something that is nearly unheardof in the NBA. Outside of that, Herro is a pretty good pick at 13.

As far as fit goes, Miami was in dire need of another scorer. Josh Richardson, former Tennessee Vol, has been the de facto leader of the team over the past couple of years. Outside of Goran Dragic, the Heat really didn’t have another player that could score points when it was needed. Herro will provide that relief.

Will he ever be on the level of J.J. Reddick, probably not, but Herro has the one elite skill every NBA team wants. He will likely be a starter or sixth man in the NBA for a long time.

Keldon Johnson to San Antonio — D

When the 2018-19 season started, most Kentucky fans assumed that Keldon Johnson was going to be the best player (or at least the player most likely to be a stud). As the season progressed, time and time again it was proven that wasn’t the case. While Johnson had his moments, he wasn’t the most important player on the team.

The 6-6 guard posted averages of 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He is super athletic but couldn’t seem to put it all together in his one year at Kentucky. Because of that, he barely made it inside the first round after being drafted by the Spurs near the end of the round.

Johnson is going to find it hard to see any minutes within his first year. With Demar DeRozan taking over the starting spot, there is a long line of role players Johnson is going will have to outperform. Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay and Lonnie Walker IV are all in front of him. From an athletic standpoint, Johnson is leaps and bounds better than each one. From a shooting perspective, it may be difficult to argue Johnson is better than any of them.

Of course, we are talking about the Spurs. If any organization can get the best out of a prospect, it’s San Antonio.