There is little doubt that Kentucky’s TyTy Washington and Shaedon Sharpe will be first-round picks in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. How early they’ll go is up for debate.
Washington was one the top freshmen in the nation this past season, averaging 12.5 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 45.1% from the field and 35.0% from three-point range. He was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick by both the league’s coaches and media members.
However, it’s teammate Shaedon Sharpe with the best odds to be chosen first among UK’s draft prospects despite him never playing a game for the program.
Sharpe joined the team midseason with the intent being that he’d play for Kentucky this fall. But the likelihood of him being chosen early in the lottery Thursday night changed those plans.
Kentucky’s other NBA Draft eligible players — Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz — will almost certainly be looking to sign a free agent contract after the draft’s two rounds are completed while former Kentucky guard Johnny Juzang could be a second-round selection after two successful seasons at UCLA .
Here’s what some NBA analysts are saying about Sharpe and Washington:
The none-and-done Kentucky player ranks fourth on The Ringer’s NBA Draft Big Board as of its June 13 update. His player comparisons there include Paul George, a “tall” Bradley Beal and Jalen Green.
“He’s an above-the-rim athlete who skies for dunks in space and blocks on the break,” The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor writes. “His movements of him are shifty and have a certain elasticity. He’s such a quick leaper that teams could use him in the half court on lobs or finishes from the dunker’s spot.”
However, O’Connor does acknowledge that drafting Sharpe early would be a gamble since he sat out all of last season.
“He already lacked significant big-game exposure in high school, so the jump to the NBA will be both a major physical and mental challenge,” O’Connor writes.
The Ringer’s prediction, as of its June 17 update: The Portland Trail Blazers will select Sharpe with the seventh overall pick. “He has shown enough flashes of grit and unselfishness to make it clear he has the qualities of a potential star,” O’Connor writes.
Sharpe ranks fifth in CBS Sports’ prospect rankings with a pro comparison being Andrew Wiggins.
CBS Sports’ David Cobb also predicts (as of June 19) that Portland, with the seventh pick, will be the destination for Sharpe.
“He’s billed as an athletic shooting guard with the explosiveness to create shots and finish at the rim, and he wound up as the No. 3 ranked prospect in the 2021 recruiting class,” Cobb writes. “That slotting put him ahead of players like Jabari Smith, Jalen Duren and AJ Griffin. It’s hard to see a prospect with those credentials slipping much further in this draft even if he is somewhat of a mystery.”
On Bleacher Report, Jonathan Wasserman predicts that Sharpe will go at No. 8 to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Yet Wasserman also said that Sharpe could end up being the talk of draft night.
“If a surprise name can shake up the top four, we’re hearing it is Sharpe,” Wasserman writes. “There is some buzz about a team in the top four showing extra interest. … He’s in the conversation for the Detroit Pistons at No. 5 and likely every team picking sixth to 10th.”
Over at Stadium (as of June 15), Jeff Goodman pegs Sharpe as the fifth overall pick by Detroit.
“I watched this athletic guard a summer ago and fell in love with his potential,” Goodman writes. “Sharpe is a Canadian who is more comfortable as a scorer and able to get to the basket and finish due to his size, speed and athleticism.”
While Washington is projected as a possible lottery pick, he only comes in at 22nd on The Ringer’s NBA Draft Big Board. His player comparison of him there is fellow former UK star Immanuel Quickley.
What’s holding him back?
Washington “lacks the explosiveness to score at the rim or draw fouls, which will put a cap on his scoring upside unless he becomes an incredible three-point shooter,” O’Connor writes. “His lack of burst when turning the corner in the pick-and-roll is also worrisome.”
But O’Connor’s review isn’t all bad.
Washington “looks like a point guard who studies moves from great point guards who weren’t reliant on athleticism, such as Chris Paul, with his stutters and head fakes as he runs the pick-and-roll,” O’Connor writes. “He can tap or slam on the brakes, always shifting tempo to keep the defense guessing. He sees the whole floor and can make every pass, whether it’s a lob, a dish to a cutter, or a kickout.”
The Ringer’s prediction: The Minnesota Timberwolves will select Washington with the 19th overall pick. “TyTy and Karl-Anthony Towns could make for a lethal pick-and-roll pairing,” O’Connor writes.
Washington fares better in CBS Sports’ prospect rankings, ranking 12th with a pro comparison being Cole Anthony.
The CBS Sports mock draft, however, has Washington as the 17th pick by the Houston Rockets.
“Washington can play on or off the ball and is an intense defender, though he may be too small to contest the shots of taller NBA wings,” Cobb writes.
Bleacher Report’s Wasserman has Washington dropping to 21st overall to the Denver Nuggets.
Goodman predicts a better result for Washington in his mock draft for Stadium — 11th to the New York Knicks.
“Washington was solid as a freshman, but didn’t quite live up to the hype — but part of it was because he didn’t have the ball in his hands as much due to the presence of pass-first Kentucky point guard Sahvir Wheeler ,” Goodman writes. “Washington has a high IQ, and he is a true combo guard. The Knicks need a point guard of the future and Washington can fill that role.”
2022 NBA Draft
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY
TV: ABC-36 (first-round only), ESPN (both rounds)