With the 2018-19 college basketball season pushing towards tournament time, the 2019 NBA Draft chatter is ramping up as well. Mock drafts, projections and bold predictions are coming from all over, and one name who’s an interesting prospect is Kentucky Wildcat forward Keldon Johnson. The freshman and former 5-star has hit the ground running in his first year under head coach John Calipari, producing a solid stat line.
Through the first 28 games of the season, Johnson has averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds while shooting 51.4 percent from the field. That includes an efficient 39.1 percent from 3-point land, which is third on the team behind P.J. Washington and Quade Green. The 6-foot-6 wing enters this afternoon’s road tilt at No. 7 Tennessee with a chance to move up NBA Draft boards with another productive performance.
Last time against the then-No. 1 Volunteers, he tallied 19 points on 14 shots, including a trio of triples, en route to Kentucky’s 17-point rout.
Let’s take a look at the latest on Johnson’s draft projections, stock and where he stands on big boards as we inch closer to March Madness.
Keldon Johnson NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
There are a number of varying projections on Johnson, but most have him landing somewhere in the top-10. Hoops Hype’s Bryan Kalbrosky broke down an aggregated mock draft which features projections from a number of different sites. Among the mocks included are ESPN, SI.com, The Athletic, Bleacher Report, and NBADraft.net.
In this aggregated draft, Johnson received a projection of No. 9 overall, placing him just ahead of Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimuri and North Carolina’s Nassir Little. His highest mark came in at No. 8 from The Athletic, while SI.com has him off the board at No. 13 and landing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Our own Jon Adams gave some love to the Kentucky forward in his most recent mock draft, sending him to the Atlanta Hawks at the No. 5 spot. This only puts him behind the Duke trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, as well as Murray State’s Ja Morant.
Keldon Johnson NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
Moving towards the NBADraft.net projections by Aran Smith, he also has Johnson in the top-5 prospects. He currently sits at No. 5, where the freshman has remained from the previous ranking. Johnson compares favorably to other guards and wings, sitting just above Nikiell Alexander Walker of Virginia Tech, Reddish and KZ Okpala of Stanford.
ESPN’s NBA Draft Big Board provides overall and positional rankings, as well as mini-evaluations. Johnson slides in as the No. 4 small forward, and the No. 12 player overall. His pre-draft analysis credits his “good physical tools” and “powerful attacking,” while also labeling him as a “highly competitive rebounder and defender.”
For areas of improvement, the site calls him a “streaky” shooter but uses outdated statistics. At the time of the update, he was just over 30 percent from 3. Now, he’s just under 40 percent, demonstrating increased consistency with his stroke. It also calls into question his “explosive” athleticism.
This is a dunk he made before he arrived at Kentucky.
The explosiveness is there. Whether or not it translates to the floor is another question. Regardless, Johnson is a bonafide lottery pick at this point of his young career.