For years, the words “best player on UCLA” carried some resonance. Obviously, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton come to my mind, but the recent history includes the likes of NBA All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, as well as promising youngsters such as Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine.
The old UCLA luster have been tarnished a bit this season, as the Bruins have scuffled to a 16-13 record, including a 9-7 mark in the lowly-regarded Pac-12.
It’s not as if the talent left Westwood, however, as guard Kris Wilkes is considered a 2019 NBA Draft prospect. The 6-foot-8 sophomore and former 5-star prospect out of Indiana leads the Bruins with 17.1 points per game.
As UCLA hosts Colorado tonight at Pauley Pavilion (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2), Wilkes can continue to demonstrate skills that translate to a first or second-round selection in this April’s draft. Let’s look at his projections, as well as mock drafts and draft boards.
Kris Wilkes NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
NBA Draft Room projects Wilkes as a mid-to-late first round selection. He draws comparisons to Harrison Barnes, Rudy Gay and Kris Middleton.
A wiry athlete who runs the floor well and is excellent at scoring in transition and from mid-range. A fundamentally sound all-around player who shows good awareness and recognition, spaces the floor well and is a lethal scorer.
SI.com calls him a “second-round flier” due to his lack of improvement from 2018 to 2019.
UCLA has been a mess, with Steve Alford now out, which has to be taken into consideration. But his feel for the game is underwhelming, he doesn’t play all that well off the dribble, and the ball sticks in his hands as he looks to score a bit more often than is palatable. His tools make him a viable second-round flier, but Wilkes has lost most of his All-American shine.
Kris Wilkes NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
On Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net’s list of 100 players, Wilkes appears in first-round range. Smith fits him right at the No. 24 spot.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the No. 19 small forward and No. 68 player overall. This would project him to an undrafted free agent contract, and presumably time in the G-League.
His lack of physical development at UCLA is key to his criticism. Here’s a scouting report he had during his time at the U19 USA Basketball Training Camp.
Standing 6’7 in shoes with a 6’11 wingspan and a 199-pound frame, Kris Wilkes has nice size for a small forward. Only adding 8 pounds to his frame over the last 2 years, Wilkes will need to get stronger to prepare himself for the rigors of the college game, and improving his frame could allow him to play some power forward at the next level down the road, something that would improve his versatility from a professional standpoint.
Most reports have him standing 6-foot-8, 205 pounds at the moment. That means over 2 years at UCLA under head coach Steve Alford, he only gained 6 pounds of muscle.
That suggests that despite his potential and skillset, he doesn’t have the capacity to put on extra bulk to push his way into the lane.
He may be a candidate to stay for another year, but given UCLA’s coaching instability, he may risk an early departure and hope that some of the first-round projections stick.