Mar 142013
 
Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein could potentially be a lottery pick if he decides to enter this year's NBA Draft. Photo: Mark Cornelison/Herald-Leader

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein could potentially be a lottery pick if he decides to enter this year’s NBA Draft.
Photo: Mark Cornelison/Herald-Leader

Kentucky’s quartet of freshmen continue to be recognized by some of the most well-known NBA Draft prognosticators on the web.

ESPN’s Chad Ford, DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony and Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix all updated their 2013 mock drafts Wednesday, and all three analysts (for the most part) kept UK’s four freshmen in favorable positions.

It seems Nerlens Noel’s season-ending knee injury has not eliminated him from the No. 1 overall pick discussion. Givony still has the UK big man in the top spot. Immediately after the injury, he told the Herald-Leader that he was in no rush to drop Noel from that position.

“He’s a seven-foot, freakishly athletic big man with an unbelievable motor,” Givony said at the time. “He’s got phenomenal shot-blocking instincts, he’s a very good rebounder and he’s a very good finisher around the basket. All those things are pretty rare.”

Ford and Mannix have Noel at No. 2. “Assuming the rehab goes well, Noel continues to be a likely top-three pick and still has a shot at going No. 1 overall,” Ford wrote.

READ MORE: A closer look at UK’s scholarship situation for 2013-14

The NBA “lottery” consists of the first 14 picks of the draft, and there’s still a chance UK could have multiple players go in that range.

Alex Poythress, despite his uneven season, remains UK’s No. 2 prospect according to all three analysts. Ford has him at No. 13, and Givony and Mannix peg Poythress at No. 15.

“Poythress continues to drive us and everyone else in the NBA world crazy,” Ford wrote. “We all want to love him, but he can make it so, so hard.”

Mannix has similar feelings: “Few players have disappointed NBA scouts as much as Poythress, whose strengths (scoring in the paint, offensive rebounding) and weaknesses (poor ball handling, inconsistent perimeter shooting) are the same today as they were at the start of the season.”

Willie Cauley-Stein is No. 16 on Ford’s board and No. 20 on Mannix’s list. DraftExpress.com does not include Cauley-Stein in its 2013 mock draft, but Givony tweeted Wednesday that his board “attempts to project who might actually be entering the draft.” If Cauley-Stein does enter the draft, Givony has him ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect. DraftExpress projects him as the No. 10 pick in the 2014 draft.

Ford bluntly states that Cauley-Stein should return for his sophomore year.

“But if he comes out now, someone is going to gamble on his combination of length and agility in the first round,” the ESPN analyst wrote.

Goodwin is ranked by DraftExpress (18th) and ESPN (20th), but is not mentioned on the Sports Illustrated list, which only includes the top 20 picks.

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