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Rivals Roundtable: Kentucky's roster, NBA Draft, transfer portal intrigue

John Calipari
John Calipari (AP Images)

Friday is Rivals Roundtable day, and there are no shortage of discussion topics this week. Today, analysts Rob Cassidy and Jason Jordan dive into topics related to Kentucky’s thin roster, the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline and impact players in the transfer portal who are still in search of new homes.


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“On a scale of one to 10, I’m probably at a 6.5 or so. The Wildcats have just seven players as things stand, which is less than ideal with the portal options thinning by the day. Kentucky will obviously fill out its bench and add significant talent. It is still Kentucky, after all. My concern comes in when you start picturing a roster reliant almost entirely on freshmen surrounded by a few veteran role players John Calipari pulls from the portal. Having a freshman-heavy roster is one thing, but being totally reliant on a five-member recruiting class to hit the ground running in college is a massive risk in an era where reliance on one-and-done type prospects feels like less of a viable strategy than it once did. Add in the lofty expectations that are omnipresent at UK, and a rocky start to the season in Lexington feels like a possibility even before the entire roster is in place. Cal desperately needs to land a couple of difference-makers to turn to when his impressive freshmen battle growing pains and adjust to life on one of college basketball’s biggest stages. Luckily, there’s still some time to do just that.” – Cassidy

“No doubt, there’s legitimate cause for concern in Lexington despite Calipari’s tweet on Wednesday saying that he and his staff are “prepared for all scenarios,” and as a result they “can move forward.” Not sure how prepared they were to have so many strikeouts in the transfer portal, but big fish remain like North Dakota State's Grant Nelson, who recently announced he would be staying in college after participating in the NBA Draft combine. A catch like that could change the whole perception for Calipari and company. With just seven players ready to roll things are a bit murky, mostly because of the youth. It’s been proven time and time again that experience trumps flexing on draft night, and the Wildcats will need to add that element in order to run the gauntlet that is the SEC and March Madness.” - Jordan




“I was a little taken off guard by Julian Phillips staying in the draft. I think Phillips himself may have been, too, as it seriously looked as though everything was trending toward him staying in college and transferring from Tennessee last week at this time. Phillips’ camp was starting to take a look at high-major landing places for the 6-foot-8 forward, and preliminary visit conversations were being had. Then, Phillips got good news and positive feedback from workouts and the whole situation shifted in an instant. Selfishly, I’d have loved to have gotten to watch Phillips build off of a promising freshman season and stick around one more year, but you have to cash in when you can in this business, because draft stock is an incredibly volatile commodity.” - Cassidy

“I’m gonna say Dillon Mitchell, only because of the buzz around his shot-making ability at the combine. There’s no doubt that Mitchell had a lackluster freshman campaign, averaging just 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds a game for the Longhorns, but that seemed to be his motivation as he pursued his dream of making the NBA. I thought his potential would coax him into attempting to sneak into the back door of the first round, but he made the right decision not chancing it.” - Jordan



“I’m really excited about the possibility of seeing Dayton transfer Mike Sharavjamts play on a bigger stage. He’s considering Indiana, Memphis, Nebraska, Pitt and San Francisco and will likely thrive at any of those. Sharavjamts is a long-term NBA prospect that will likely use this season to raise his stock as he adds weight and learns to create shots for himself on a more consistent basis. Sharavjamts’ blend of length, agility and guard skills allow him to function as a massive point guard of sorts in stretches, and his unique skill set and upside have long intrigued NBA scouts. I think he has what it takes to be a star at the high-major level down the road. He’ll help whichever schools he chooses from day one.” - Cassidy

Grant Nelson, for sure. As the top remaining prospect in the portal, all eyes will be on the versatile 6-foot-11 forward. I’m always intrigued to see how his dominance at the mid-major level will carry over to the high-major level. Nelson led North Dakota State in scoring, pumping in 19.9 points a game, while adding 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals. He scored 20 points or more 11 times and went for 30 or more three times. His skill set is certainly transferable and he’ll no doubt pick a fast-paced system that will allow him to utilize his vast offensive gifts to exploit matchups. Heck, I think we’re all curious to see if he can live up to his nickname: “Unicorn.” - Jordan