Observing Keldon Johnson, Dedric Lawson, and P.J. Washington

January 27, 2019

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the opportunity to watch Kentucky play against Kansas in a SEC/Big 12 Challenge game that took place on January 26th.    It was a close, competitive match that went back and forth, but Kentucky played very well in the second half, and they ended up defeating Kansas to get the win.  Here are my thoughts on how various players fared on this day, along with how their skills may translate to the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-6 freshman swingman, Keldon Johnson had a good showing in his team’s victory over Kansas.  He excelled as a shooter and finisher on offense, and he also helped out on the boards to get his team a good number of rebounds.  Johnson did a very good job of knocking down spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for his team, and he also was able to run off of a screen to make one in this game.  He also showed an adequate ability to score off of aggressive drives to the hoop, and he was able to draw free throws on one possession.  Plus, he also was able to score on a put back after getting an offensive board, but he does not possess an elite first step to the hoop, and sometimes he can be prone to rushing, which can lead him to miss shots.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would actively look to crash the glass to haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively though, he struggled to stay with his man or to make timely rotations, as he tended to commit fouls on drives to the basket.  Another time, his teammate didn’t call out a screen, and he struggled to fight through the screen, and his team ended up allowing his man to score on a corner three.

In summary, Keldon Johnson played fairly well in his team’s win over Kansas.  He excelled as a shooter and rebounder, and he also made hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the court.  On the other hand, he didn’t seem to consistently be able to create his own shot off the dribble, and he also struggled with his position defense at times.  Still, he is an athletic, high motor swingman that has been shooting the ball well, and he could be a potential lottery pick for the upcoming draft.

Kansas’ junior forward, Dedric Lawson also had a good showing in his team’s loss to Kentucky.  He showed off versatile scoring skills and he also rebounded the ball extremely well, and though he was inconsistent in making shots and with his position defense, Lawson was able to score 20 points and collect 15 rebounds in this game.

Lawson did a decent job of scoring in the post.  He was able to score on a turnaround jumper, and he also showed a knack for drawing fouls on his opponents, but sometimes he would miss jumpers from the block as well as on drives to the hoop, as he would not always have his balance or shooting touch at times.  Also, he did a good job of making spot-up threes off the catch, and he also was able to use an overhead ball fake and a step back move to make a pull-up, mid-range jumper.  Also, he excelled at scoring on put backs off of offensive rebounds.

Lawson showed off decent playmaking skills.  Though he looked to score quite often, he can pass out of the post to set up scores for his teammates.  However, his lone turnover was when he stepped out of bounds when looking to score off the dribble once.  He also did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  He hauled in many boards on both ends of the floor, and he was a chairman of the boards in this game.

Defensively, he looked to be about average.  Lawson was able to intercept a pass to get a steal, and he also blocked a shot.  Plus, he would contest shots in the post to force misses, and he also drew a charge when defending down low.  However, he also would commit fouls and allow scores in the post, as he would sometimes struggle to stay with his man.  In summary, Dedric Lawson had a good showing in his team’s loss to Kentucky.  He was able to score the basketball in numerous ways, and he also rebounded the ball well.  Right now, he may project to go in the late first to the second round range, and he could be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-8 sophomore forward, P.J. Washington had a solid showing in his team’s win over Kansas.  He excelled as a low post scorer and as a scorer off the dribble.  Washington can score on strong drop step moves as well as on turnaround jump hooks, and he possesses good footwork, agility, and shooting touch to make shots down low.  He also was able to drive from the baseline to score on a double-pump dunk.   However, he struggled to make threes, as he missed all of his outside shots from beyond the arc.  Also, he was able to find the cutter to get an assist in this game to show off some of his passing skills.  Washington also did a great job of rebounding the basketball.

Defensively, he looked to be about average.  He was able to swat a shot off of a drive to prevent an opponent from scoring in transition.  But another time, he struggled to guard a quicker player out on the perimeter, and ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.   On a separate play, he was called for committing a reach-in foul when defending in the post.  In this game, P.J. Washington put forth a good performance, and his strong play was vital to help get his team the victory over Kansas.  He excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, and he also rebounded the ball well.  He will need to be a more consistent shooter and defender, but he is a skilled, high motor combo forward that could end up being a late first round pick, as he may possess a similar game to that of Brooklyn Nets’ forward, DeMarre Carroll in the NBA.

Kansas’ 6-5 freshman guard, Quentin Grimes quietly had a good game in his team’s loss to Kentucky.  He did a very good job of knocking down jumpers, as he would make open spot-up threes, and he showed a knack for making them from the corner.  He also made a pull-up mid-range jumper from the left elbow.  He also flashed the ability to score off of drives, as he was able to draw free throws on one play, but he missed a floater on another.  He also attempted a shot in the post, but missed another time.  Grimes displayed decent playmaking skills, and he was able to kick a ball out to a shooter off the dribble to set up a scoring chance for a teammate.  Defensively, he may need to improve.  He had a tendency to put his hands on opponents, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.

Overall, this was a good showing for Quentin Grimes, as he excelled as a floor spacer to keep his team in the ball game.  This was a step in the right direction, and Grimes can be a difference maker if he can shoot as well as he did against Kentucky as well as when he played against Michigan State in the season opener.  He will need to be a more consistent shooter, and improve in the other facets of the game, but Grimes is a talented swingman that could be a potential first round pick, as he may project to be a similar player to that of current Miami Heat guard, Wayne Ellington in the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-3 freshman point guard, Ashton Hagans played well in his team’s victory on this day.  He played terrific defense, as he would poke balls away to get steals, and he also would play passing lanes to get deflections.  He is a pesky defender that has very good agility and footwork, and he would apply heavy ball pressure to crowd opposing ball handlers to make it tough for them to make plays.  Also, he showed a decent ability to make jumpers.  Hagans was able to make a corner three, and he also used a step back move to make a long, pull-up two-point shot.  He struggled to make shots efficiently inside the arc, but he was able to score on a fast break drive, and he also can draw fouls on opponents when taking the ball to the rim.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Hagans is an unselfish player that can find the open man to get assists, and he also can kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble routinely due to possessing good court vision.  But sometimes he can throw hasty passes that would get intercepted, and his play can get sloppy at times, which can lead him to commit turnovers due to being careless with his ball handling and footwork.

Right now, Ashton Hagans is an athletic, skilled point guard that may possess considerable upside, and he is a very good defensive player that can really guard his opponents.  Hagans is a pass-first playmaker that defends well, though Hagans will still need to improve his jump shot.  Currently, Hagans’ draft range may be in the late first to the early second round range.  Hagans could end up being like a poor man’s version of Patrick Beverley in the NBA, and he could end up a useful role player at the next level.

Kentucky’s 6-8 senior forward, Reid Travis played very well in his team’s win over Kansas.  He excelled as a scorer in the post as well as off of hustle plays, and he possesses tremendous strength, as well as adequate mobility and shooting touch to get plenty of scores in the paint.  He also would score off of put backs, and he also managed to throw down a dunk off of a cut.  He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Travis would also contest shots in the post as well as off of drives to force misses.  However, he also was called for committing a blocking foul on a drive, and there was one play where he didn’t call out a screen that led his team to allow a score to a three-point shooter.

All in all, Reid Travis showed off solid inside scoring and rebounding skills, but the question is how well his skills may translate to the NBA.  He plays an old school, throwback style, but his game seems to be that of an undersized big man.  He is a good low post scorer that can finish plays around the basket, but he will likely need to improve his ability to shoot and play out on the perimeter.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect, as he could be a similar player to Udonis Haslem in the league.

Kansas’ 6-5 senior guard Lagerald Vick had some very strong moments in this game, though he was inconsistent in his play overall throughout this contest.  He played well at first, as he was getting quick scores off the dribble.  He made a pull-up mid-range jumper early, and he also scored on a speedy reverse layup off the dribble in transition.  However, he faded for most of the game as he struggled with his jump shot in the middle of this contest, and he also was too tentative at times, as he would pass up shots.

He then played well late in the game, as he was able to make a deep three, and he also ran quick off the ball to make a quick three to display his sharpshooting skills.  Though Vick didn’t seem to be too noticeable in the other elements of this game, he was able to find an open shooter to get an assist, and he also intercepted a pass to get a steal.

In all, Lagerald Vick is a very athletic swingman that showed off a variety of scoring skills, but he also was inconsistent as a shot maker and taker in his team’s loss to Kentucky.  Still, he may be a second round prospect, as he may possess a similar skill set to current Chicago Bulls’ guard, Wayne Selden in the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-11 sophomore center, Nick Richards had a good showing in his team’s win over Kansas.  He actually did not play as much in this game as he had appeared to, but he played terrific interior defense when he was on the floor.  He was a shot blocking machine that swatted many shots to prevent opponents from getting scores off the dribble, and he also swatted a put back attempt.  In addition, he was able to pass out of the post to notch an assist, but he also threw a ball out of bounds on a separate possession.  Overall, Richards is an athletic big man that has a solid motor, and his defensive skills could allow him to be selected in the second round in the mold of a Jelani McCoy type of player in the association.

Tyler Herro had his ups and downs in his team’s win against Kansas.  He struggled mightily with his jump shot, but he showed a decent ability to score on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes to notch assists, but he also was turnover prone, as he had a couple of his passes intercepted, and he also traveled once when looking to take the ball to the rim.

Also, he was able to chip in to get his fair share of defensive boards.  Defensively, he looked to be perhaps above average.  He has fairly good footwork to guard opponents out on the perimeter, and he also was able to contest a three to force a miss.  But there was one time where he committed a reach-in foul on an opposing ball handler.

Though Tyler Herro did not have his best game, he’s a talented combo guard that can help his team in a variety of ways.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect.  He will need to be a more consistent shooter in games, but if he can improve noticeably in that area, he could perhaps end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Devon Dotson did not have a great game in his team’s loss to Kentucky.  He was able to make a three and get several scores off the dribble, but he tended to miss on wild drives to the basket, as well as on long-range jumpers.  He does possess good speed, as he can make passes off the dribble to get assists on offense.  However, on the defensive end, he often had trouble defending drives or in the post, as he would tend to commit reach-in fouls due to over-aggressiveness, and he would also allow scores as his lack of size would make it difficult to guard taller players.

Overall, this wasn’t Dotson’s best game, and he did not have a very good showing in his team’s loss on this day.  Still, he is an athletic combo guard, and he could be a potential second round pick for the upcoming draft.  Regardless, if an NBA team does decide to draft him, they will need to be patient with him, as he could be far from being ready to contribute at that level.