The NBA has provided that enviable step up for lots of Kentucky products over the years, and the 2023 draft was no different as two players entered the league from the Wildcats program this year.
Point guard Cason Wallace and small forward Chris Livingston are now looking forward to NBA careers after playing their college ball for Kentucky.
Wallace was the 10th overall pick, going to the Dallas Mavericks who traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he will play alongside a former Kentucky guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has made a name for himself in the league since he was drafted 11th overall in 2018.
Wallace’s arrival should draw even more attention from the Bluegrass State next season, with Kentucky sports betting apps likely to be rife with activity pertaining to OKC. Of course, the Thunder won’t be expected to challenge for a title in 2023/24, but there will be plenty of folks taking chances on their 50/1 odds as it pertains to winning the Western Conference.
Odds of 125/1 can also be had on their championship possibilities.
So, back to Wallace. The 19-year-old averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game in 32 contests for UK, shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from three. He dealt with back and lower leg injuries last season but they did little to hamper his prospects.
The guard, who averaged 32.1 minutes a night, scored in double figures in 18 games and had nine appearances in which he logged over five assists. He had a standout game against Florida A&M on December 21, scoring 27 points and dishing out nine assists. He had another big game against Arkansas, recording 24 points, five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and two blocks on February 7.
His last game for the program, a loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament on March 19, saw him score 21 points, adding nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals. There was little doubt he would end up getting picked in the first round, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he gets on as a rookie in the pros.
Livingston, meanwhile, had to wait a great deal longer to hear his name called.
He was expected to remain with the Wildcats for at least one more season in a bid to develop his game further. However, agent Rich Paul was of the view that he would benefit from a move this year.
Several workouts were canceled ahead of the draft as reports noted that one mystery team would definitely draft the forward. There were fears he could go undrafted when name after name was called, but the Milwaukee Bucks selected him as the 58th overall pick.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Paul made several calls to teams during the second round of the draft, telling them not to draft Livingston. While there’s no confirmation on the Bucks being that mystery team, it’s where the player is set to start his career.
Livingston, also 19, played in all 34 games for Kentucky, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds a night as a freshman for the program. He was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team after scoring double digits in seven games, with five such games being strung together in February.
The player went on to make history with the Bucks as he ended up securing the largest deal for anyone selected dead last in the NBA Draft. The team announced the player’s signing in a press conference, with Charania reporting he put pen to paper on a contract worth $7.7 million. The four-year deal includes two full years of guaranteed money.
“The Bucks are signing F Chris Livingston to a four-year, $7.7 million rookie deal, CEO of Klutch Sports Rich Paul and agent Brandon Cavanaugh tell TheAthletic,” the NBA insider reported. First two years guaranteed. It’s the largest ever total salary for the final pick in the NBA Draft.
Both these players will hope to go on and make the University of Kentucky proud, as have many other stars in the past.