NBA Draft '19: Kris Wilkes Season Preview
Photo Credit: Scott Chandler/UCLA
Kris Wilkes is a 6-foot-8 190 wing who is the next NBA prospect out of UCLA. As a high school senior in 2017, he was selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game and was easily ranked as a five-star prospect for the 2017 class. ESPN gave him a 95 out of 100 as a grade. A 100 would be Lebron, so Kris will be 95% percent as good as Lebron James, you heard it here first.
Obviously, we don’t know how he will do in the NBA but at the end of his senior year in high school, Wilkes was an Indiana All-Star and was named Indiana Mr. Basketball, an award given to the top high school basketball player in the state of Indiana. Some previous winners include Trey Lyles, Gary Harris, Cody Zeller, Tyler Zeller, Eric Gordon, and former number 1 pick Greg Oden. All of the names I just listed have made the NBA and some have had major success (with the exception of Oden, whose career was cut short due to injury). Gary Harris is a promising young starter for the Nuggets, Eric Gordon is a sixth man of the year and a key member of the 1st-seeded Houston Rockets last year.
Wilkes used this award to step over to California. He committed to UCLA on November 13, 2016, electing to play at UCLA over his home state Indiana and Illinois. Number 13 started off his college career with a team-high 18 points in a 3-point-win over Georgia Tech. Wilkins would have okay success throughout the season. He averaged 16.8 points in the first four games but after that, he was limited to single-digit scoring in three of the next four matchups. He scored his career high of 22 points against USC as they clinched a bye for the Pac-12 tournament. UCLA made the 2018 NCAA Tournament but lost 58-65 to St. Bonaventure.
Kris showed great overall offense in his freshman year, averaging almost 14 points and two assists. He displayed a good ability to get the rim and can heat up from three. He can get to the line but only hit free throws at a 65% percent clip, his only true weakness in his overall game. He reminds me of a Paul George Andrew Wiggins blend. He has a nice stroke from beyond-the-arc and in catch-and-shoot but lacks a pull-up game. He isn’t afraid to shoot the 3 ball as he shot almost five (4.8) 3s per game last year, however, he only made 1.7 of those. Even with his awful free throw percentage, I believe Wilkes is a better 3-point shooter than his 35% 3-point percentage would tell you.
His defense about average. As a primary defender, Kris held opponents to 0.854 points per possession (PPP), which ranked in the 54th percentile nationally. He moves his feet well but could use his length more to his advantage. Also, he sometimes has difficulty fighting through screens and trailing moving opponents. The area of his game that could probably use the biggest improvement is defending the P&R ball handler. All in all though, analytically he was UCLA's 4th best defender behind Thomas Welsh, Chris Smith, and Aaron Holiday, who all rated well above average last season.
All in all, Kris Wilkes is a very exciting player with a lot of promise. UCLA should be very excited to have him next season.