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Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the Wildcats' NBA Draft Picks Since 2000

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the Wildcats' NBA Draft Picks Since 2000

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    Julius Randle surveys a list of the teams he will try to make pay for passing him over in the NBA Draft.
    Julius Randle surveys a list of the teams he will try to make pay for passing him over in the NBA Draft.Steve Freeman/Getty Images

    The University of Kentucky continued to stretch its lead in a recruit-friendly category over the rest of college basketball by sending two more players to the NBA during the 2014 draft. The Los Angeles Lakers' selection of Julius Randle and the Boston Celtics' pick of James Young give UK 24 draft selections since 2000, two more than Duke.

    An insane 17 of those players have been picked in the last five years, otherwise known as the John Calipari One-and-Done-a-Palooza.

    Like most schools, Kentucky's array of pros has had mixed results as professionals. Some have struggled with injuries, and a few have simply ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. There have also been stars but surprisingly few for a procession of players that were largely famous before they graduated high school.

    This list will examine the fates of the 22 Wildcats selected in the drafts between 2000 and 2013, helping to separate the busts from the brightest.

    The names are familiar to Big Blue Nation, but the basketball public at large may scratch its collective head at the few who have washed out of the game.

Nos. 18-22

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    Noel rocked a suit much more often than a uniform in his first NBA season.
    Noel rocked a suit much more often than a uniform in his first NBA season.Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    22. Joe Crawford, No. 58, 2008, Los Angeles Lakers

    Crawford played all of two games for the Knicks after being waived by the Lakers. He was a 20-PPG scorer in the NBA D-League before heading overseas to China and Israel.

     

    21. Marquis Teague, No. 29, 2012, Chicago Bulls

    Basketball-Reference defines Win Shares as "an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player." Over Teague's two NBA seasons he's contributed -0.8 wins to the Bulls and Nets. So, in essence, he's done his teams more harm than good.

     

    20. Nerlens Noel, No. 6, 2013, New Orleans Hornets

    Traded to Philadelphia two weeks after the draft, Noel missed his rookie season rehabilitating the torn ACL that ended his college career. He's expected to make his NBA debut when Orlando Summer League action begins this month. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie said on a radio interview with 94WIP that he envisions Noel and fellow dinged-up draft pick Joel Embiid becoming a dangerous post duo in Philly.

     

    19. DeAndre Liggins, No. 53, 2011, Orlando Magic

    Liggins has suited up for three teams in three years, and he may make it four. He'll play for the Detroit Pistons in the Orlando Summer League. He led the D-League in steals last season and was named Defensive Player of the Year. That's what a player can do when he plays in only one NBA game all year.

     

    18. Daniel Orton, No. 29, 2010

    Orton averaged 3.4 PPG in college and hasn't done much more as a pro. In 51 games over three seasons with three teams, Orton has put up 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. A D-League titan, Orton will get a chance at some Las Vegas Summer League action with the Washington Wizards.

Nos. 14-17

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    Goodwin crowned the Kings to end his rookie season.
    Goodwin crowned the Kings to end his rookie season.Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    17. Archie Goodwin, No. 29, 2013, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Goodwin was traded to Phoenix on draft night. In his limited minutes, he established himself as a player unafraid to charge the rack against NBA big men, but his outside shot was anemic at best (five of 36 three-pointers made as a rookie). He did score 29 points in the season finale against Sacramento.

     

    16. Doron Lamb, No. 42, 2012, Milwaukee Bucks

    Lamb made his name as a shooter at Kentucky, and he's been able to continue that in the pros. When he finds minutes, that is. Lamb has averaged 12.7 minutes per game between Milwaukee and Orlando, and he's sunk threes at a 39.4-percent rate during that time. He's now a free agent after the Magic waived him on June 30.

     

    15. Darius Miller, No. 46, 2012, New Orleans Hornets

    Now a free agent as the team currently known as the Pelicans tries to secure a trade for Houston big man Omer Asik, Miller was actually a very productive presence as the season drew to a close. He averaged 9.3 points and 1.3 steals in New Orleans' final 12 games, starting seven.

     

    14. Josh Harrellson, No. 45, 2011, New Orleans Hornets

    The man they called "Jorts" in college has served as a wide body with shooting range for three different teams, but he still hasn't recaptured his rookie-season peak with the New York Knicks. His 4.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game that season remain career highs. Now with the Pistons, Harrellson's contract will become guaranteed on July 20 unless the team waives him by then.

Nos. 10-13

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    Without Kobe, the Lakers needed points somewhere. Enter Jodie Meeks.
    Without Kobe, the Lakers needed points somewhere. Enter Jodie Meeks.Chris Covatta/Getty Images

    13. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, No. 2, 2012, Charlotte Bobcats

    MKG has established himself as a strong defensive presence for the (now) Hornets but provides little on the offensive end. He produced seven double-figure scoring games out of his first nine in 2013-14 but managed only seven more the rest of the way. A hand injury suffered in December did him no favors, either.

     

    12. Keith Bogans, No. 43, 2003, Milwaukee Bucks

    Bogans is still active in the league after 11 seasons, although he was excused from the Boston Celtics for personal reasons back in January. Later reports suggested that he was angry about a lack of playing time, and the Celtics didn't particularly need him around. His hefty contract may serve as a trade chip going forward.

     

    11. Brandon Knight, No. 8, 2011, Detroit Pistons

    Knight showed tremendous improvement in his first year as a Milwaukee Buck after struggling with turnovers during his two years in Detroit. According to Basketball-Reference, Knight's Player Efficiency Rating (PER) jumped from 12.0 to 16.5 last season (league average 15). The Bucks were said to be dangling him as trade bait on draft night, but nothing materialized.

     

    10. Jodie Meeks, No. 49, 2009, Milwaukee Bucks

    Meeks produced a career-high 15.7 PPG for the Lakers in 2013-14, capitalizing on the absence of Kobe Bryant. He's a career 37.6-percent three-point shooter, and that kind of accuracy will usually find a home somewhere. Meeks is now bound for Detroit after signing a three-year contract shortly after the opening of free agency.

Nos. 6-9

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    Eric Bledsoe has excelled once out of John Wall and Chris Paul's shadows.
    Eric Bledsoe has excelled once out of John Wall and Chris Paul's shadows.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    9. Jamaal Magloire, No. 19, 2000, Charlotte Hornets

    Yes, Magloire's career dates back to the original Charlotte Hornets. He was a key piece of the Hornets' first seasons in New Orleans, even making an All-Star teamand averaging a double-doublein 2004. After he had averaged 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in his first six seasons, he slid into journeyman status for teams seeking a tall stiff to contribute fouls, but he hung around until 2012.

     

    8. Patrick Patterson, No. 14, 2010, Houston Rockets

    Patterson has made three stops in four seasons, but he may have found a home in Toronto. After he had shot better than 41 percent from long range for the Raptors' 2014 playoff team, he and the team agreed to a three-year extension worth $18 million. He's largely a pick-and-pop threat, but that worked perfectly when he played alongside Raptor point guards Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez.

     

    7. Eric Bledsoe, No. 18, 2010, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Like some other ex-Wildcats on this list, Bledsoe was a trade chip before he ever suited up—the Thunder sent him to the L.A. Clippers on draft night. Bledsoe struggled as a shooter early in his career, but he's blossomed since being dealt to Phoenix. He carded a superb line of 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals for the Suns. Bledsoe simply needs to stay healthy to finish his ascent.

     

    6. Tayshaun Prince, No. 23, 2002, Detroit Pistons

    That rare beast who actually stuck long-term with the team that drafted him, Prince established himself as one of the league's most respected defenders. He was named to the All-Defensive second team every season from 2005-08. Only Bad Boy icons Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson played more games in a Pistons jersey.

5. Terrence Jones

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    No. 18 pick in 2012 draft by the Houston Rockets

    Career Stats: 10.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, .532% FG

    After spending his rookie season on the D-League yo-yo between Houston and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Terrence Jones finally settled in for 71 games as a Rocket in 2013-14. His numbers blossomed to 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a key piece to the Rockets' up-tempo offense.

    On the other end, though, issues lingered all season.

    Those problems may eventually send Jones to some other destination—especially after he was crushed in the first two games of the 2014 playoffs by Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge lit up the Rockets for 89 points in those games, most coming over Jones.

    Advanced analytics is extremely kind to Jones' 2013-14 production. His 19.1 PER ranked among the league's 40 best (subscription required). His .169 Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48) placed him second on the Rockets behind only James Harden.

    Still, Jones remains an iffy shooter and defender whose primary value lies in his athletic gifts and ability in the post. He can still become a star in the NBA, but will it happen on a Houston team that quickly shifted from development mode to contender mode? That possibility is shrinking by the day.

4. Rajon Rondo

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    No. 21 pick in 2006 draft by the Phoenix Suns

    Career Stats: 11.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 8.4 APG, 1.9 SPG

    Before Rajon Rondo was even drafted, the pick that would eventually be used to select him was shipped around the league in deals involving players like Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Joe Johnson. On draft night, the Suns shipped him up to Boston for a pick that would later turn into Rudy Fernandez.

    A player who led the league in assists twice and steals once and also led his team to two NBA Finals and one title, all for Rudy Fernandez? It's a hell of a deal in hindsight.

    Rondo has made four All-Star games, four All-Defensive teams and the All-NBA third team in 2011-12. The latter is impressive when considering that he missed 13 of the 66 games in that lockout-shortened season.

    Health has been Rondo's primary hurdle since 2010. He's missed 122 games over the last four years, and he was nowhere near his usual level after coming back from ACL surgery late last season. More than a quarter of his shots were from three-point range after his comeback, a startling turn for a player who's always thrived when attacking the paint.

    With the Celtics drafting Marcus Smart last week, trade rumors continue to fly around Rondo. His injury history, especially after eight seasons in the league, probably means he isn't going to climb much higher in this sort of ranking against his UK peer group. Still, he has represented incredible value for a No. 21 pick.

3. DeMarcus Cousins

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    No. 5 pick in 2010 draft by the Sacramento Kings

    Career Stats: 17.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG

    Four seasons into his NBA career, DeMarcus Cousins has played his way into distinguished company among Kentucky alumni. He's scored more points than Jamal Mashburn and pulled down as many rebounds as Dan Issel did in their first four NBA seasons. (Note: Issel had played six dominant seasons in the ABA and Mashburn dealt with injury woes.)

    For all his number-crunching, Cousins hasn't taken the Kings much of anywhere—unless the NBA draft lottery is one's idea of a scenic vacation destination.

    Although he exploded to 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in 2013-14, he still has yet to make an All-Star game, never mind All-NBA.

    Coaches Paul Westphal and Keith Smart both butted heads with Cousins, subjecting him to suspensions. The league has gotten involved more recently, sitting Cousins down for a game last April after punching Houston guard Patrick Beverley. In the 2012-13 season, Cousins was suspended two games for a confrontation with Spurs broadcaster/former player Sean Elliott.

    "Talented" is a word that frequently surrounds Cousins. However, so is "volatile." An ESPN The Magazine profile of Cousins by Tim Keown detailed his complex relationship with both the Kings and the city of Sacramento, laying bare charitable work that the man they call "Boogie" refuses to publicize.

    The team pays him a maximum contract despite all the headaches. Current Kings coach Michael Malone said the following to Keown: "We've made a huge commitment, not only to DeMarcus the player, but DeMarcus the person."

    From a production standpoint, Cousins has been more than worth his top-five selection. The casual observer will more often than not claim that his baggage is too much to bear, but the Kings don't appear to see it that way. So, Cousins must be doing something right.

2. John Wall

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    No. 1 pick in 2010 draft by Washington Wizards

    Career Stats: 17.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.6 SPG

    In 2013-14, for the first time in his career, John Wall played in all 82 games in a season. He also made his first All-Star team and got his first taste of playoff basketball.

    These events are not unrelated.

    For the first three years of his career, Wall struggled with injuries and his shot. He missed 62 games and shot a mere 24.3 percent from three-point range over that span. The Wizards still saw enough to reward him with a maximum contract, and the team was well-compensated in 2013-14. Aside from the aforementioned good health, Wall also shot a career-best 35.1 percent from distance.

    Journeyman players like Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza played some of the best ball of their careers alongside Wall this season. Gortat has now gotten handsomely paid, and Ariza may be ready to do the same.

    And this is a guy that had professional screamers debating whether he could live up to that big deal in 2013.

    Wall could soon be leading the Wizards into NBA Finals contention—depending on how the East's powers (Miami, Indiana, Chicago, etc.) can retool themselves during the free-agency period.

    No man primarily responsible for placing the words "Wizards" and "NBA Finals contention" into the same serious sentence should have to answer charges of being overrated.

1. Anthony Davis

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    No. 1 pick in 2012 draft, New Orleans Hornets

    Career Stats: 17.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.3 BPG

    Remember those advanced analytics that were so kind to Terrence Jones? Well, those figures absolutely adored Anthony Davis in his second NBA season.

    Davis ranked seventh in the league at .212 WS/48 and fourth in PER at 26.5. Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kevin Love were the only players ahead of Davis in both categories.

    Want more traditional figures? Okay, how about a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game along with 20.8 points and 10.0 rebounds, both of which ranked in the league's top 15?

    There are moments that indicate even greater dominance is possible.

    Over an eight-game stretch in March that straddled Davis' 21st birthday, he never recorded fewer than 28 points or nine rebounds. His averages for that span read like something out of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's prime: 32.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks with 58-percent shooting from the floor and 85.4 percent from the line.

    The mind boggles at what Davis could achieve moving forward as he learns more NBA big-man tricks and continues to mature physically.

    Now, the primary question becomes the following: Will the renamed Pelicans be capable of building a playoff team around him, or will Davis continue to toil in relative obscurity like fellow UK alumnus DeMarcus Cousins? Stay tuned.

     

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