There are 23 former players from the University of Kentucky currently playing in the NBA. A few of them look like they might not last, or if they do, they could be consigned to a life riding the pine in the NBA. A few have found a foothold as decent rotation players, or at least journeymen that should always be able to find a job and decent playing time with some needy team. There are nine or ten who are solid NBA players, who look to remain starters or important rotation players for years to come. And then of course there are the four former players that are currently vying for the title of the best former Kentucky Wildcat in the NBA. John Wall, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and the latest big star from Lexington, Karl-Anthony Towns These four are among the very best players in the entire league. As their careers evolve and grow it will be exciting to see which of them establishes themselves as the best player from Kentucky. It is quite possible that all of them could rise to that level at some point in their careers. But as of now, here is the definitive ranking, from the bench dwelling part time D-Leaguers, to the journeymen, to the solid contributors, to the starters, to the big stars, of all 23 Kentucky Wildcats who currently play in the NBA.
23 DeAndre Liggins
Through four seasons in the NBA, with a two year hiatus in Russia, Germany, and the NBA D-League, DeAndre Liggins is pretty well established as one of the worst players in the NBA who is actually still around. He is definitely the worst Kentucky Wildcat in the NBA as well. Liggins came in as a freshman the year before John Calipari took over and came off the bench his first two years in school. He got some more playing time and a few starts in his junior year but still averaged under nine points per game in his final year in Lexington. Liggins declared for the 2011 NBA Draft and was the 53rd overall pick by the Orlando Magic. He has played for the Magic, Thunder, Heat, and now the Cleveland Cavaliers while averaging just over two points per game in four seasons.
22 James Young
The sweet-shooting James Young was a member of the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats freshman class along with the Harrison twins and Julius Randle who lost in the National Championship game to UConn. Young earned second team All-SEC honors, and was also named to the SEC All-Freshman team, as he averaged over 14 points per game for the Wildcats. He and Randle came out in the 2014 NBA Draft and were the only Wildcats taken that year. Young was grabbed after Randle when the Boston Celtics selected him with the 17th overall pick. Over his three seasons as a pro, Young has spent a lot of time in the D-League but has still played in almost 30 NBA games each season. He has averaged less than three points per game through his three seasons for the Celtics.
21 Andrew Harrison
The Harrison twins were the two big freshman stars when they took Kentucky to the National Championship game in 2014 where they lost to the University of Connecticut Huskies. Andrew and his brother Aaron were part of the freshman class that included Dakari Johnson, James Young, and Julius Randle. After losing the championship game, Andrew and Aaron returned to try it again and made it back to the Final Four after an undefeated regular season. Although Aaron was not drafted, Aaron was taken in the 2015 NBA Draft with the 44th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns who traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies. After spending a year in the D-League Harrison is now playing around 20 minutes per game with the Grizzlies and averaging almost six points per game this season.
20 Archie Goodwin
Another one and done from a year Kentucky “only” had two players drafted was Archie Goodwin. He was a member of another solid freshman class at Kentucky along with Nerlens Noel, Alex Porythess, and Willie Cauley-Stein. The team was nowhere near as successful as the teams from the year before or the year after as they did not even make the NCAA tournament and were bounced from the NIT in the first round. Goodwin was the Wildcats leading scorer for the season and that helped him get drafted with the 29th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was chosen by the Thunder but traded first to Golden State before ultimately ending up with the Phoenix Suns. Goodwin played three seasons with the Suns. Since then he has played in the D-League between bouts with the Pelicans and he is now with the Brooklyn Nets.
19 Tyler Ulis
A rare prospect at the University of Kentucky who decided to stick around for two years before jumping to the NBA, was Tyler Ulis who came in as a freshman in 2015. He was a member of the class with Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and Trey Lyles that almost went undefeated before losing in the Final Four as freshman. He then stayed around for the following season. The team fell off a bit during Ulis’ sophomore year losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In the 2016 NBA Draft, Ulis was selected with the 34th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. He was the third Kentucky Wildcat chosen. He has averaged almost six points and just over three assists per game off the bench as a member of the very young Suns team.
18 Trey Lyles
One of the six Kentucky Wildcats to be taken in the 2015 NBA Draft was Trey Lyles. Lyles was one of the best high school players in the nation when he joined the Wildcats as part of their fantastic Kentucky freshman class. As a member of the 2015 team that went undefeated through the regular season before losing to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four, he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. He was taken with the 12th overall pick by the Utah Jazz. He was the third Wildcat to come off the board after Towns and Cauley-Stein. So far through two seasons with the Jazz, Lyles has averaged over six points in over 16 minutes per game each year. He has been a solid contributor off of the bench helping the Jazz to the playoffs this year.
17 Patrick Patterson
Back in the late 2000s when some Kentucky Wildcats actually stayed in school for more than a year, Patrick Patterson played three whole years in Lexington before declaring for the draft. Over his three years Patterson earned first team All-SEC twice, made the SEC All-Defensive team in 2010, helped the Wildcats make the NCAA tournament twice, and went to the Elite Eight once. In the 2010 NBA Draft he was selected with the 14th overall pick by the Houston Rockets. In his seven seasons in the league, he has averaged almost eight points per game. He stayed with Houston for three seasons before being dealt to the Kings. In 2013 he was sent north in a trade with the Raptors where he has played for the past four years.
16 Skal Labissiere
Despite being compared to Anthony Davis when he came in as a freshman in 2015, Skal Labissiere’s one and done year at Kentucky was somewhat disappointing. He averaged 6.6 points and only grabbed 3.1 rebounds per game off the bench for the Wildcats. The team suffered an inevitable comedown from the previous year’s Final Four as they got beaten in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Nevertheless, Labissiere was still selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. The Phoenix Suns took him before trading him to the Sacramento Kings. Labissiere started slowly, not getting much playing time at all early in the season. Once the Kings dealt Boogie Cousins however, the logjam at center loosened up a bit and he has finally gotten onto the floor. In 28 games he is averaging over seven points and almost five rebounds per game and seems to be improving every day.
15 Jodie Meeks
Another Kentucky star from “back in the day” when their players stuck around for a few years was Jodie Meeks who spent three seasons with the Wildcats, exploding in his junior year to average over 23 points per game and earn second team All-American honors in 2009. Meeks was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 41st overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He was stuck behind a lot of good guards in Milwaukee and was soon traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. During his second year in the league he developed into a started for the Sixers. He was traded to the Lakers in 2012 and had his best season the following year with the Lakers when he averaged over 15 points per game. He played two years for the Pistons and is now with the Orlando Magic, averaging just under nine points per game.
14 Jamal Murray
As part of the freshman class that came just after Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and the almost undefeated 2015 team, Jamal Murray was the top prospect in his freshman class that included Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe. Murray was the big star on the team, averaging 20 points per game along with grabbing more than five rebounds per contest as well. After his great freshman year where he earned third team All-American honors as well as first team All-SEC honors, he was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. Although only a rookie, Murray is averaging almost ten points while playing about 20 minutes per game for the Nuggets as they fight to claim the final western conference playoff spot. With a few more seasons, he could easily climb the list of best Wildcats in the NBA.
13 Terrence Jones
Another two year member of the Kentucky Wildcats, Terrence Jones was part of the 2011 Final Four team with fellow star freshman Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, but he also decided to stick around for his sophomore season and became a part of the 2012 National Championship team that included Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. When he went to the draft at the end of that season it also meant he was one of the six players from Kentucky who were drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft. Jones was selected with the 18th overall pick by the Houston Rockets which made him the third Wildcat chosen that year. Through five years in the NBA, he is averaging over ten points per game. He was with the Rockets for his first four seasons but has been with both the Pelicans and Bucks in 2017.
12 Willie Cauley-Stein
Willie Cauley-Stein played three years with the University of Kentucky after coming in with the freshman class that included Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythress. He sat behind Noel as a freshman, he split time with Dakari Johnosn as a sophomore, and then was in the shadow of Karl Anthony-Towns during his junior season. That did not prevent him from being named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2013, being named two-time SEC All-Defensive team, or earning first team All-American as a junior. He was also part of the six Wildcat draft class in 2015 when he was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. He was the second player from Kentucky taken after Towns. In his two seasons in the NBA he has averaged over seven points and just under five rebounds per game.
11 Nerlens Noel
Known for his old school high-top fade hairstyle, Nerlens Noel was the big time freshman who took over in the middle for Kentucky after Anthony Davis departed. Noel was injured part way through his freshman season and averaged over ten points and almost ten rebounds per game while at Kentucky. Noel is a master at shot blocking however, and his eye-popping 4.4 blocks per game set him apart from the competition and made him a potential lottery pick despite his injury. In the 2013 NBA Draft the New Orleans Pelicans selected him with the 6th overall pick. For a moment it looked like he would be teaming up with Anthony Davis until he was quickly traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. He had three decent years in Philadelphia before he was shipped to Dallas in 2017 where he looks to become a future building block for the Mavericks.
10 Julius Randle
The crown jewel of the top rated 2013 recruiting class for the University of Kentucky that included the Harrison twins and James Young was Julius Randle. A double-double machine, Randle averaged 15 points and over ten rebounds per game through the season, registering 24 double-doubles, the second most in school history, and the most for a freshman. After leading the Wildcats to the National Championship game and earning third team All-American honors, Randle declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the seventh overall pick. Although he was out injured his entire first year, in the two seasons that he has played, Randle has become a key piece of the young Lakers squad, while continuing his rebounding prowess averaging over 12 points and almost ten rebounds per game.
9 Brandon Knight
A member of the 2010 freshman class that included Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter (who was declared ineligible and never actually played for Kentucky), Brandon Knight became the captain of the Kentucky team that went to the 2011 NCAA Final Four. He averaged over 17 points, four rebounds and over four assists per game and was named first team All-SEC. He was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons and established himself right away, averaging over 12 points per game as he was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team. He was traded to the Bucks in 2013 and then shipped to Phoenix the following year where he has averaged 15 points per game through the past three seasons.
8 Devin Booker
The fourth Wildcat to be taken in the 2015 NBA Draft, who was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 13th overall pick, might be the second best Kentucky player from that draft. Devin Booker was another star of the great freshman laden team that made it to the Final Four and almost went undefeated before falling to the Badgers in their final game. He was named the SEC Sixth Man of The Year and second team All-SEC during his freshman season. In his first season with the Suns he was named first team NBA All-Rookie, and is averaging over 20 points per game in his second year. The highlight of his career so far was when he dropped 70 points on the Celtics in March 2017. From the looks of it, he could continue to climb the rankings of best Wildcats in the NBA is he keeps up his performance so far.
7 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
A member of another one of those huge Kentucky draft classes where six players were taken, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selected in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. He was the second overall pick just behind his teammate Anthony Davis, and he was also the second best Wildcat taken that year. The 2012 University of Kentucky team won the national championship behind their four great freshmen which included Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis as well as Marques Teague and Kyle Wiltjer. Kidd-Gilchrist has been with the Bobcats (now Hornets, again) for five seasons, one of which he sat out with an injury. Although he has been mostly known for his defensive prowess, he has been working on improving his offense. He averages just over nine points and over six rebounds per game.
6 Rajon Rondo
At one point Rajon Rondo was among the very best Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA, as he helped the Boston Celtics win an NBA championship in 2008. Things have changed a little bit since then however. For one thing the quality and quantity of players that have come out of Kentucky since Rondo joined the league have been among the best in the NBA. With so many great players coming out, Rondo has been surpassed on this list. Also, it must be conceded that Rondo is not as good as he was when he was running with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. Rondo played two season in Kentucky taking the Wildcats to the Elite Eight as a freshman before being drafted after his sophomore year by the Phoenix Suns who selected him with the 21st overall pick before trading him to the Celtics. For over a decade in the NBA, Rondo has at times looked like one of the best point guards in the league, and has had his share of fantastic performances, including countless highlight reel passes over the years. After nine seasons with Boston he has since played for the Mavericks, the Kings, and now the Bulls. His numbers have remained pretty steady but his performance seems to be waning somewhat. He is still among the ten best players from Kentucky but some of the young guns are certainly gaining on him.
5 Eric Bledsoe
Of all of the great freshman classes the University of Kentucky has had, John Calipari’s very first one in 2009 might have been his best with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. Although he was the number three rated point guard in the nation, the fact that he was on the same team as John Wall meant Eric Bledsoe had to slide over to shooting guard during his time at Kentucky. After helping the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, Bledsoe was drafted with the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder who traded him to the Clippers. After a promising rookie year the Clippers acquired Chris Paul which meant that once again he was stuck behind one of the best in the world at his position. The Clippers soon traded him to the Suns though and he has blossomed into one of the top point guards in the game, averaging almost 20 points and six assists per game.
4 Karl-Anthony Towns
As he develops more and more every day, Karl-Anthony Towns looks more and more like he could be one of, if not the, best player in the NBA within a few years. He is already dominant for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if the rest of the team grows and develops with him they will be among the best teams in the league and he will be their superstar. At the moment however he is the fourth best Wildcat in the league. Without a doubt however, there is certainly room for growth and time for him to climb further up the list. As the best player on the (almost) undefeated 2015 Kentucky Wildcats team, KAT was most important reason they were able to make it to the Final Four despite averaging a rather plain looking 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. In the 2015 NBA Draft, he was the number one overall pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After averaging over 18 points per game and winning Rookie of the Year honors, Towns is averaging almost 25 points and over 11 rebounds per game this year and looking better every day.
3 John Wall
Another member of John Calipari’s very first freshman class, John Wall was a first team All-American, the SEC Player of the Year, and lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in his only year at Kentucky. He was then selected with the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. Now, despite being one of the four or five best point guards in the entire NBA, John Wall still might be slightly underrated. Through seven years in the league Wall has made four All-Star games and helped lead the Wizards to the second round of the playoffs twice. After the team’s disappointing season in 2016 however, it looked like he might stagnate on a Wizards team that had already peaked and would remain mired in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. Instead he is putting up numbers that would make him an MVP candidate in a world without Harden and Westbrook, and leading the Wizards to the four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
2 DeMarcus Cousins
The third and possibly best member of the first big time recruiting class John Calipari had at Kentucky was DeMarcus Cousins who was named SEC Rookie of the Year, consensus second team All-American, and first team All-SEC. He averaged over 15 points and almost ten rebounds per game as the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. He joined John Wall and Eric Bledsoe in declaring for the NBA Draft and Cousins was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. Despite a sometimes contentious career in Sacramento, Boogie was still a three time All-Star and two time All-NBA second team selection during his seven seasons with the Kings. Cousins has averaged over 20 points and over ten rebounds for his career, topping out at 27.8 points per game this year with the Kings. Now that he has been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, he is teammates with the guy who is probably the very best player from the University of Kentucky...
1 Anthony Davis
Now in his fifth season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis is consistently showing himself to be a legitimate NBA superstar. As a freshman at Kentucky, Davis was a consensus first team All-American, the consensus national Player of the Year, and the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player for leading the Wildcats to the National Championship. His exceptional year at the college level obviously lead to him being snatched up with the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets (soon to be Pelicans). Upon entering the NBA, Davis was named to the NBA All-Rookie team, began averaging over 20 points per game during his second year, made the All-Star team four times, was named All-NBA first team in 2015, and currently averages over 27 points and almost ten rebounds per game in his fifth season. Despite the very tough competition from his fellow Kentucky alums, the Brow looks to be the best Wildcat in the NBA at the moment and for the foreseeable future.