After another trip to the Elite Eight in this year's March Madness Tournament, Kansas has yet again proven the kind of consistency that has made them a powerhouse in the realm of college basketball. All things considered, there are few NCAA programs that can match the kind of year-in, year-out success that the Jayhawks have shown throughout the decades. They're always a threat to win the National Championship, regardless of the coach or roster they have at the moment. Naturally, this means they're also sent plenty of players into the NBA ranks, and but their individual success has been much more fragmented than the Jayhawks as a team.
There are numerous former Kansas players on an NBA roster for the 2016-17 season, and there's a distinct mix between players who are productive, and ones that aren't likely to ever make an impact in the pros. Most of them played for Bill Self, who is the current Jayhawks coach dating back to 2003, but a few also played under Roy Williams, who is now the head coach for North Carolina. Even though they played for similar coaches, their individual level of talent yielded different results when they got to the big-time.
Ranked below are the eight best and seven worst former Kansas Jayhawks players currently in the NBA.
15 Tarik Black (Best)
In five NBA seasons, Black has been on three different teams, but has found himself a nice role off the bench with the Lakers for the last three seasons. He's never going to be a star, but he gets consistent enough minutes that he provides good value to a team, particularly considering the fact that Los Angeles is in the midst of a rebuild. He can contribute in both the scoring and rebounding departments. A leveled skill set like that concludes that Black can be a quality bench player in the league for a long time, and sometimes that's enough to sustain an NBA career for a long time. Whether or not he stays on the Lakers for the long-term, it's likely that he remains in the league on a team looking for a quality big off of the bench.
14 Cole Aldrich (Worst)
For a former 11th overall pick in 2010, Aldrich has hardly produced anything at the NBA level. He's played on a bunch of different teams, and basically is the definition of a journeyman player, serving little other purpose than a big filler body on the bench. His skill set is limited, and there's little reason to consider that he'll ever improve at this point. Part of the problem for him is that his scoring decreased heavily from his days at Kansas, compared to his NBA performance. Any 11th-overall pick is expected to at least contribute to the offensive end of the floor, and Aldrich's game never translated to the pro ranks in that regard. At this point, he's dead weight, and there's little reason for him to stay in the league.
13 Nick Collison (Best)
While he was never an upper-tier player during his long career, Collison has proved himself reliable and useful to the Thunder/SuperSonics in a variety of roles over the years. He's spent his entire 13-year career for the same organization, a rarity in today's NBA. As a 12th overall pick, OKC has gotten a good return on the investment, as Collison was their best bench player for many years. A high-quality scorer at Kansas, playing under Roy Williams, he was able to keep up a respectable pace off the bench, and play sound defense which made him a reliable two-way player. Collision is a great example of a player who didn't need to be a star to prove his worth, and he's had a successful NBA career all things considered. He'll likely retire soon, and walk out with his head held high.
12 Thomas Robinson (Worst)
What a disappointment Robinson has been since his NBA debut in 2012. For one thing, he's been on a different team for every season since then; a sure sign that he isn't able to cut it on any kind of satisfactory level in the pro ranks. After a final season at Kansas that allowed him to be drafted with the 5th overall pick, Robinson has fallen out of favor just about everywhere he's been. He's never been considered a starter at the NBA level, which is an awful return on such a high draft pick. Robinson is the kind of player that always had a high bust potential, and the kind of post player that teams become wary of if there's enough warning signs. Ultimately, despite a very good college career, he could never make the transition to the NBA game.
11 Darrell Arthur (Best)
Even though he's mainly been a bench player in the NBA, Arthur has proven himself to be a consistent presence in that role. Splitting time between the Nuggets and the Grizzlies over his nine years in the league, he's shown he can provide solid minutes, and contribute on both ends of the floor to some degree. Moreover, as a 27th overall pick, his relative success in the league comes as a pleasant surprise. He wasn't the most prolific scorer, or biggest name at Kansas, but he's turned in a solid pro career for himself by knowing what he's good at, and excelling in that role. Arthur is exactly the kind of role player that is valuable to winning teams, and could continue to play for the foreseeable future in the league if he so chooses.
10 Brandon Rush (Worst)
After three very solid seasons with the Jayhawks that ended in 2008, Rush ended up being a top-15 pick in the draft for that year. After he was slotted in as a starter early in his career with the Pacers, Rush slowly fell off after that, never quite living up to his draft position, and bouncing around the league to several different teams. His scoring potential was just never able to show itself in the pro ranks, and Rush now plays his minutes off the bench. He's not a complete failure as an NBA player, but he's definitely not the consistent threat that many believed he would be, and hasn't been able to prove that he's able to start consistently against elite competition. Overall, definitely a letdown.
9 Markieff Morris (Best)
As a 13th overall draft pick, Morris has lived up to that standing, and is still a starter in the NBA, eight years into his career. An above-average rebounder and scorer, he belongs on a starting roster, and has proven himself to be useful in a variety of situations on numerous teams. Right now, he's contributed mightily to the Wizards' resurgence in the Eastern Conference, and should remain with the team for the foreseeable future. He posted very similar numbers during his final season at Kansas in the 2010-11 season, as he has thus far in the pros, which is the mark of a quality player. All things considered, Morris meets the mark as a quality NBA player. He now has the potential to add to a Washington playoff run that few saw coming at the beginning of the year.
8 Kelly Oubre Jr. (Worst)
On the other hand, Morris' teammate Oubre Jr. hasn't been able to prove that he's a difference-maker at the NBA level. A one-and-done at Kansas for the 2015 season, he's a prime example of a player that would have been aided by a few more seasons in the college game. Now, he's simply outmatched at the next level. He was taken 15th overall in 2015, and hasn't even come close to living up to that kind of draft position. The only thing on his side right now is his age, but even then, it's unlikely that he's going to drastically improve in the next few seasons to start to live up to the expectations set upon him. He's one of the worst examples of a one-and-done that there's been in recent years, and why it can be detrimental as opposed to sticking out another year or two.
7 Marcus Morris (Best)
Despite a slow start to his career after being drafted 15h overall in 2011, Morris has developed into one of the better young players in the league. After a couple of false starts in previous seasons, he's landed with the Pistons, who seem to be the best fit for him, considering his skill set. He contributes on both ends of the floor, and can be relied upon for most games. He had a great 2011 season at Kansas, and he's beginning to live up to the kind of numbers he posted for that season. Along with Andre Drummond, the Pistons have some players to build around. Morris was a nice pickup for them, and should be a key contributor in the proceeding seasons, and is unquestionably the biggest surprise for a Kansas player in the league currently that has turned out to be productive.
6 Cheick Diallo (Worst)
It's hard to rag too much on Diallo, as he was only a second round pick, but he's another case of a one-and-done who had no business going into the NBA so soon. He did almost nothing extraordinary in his one season with the Jayhawks, and that same trajectory has continued in his rookie year with the Pelicans. Now that New Orleans has landed DeMarcus Cousins to work in tandem with Anthony Davis, it's fair to wonder how much longevity Diallo is bound to have as a big on this team. The consensus guess would probably be "not much." It's hard to see him having a presence on any NBA roster in the coming years. Diallo should have stayed at Kansas for at least one more season, but the allure of the pro ranks was too much to say no to.
5 Paul Pierce (Best)
Unquestionably one of the best players of his era, and set to retire after this season concludes. Way back in the day, Pierce was a Jayhawk who excelled in the college environment. His performance at Kansas for three seasons in the late-90s allowed him to be the 10th-overall pick in 1999. From there went on to become one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, and be a part of many great NBA teams. Now a member of the Clippers in the twilight of his career, he's ready to bow out gracefully at the end of the season. After nearly 20 years in the league, it's well deserved, and Pierce can walk away knowing he's one of the best players in the history of the league. By far the most successful player from the Roy Williams era at Kansas, and a certified first ballot Hall Of-Famer.
4 Jeff Withey (Worst)
Thanks to a stellar final season at Kansas in 2012-13, Withey was able to land a spot in the second round of the NBA draft. He's not even that talented however, and he's going to spend him remaining seasons in the league bouncing around from team to team. While not nearly as tall, he has the Shawn Bradley effect of his greatest asset being his height, and not his actual skill set. It was abundantly clear even when he was with the Jayhawks, that his greatest successes on the court would come in the college ranks. He's definitely not an NBA starter, and a borderline pick to make any roster in the league. Strictly going off of his skill level, he's one of the worst picks ever to have worn a Jayhawks uniform.
3 Joel Embiid (Best)
Even though he played excellent in his limited action this year, Embiid is an enigma of a player. He's been bitten by the injury bug so much over his three-year career, but when he finally got on the floor this season, he proved why the Sixers took him with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft. Yet, that was three years ago, so does Embiid really have a future in the NBA for the long-term? Strictly based on talent, the answer is yes, but it's going to take a lot for him to remain healthy for a full season. We saw what he's capable of when he's on the court, and it's almost assured that he won't be a bust based on his play. Right now, all we can do is wait until next year to see if he's able to stay on the floor. Talent-wise however, Embiid is the real deal.
2 Ben McLemore (Worst)
McLemore was one of the most coveted picks in the 2014 draft, which would explain his seventh overall selection. Despite given ample starting opportunities over the past four seasons in Sacramento, McLemore has not lived up to the expectations of such a high pick, and has turned into a ho-hum player, all things considered. It's also another situation of the one-and-done rearing its ugly head, and he would have been better served waiting it out for a few more seasons with the Jayhawks. Granted, he did have a stellar season at Kansas in 2012-13, but his draft stock rose to the point where his play couldn't meet the demand. There's room for him to improve with a new team, but he's unlikely ever going to become the star that some thought he would be coming out of college. This is easily the most disappointing Kansas draft pick currently in the league right now.
1 Andrew Wiggins (Best)
Make no mistake about it; Wiggins is the real deal, and will be one of the best players in the league in a few years time. You could say he's already achieved that standing, improving each of his three seasons in the league, and now has put up numbers like some of the best that the game has to offer. There's really very little room for him to go wrong from here on out. Not surprisingly, it's also the sole example of a one-and-done actually working out for Kansas, but that was obvious from the time Wiggins stepped on a college court for the first time. As a first-overall pick, he lives up to the hype, and will be part of a Timberwolves team that figures to be really good for the long-term. Wiggins has MVP-level talent, and hasn't even hit his prime yet. It's scary to think what he may achieve over the next ten years. Wiggins is the best Kansas draft pick in a long, long time.
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