Kentucky leads the country in number of 2016-17 NBA players in which attended their school. During the 2016-2017, season there were 24 Wildcats on an NBA roster. Even before the time of John Calipari, Kentucky was a college powerhouse and NBA product producing machine. John Calipari has become known of not only as a NCAA Championship coach, but a coach who also takes pride in developing NBA caliber talent. More often than not, his players leave college before their senior year in effort to pursue a career in the NBA. A lot of times the players are able to pan out with just a year of college experience. Calipari has coached All-Stars Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and John Wall to name a few.
(Something else to quickly point out is that there are also some players still playing in the NBA that played during the Tubby Smith or Billy Gillispie Kentucky era).
Along with the NBA All Star talent that came through Kentucky, there are also some players that should have just played out their college career, either to gain more viable NBA experience or to simply prolong their basketball careers. There have been a number of players that decided to leave the university early that didn't find themselves picked in either round of the NBA Draft. Some young guns are still trying to figure out a spot and role with their NBA club while others have already played themselves out of the NBA.
In our list, we will count down the 8 best and 7 worst former Kentucky Wildcats that were a part of the NBA in 2016-17.
15 Best - Enes Kanter
Kanter actually never played a minute of basketball for Kentucky University, being declared ineligible before the season. Still, he attended the school, and was selected with the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. Kanter spent his first three and half seasons with the Utah Jazz, but due to a front court logjam with the likes of Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, Kanter never really gained much traction in Utah. During the 2014-2015 season he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he currently resides. Kanter has taken on a sixth man role, providing scoring and rebounding. During his first full season in the role, he averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, while being considered for Sixth Man of the Year. This season he had upped his scoring while averaging the same 21 minutes per game.
14 Worst - Jodie Meeks
Meeks is one of the older veterans on the list, having played for Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie's Wildcats. Meeks is best known by Kentucky fans for exploding for a school record 54 points during his junior season. He was a proven scorer in college and he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2nd round as a result. Meeks has not found the same success at the next level. He is now in his eight season having played for five teams. He had a tough time finding the floor during his rookie season, and did find some starter minutes during his stay in Philly. But his best years came for a lowly Lakers team where he scored a career high 15.7 ppg in 2013-14. Meeks is able to shoot which is a big part of today's NBA but he lacks the ball handling and defense to become a consistent starter at the guard positions.
13 Best - Eric Bledsoe
After one season at Kentucky playing alongside John Wall, Bledsoe declared for the NBA Draft and was selected 18th overall by the OKC Thunder and promptly traded to the Clippers on draft night. After performing as role player in Los Angeles, Bledsoe was traded to the Phoenix Suns in a deal that brought JJ Redick to the Clippers. In Phoenix, Bledsoe has blossomed into a stat sheet stuffing guard. He is currently on pace to set career highs in PPG and APG sitting at 21.3 and 6.4 at the moment. In all his numbers in Phoenix are 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. If the Suns can get some pieces around him and a coach to go with it, Bledsoe may be able to add some winning to his resume. His only two playoff appearances coming in his Clippers days.
12 Worst - Trey Lyles
Lyles is still finding his niche in the NBA, and has the chance to reverse the fortunes on the landing on the wrong side of this list. But after spending just one year in college, he was drafted number 12 overall by the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have been looking to add help around franchise cornerstone Gordon Hayward, and Lyles hasn't quite filled the role they hoped of their top draft pick in 2015. In his rookie year, Lyles averaged 17.3 minutes and 6.1 points per game, despite a very slow start. But his second season has produced more of the same. Currently Lyles is averaged 7.3 points and has upped his minutes to 18.3 minutes per. Until Lyles carves out a role, and finds more minutes on the court he won't be mentioned with some of the former Kentucky studs who are currently in the NBA.
11 Best - Devin Booker
Another one and done player under Calipari, Booker was taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and paired with fellow Kentucky Wildcat Eric Bledsoe. The two haven't equated their play to many wins as of yet, but it seems the Suns have a formidable back court in place. The former McDonald's All-American performed his way onto the First Team All Rookie team last year averaging 13.8 points in 27.7 minutes per game. He has proven that his rookie year was no fluke currently averaging 21.1 points per game and has upped his minutes to 34.6 per game. He did make the list over the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nerlens Noel due to his scoring and upside in just his second year of NBA action.
10 Worst - Skal Labissiere
Labissiere is stuck in a tough spot in lowly Sacramento. Drafted by the Suns in the first round with pick number 28, he was traded to Sacramento on draft night. Since then he has been struggling to find court time in his rookie season. His inclusion on this list goes to show how good these players from Kentucky really are. Labissiere is averaging 9.4 minutes per game and 4.0 points for a Kings team that is derailing quickly. Until he can stop bouncing around from the D-League to the struggling Kings, Labissiere will continue to earn his spot on the wrong side of our list of Kentucky Wildcats. At age 20, the 6 foot 11 inch Haitian native has time to grow, and maybe with DeMarcus Cousins out of town he will have his chance.
9 Best - Rajon Rondo
Rondo is on this list as part of a lifetime of NBA achievements. After two seasons at Kentucky under coach Tubby Smith, Rondo was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 21st overall pick before ending up with the Boston Celtics. Rondo flourished in Boston with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, commanding the offense. During his time in Boston, Rondo appeared in four All Star Games, and had a Celtics career consisting of 11 points 8.5 rebounds and 4.9 rebounds. His career highs include 13.7 points and 11.7 assists per game. Rondo added an NBA Championship in 2008, and appeared in another. He has claimed an All NBA team, four NBA All Defensive Teams, and has led the league in assists three times and steals once.
8 Worst - Andrew Harrison
Andrew Harrison and twin brother Aaron (who is still remaining on the list) both declared for the NBA Draft following two years and two Final Four appearances at Kentucky. Andrew was taken with the 44th overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Phoenix Suns then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
After spending his entire 2015-16 season in the NBA D-League, Harrison had found somewhat consistent minutes with the Grizzlies in 2016-17 filling in for a injured Michael Conley and serving as his backup, averaging 6.2 points and 2.9 assists per game. But more recently Harrison again has fallen out of favor playing 63 total minutes in February of 2017.
7 Best - Karl-Anthony Towns
After one year at Kentucky, Karl-Anthony Towns became the coveted number one overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He was added to a rebuilding Timberwolves team that seem to have a nice nucleus in place, currently fighting for an 8th seed in the Western Conference. During his rookie year, Towns added NBA Rookie of the Year and First Team All Rookie to start his NBA resume. He has upped his first seasons averages up to 24.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists in year two. The future is bright for Towns and company in Minnesota, and his stock will only continue to rise. Some may have thought he could have added an All Star appearance in year two, but something seems to point to plenty of appearances in the near future.
6 Worst - James Young
Young was a member of the 2013-2014 Kentucky team that made it to the NCAA Championship before losing to the University of Connecticut. After one of year of college, Young was selected with the 17th overall pick by the Boston Celtics. Since then, Young has seen more time in the NBA D-League than he has in the NBA. He is averaging just 8.5 minutes per game in three seasons and has played in just 83 games including zero starts. For a player that set the school record for three pointers in a season, Young has only connected on 28 percent of his NBA three point attempts. Young has connected on a total of 33 three pointers in his career.
It seems Young had a strength coming out of college, but he has failed to contribute outside shooting at the next level.
5 Best - John Wall
Wall is the highest ranked back court player on the list. In his lone season of college basketball, Wall was a First Team All-American and SEC Player of the Year, leading him to be taken number 1 overall in the 2010 draft by the Washington Wizards. At age 26 Wall has already been to four All Star Games and found a place on an NBA All Defensive Team. His career averages thus far 18.6 points 9.2 assists and 1.7 steals continue to improve each season. He is poised to lead the Wizards into his third NBA Playoff appearance, currently sitting with the three spot in the Eastern Conference. Like most of the youngsters on the list, Wall has not won consistently yet but it looks like he might be one of the first to turn that around.
4 Worst - DeAndre Liggins
DeAndre Liggins decided to forego his final season at Kentucky and enter the 2011 NBA Draft. There he was selected at the end of the draft eventually going number 54 overall to the Orlando Magic. Since then Liggins has been struggling to find his place in professional basketball. He has played for the Magic, Thunder, Heat, Cavaliers, two D-League teams, and has made stops playing professionally in Germany and Russia. After two years away from the NBA, Liggins has endured his best season this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Still the numbers are suspect. In his best season in the NBA, he is averaging 2.8 points 1.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game, while playing an average of 13.9 minutes.
3 Best - DeMarcus Cousins
Playing alongside John Wall, Cousins was also able to add All American and All SEC to his college resume upon departing after one year. Since entering the league Cousins has been to three straight All Star Games, and been picked to two All-NBA teams. His point production has continued to rise each year and he remains a dominant rebounder. "Boogie" carries career averages of 21.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per night.
Cousins just found himself ridding of a bad situation in Sacramento and is now teamed up with fellow Kentucky Wildcat, Anthony Davis, in New Orleans. The duo figure to add some team accolades to each others NBA resume before it is all said and done.
2 Worst - Aaron Harrison
Aaron Harrison managed to appear in just 5 games during the current NBA season, playing a total of 17 minutes. Upon declaring early for the draft with brother Andrew, Aaron Harrison went undrafted and has been playing most of his basketball in the NBA D-League. Harrison was a member of the Hornets organization up until January of 2017 when he was waived. During his Hornets career, Harrison scored a total of 19 points and added 18 rebounds and 5 assists to go with it. Not bad if that were for a game total. The Harrison brothers were highly coveted out of high school, but someone should have helped at least Aaron stay at Kentucky for another year to better his craft. He is currently playing with the Delaware 87ers.
1 Best - Anthony Davis
The most decorated Wildcat on our list, during his one college season Davis was the National Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, First Team All American, and most importantly a National Champion. This resulted in his being drafted number one overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the then New Orleans Hornets who later became the Pelicans. Upon his arrival in the league, Davis has led the league in blocks twice, been to four All Star Games, been a part on an All NBA Team and All NBA Defensive Team, and this year added an All Star Game MVP. Davis is looking to get to his second career NBA Playoffs this season, and with the recent acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins will be forming one of the better front court duos in recent NBA history. His career numbers of 22.1 PPG 10.1 RPG and 2.4 BPG only continue to trend upwards. Expect more hardware to be added to Davis' trophy case before his career ends.