Ranking Kentucky Players in the NBA

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The University of Kentucky currently has the highest number of active players in the NBA with 29. That number is 5 more than second place, which is Duke with 24.

This season, 3 former Kentucky Wildcats were named all-stars. It likely would’ve been more if not for the injuries to players like Karl-Anthony Towns or John Wall.

In this article, I will be doing my personal rankings of each former Kentucky player in the NBA from best to worst. The players will be separated into tiers as well. Furthermore, I will be elaborating a bit on how that player is performing in the NBA right now.

Tier 1: Best Kentucky Players in the NBA

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#1: Anthony Davis, PF/C – 27 PPG, 9 RPG, 3 APG (Lakers)

Not only is Davis the best Kentucky player in the NBA, but he is also one of the best overall in the league. Many consider Davis to be a top 5 player in the NBA and a borderline MVP candidate. He looks to win a ring this season with LeBron James.

#2: Karl-Anthony Towns, C – 26 PPG, 11 RPG, 4 APG (Timberwolves)

The second-place slot was a little more difficult to decide, but Towns won out. Karl is a top 3 Center in the NBA right now and is certainly the best offensive big man in the league. He has broken countless records and is still very young. There is a ton of room for Karl to grow, and I’m excited to see what he does in the rest of his career.

#3: Devin Booker, SG – 26 PPG, 4 RPG, 7 APG (Suns)

Booker is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA right now and is looking to build a contender in Phoenix. He made the all-star team this season and was also fetured in his third three point contest, which he has won before. Booker has a bright future ahead of him and ranks as a top 3 SG in the league. He’s just getting started.

Tier 1.5 (Great but Injured)

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#4: John Wall, PG – 21 PPG, 4 RPG, 9 APG (2018-19 Stats) (Wizards)

When healthy, John Wall is one of the best point guards in the NBA. He hasn’t played this season due to injury, but I expect him to still be an all-star level player when he returns. Wall is arguable the best playmaker in the league, and is an exceptional scorer as well. It’s possible he never reaches his previous playing ability, but he’s still an amazing player.

#5: DeMarcus Cousins, C – (Career Stats) 21 PPG, 11 RPG, 2 APG (Lakers)

Boogie is a player who has been plagued with injuries in the last couple years, like his college teammate John Wall. When healthy, Cousins is one of the most dominant players in the NBA. With Anthony Davis in NOLA a couple years ago, Cousins was putting up 28 and 11 like it was nothing. Boogie will likely never reach that level again, but it’s hard to discount what he’s done over his career.

Tier 2: Rising Stars

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#6: Bam Adebayo, C – 16 PPG, 11 RPG, 5 APG (Heat)

Bam made the all-star team for the first time in his career this season. He’s a reliable scorer for the heat, but his rebounding and exceptional play-making ability make him special. He’s a serviceable rim protector as well and can defend all 5 positions on the floor.

#7: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG – 19 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG (Thunder)

Shai is in his second year as an NBA player, but has already proved to be a budding star. SGA is one of the best players on a solid Thunder squad, and is being mentored by Chris Paul, one of the greatest PG’s in NBA history. As a long and lanky guard with through-the-roof basketball IQ, Shai is only going to get better.

#8: De’Aaron Fox, PG – 20 PPG, 4 RPG, 7 APG (Kings)

Fox is the closest thing to John Wall that the NBA has seen since Wall joined the league. His insane speed paired with a polished offensive game has made him a rising star in Sacramento. Fox may not be as good of a passer as Wall, but is getting better each year. Fox has star potential and should continue to develop nicely.

Tier 3: Good NBA Players

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#9: Jamal Murray, PG/SG – 19 PPG, 4 RPG, 5 APG (Nuggets)

Jamal Murray is the second best player on a championship contender in Denver. Other than Nikola Jokic, Murray is the primary name on that roster. His competitive nature and natural scoring ability combine to make a formidable weapon for the team. As a serviceable play-maker and defender, Murray is an asset for the Nuggets.

#10: Julius Randle, PF – 19 PPG, 10 RPG, 3 APG (Knicks)

Randle has made a name for himself as one of the best offensive threats in the NBA at the PF position. His downhill style of play leads to a lot of agressive baskets through contact. He’s a solid ball-handler as well and can take opponents off the dribble with ease. He struggles defensively, but his offensive skillset is enough to make him valuable.

#11: Eric Bledsoe, PG – 15 PPG, 4 RPG, 5 APG (Bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the NBA right now, and Bledsoe is a big reason why. Eric makes up for his lack of height by being a strong and smart player. His play-style is comparable to that of a pit-bull, as he uses his strength to bully defenders. Bledsoe is a good ball-handler and scorer. He gets the job done as a passer and defender as well. He has a good chance of helping the Bucks win a ring this year.

Tier 4: Rookie Cats

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#12: Tyler Herro, SG – 13 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 APG (Heat)

Tyler has played his way into be considered a top 3 rookie this year. Coming off the bench for the Heat, Tyler has proven to be a valuable scorer in his first NBA season. He has taken over games in the clutch, and is one of the best three point shooters on the team. Herro will keep growing, and could be elite in a couple years. Tyler is one of the most promising of the young Kentucky players in the league.

#13: PJ Washington, PF – 12 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG (Hornets)

PJ has put together a solid rookie campaign. He’s played his way into a starting position, and set the record for the most threes in a rookie debut game. If he can become more consistent, PJ will be dangerous in the future.

Tier 5: Solid Rotation Guys

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#14: Malik Monk, SG – 10 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG (Hornets)

I believe Monk would be higher on the list if he were on another team. The Hornets have not utilized Malik properly. He’s a scoring machine, yet plays very limited minutes. Despite this, he’s still managed to be a really solid player, and has had a few scoring explosions. He is currently suspended for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.

#15: Enes Kanter, C – 8 PPG, 8 RPG, 1 APG (Celtics)

Kanter has played a very limited role with the Celtics this season, but has been very solid in the past. He’s an offensive threat and an elite rebounder. As a defensive liability, Kanter doesn’t get as much play-time as he probably should.

#16: Nerlens Noel, C – 7 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG (Thunder)

Don’t let the stats fool you- Nerlens is extremely valuable to the Thunder. He serves as a rim-runner and an elite rim-protector for his team. He brings energy and hustle, and is a fan favorite. Noel has developed a mid-range shot as well, which helps.

#17: Willie Cauley-Stein, C – 7 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 APG (Mavericks)

Willie is on his third team in 3 years, and can’t seem to get comfortable. He was doing well in Sacramento, but decided to sign with the Warriors, who then traded him to Dallas. He’s been dealing with injuries this year, but serves as an energy guy. Dunks, screens, and blocks are his specialty. He’s a solid rotation guy.

Tier 6: Decent Contributors

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#18: Hamidou Diallo, SG – 6 PPG, 3 RPG, 0.5 APG (Thunder)

Hami has been an end of the bench guy in OKC for the last couple seasons, but usually shows up when his name gets called. He’s a great athlete with a knack for finishing at the rim, but his lack of a reliable jumpshot hurts him. He’s been a solid bench defender for the Thunder, and has had a few high scoring games. Diallo isn’t one of the most popular former Kentucky players, but the BBN is cheering him on.

#19: Trey Lyles, PF – 6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG (Spurs)

Lyles has actually been a starter for the Spurs for most of the season, but you couldn’t tell by his stats. He makes a minimal impact on the offensive end, mainly serves as a screen setter who operates out of the pick and roll. He’s a good rebounder and a solid defender, which has helped him keep his minutes.

#20: Rajon Rondo, PG – 7 PPG, 3 RPG, 5 APG (Lakers)

Despite getting plenty of minutes, Rondo has had a rough season for the Lakers. He’s been extremely inefficient offensively, and struggles on the defensive side as well. He’s still a good play-maker, but that only goes so far.

#21: Brandon Knight, PG/SG – 7 PPG, 1 RPG, 3 APG (Pistons)

Knight has battled injuries for years, but seems to be playing very well since being traded to the Pistons earlier this season. If he can keep up his current level of play, he may revitalize his career in Detroit. Knight was elite in terms of Kentucky players in college, and the start of his NBA career was promising. Hopefully he can stay healthy.

Tier 7: Inconsistent or Unproven

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#22: Mychal Mulder, SG – 11 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG (Warriors)

Judging by his stats, it looks like Mulder should be way higher on this list. The reason he isn’t is because he has only played 7 NBA games this year. Mulder got called up from the Warriors G-League team recently, and has played well in his time there. He just signed a multi-year deal with Golden State, so lets hope he keeps it up. Mulder is one of the less known former Kentucky players, but may still find a home in the NBA.

#23: Kevin Knox, SF – 6 PPG, 3 RPG, 1 APG (Knicks)

A large part of Knox’s struggles can be blamed on the Knicks’ front office and coaching staff. Despite New York being awful this year, they still haven’t given Knox much play time at all. In his time on the court however, he’s been pretty bad. He comes across as indifferent at times, and he’s very inefficient. Knox isn’t great at anything and seems to lack confidence. At this point, let’s hope he gets out of New York and into a better situation.

#24: Skal Labissiere, PF – 6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG (Hawks)

Skal was putting together a solid season in Portland before getting traded to Atlanta. Since then, he hasn’t been used much and doesn’t seem to be a part of the team’s future going forward. He’s a serviceable stretch 4 with good rebounding and shot-blocking potential. Skal can still be a good NBA player in the right situation.

Tier 8: Minimal Impact

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#25: Keldon Johnson, SF/SG – 4 PPG, 2 RPG, 0.6 APG (Spurs)

Keldon is oozing with potential and will likely be a very good NBA player in the future. The Spurs don’t like to play young players, and instead develop their youth internally. Gregg Popovich is one of the best developers in the league, and I think Keldon will become a star in San Antonio. He’s only played in 9 games this season, but will likely see his role grow as the years go on. He’s one of the former Kentucky players who still has the ability to be elite.

#26: Patrick Patterson, PF – 5 PPG, 2 RPG, 0.5 APG (Clippers)

Patterson is a veteran at this point, but currently has a limited role with the Clippers. He was in the rotation at the start of the year, but has slowly floated to the end of the bench. It’s unknown whether the Clippers plan to use him much for the rest of the season.

#27: Darius Miller, SF – (Career Stats) 6 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG (Pelicans)

Miller has not played this season due to injury, but was a solid rotation player for the Pelicans last year. Darius acts as a decent 3 and D player, meaning he can knock down the triple and defend well. He was signed to a nice contract this offseason, but has been hurt. He may have been a bit higher on this list if healthy.

Tier 9: Barely in the League

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#28: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF/PF – 2 PPG, 2 RPG, 2 APG (Mavericks)

It’s sad to see where the former Kentucky champion and #2 overall pick has ended up. After almost a decade of disappointment in Charlotte, MKG got traded to Dallas this season. He has hardly played for the Mavs, and when he has it’s been sparingly. The NBA just doesn’t have much room for wings that can’t shoot. MKG is one of those Kentucky players who just never quite found his way.

#29: Jarred Vanderbilt, PF/SF – 1 PPG, 1 RPG, 0 APG (Timberwolves)

Jarred has played in 11 games this season, but has made little contribution. It’s unknown whether he is still battling injuries. Jarred played for the Nuggets prior to getting traded to Minnesota. As a great rebounder and a solid play-maker, it’s possible that Jarred finds a role in the next couple years. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt lacks a jumpshot, and plays very similarly to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Due to this, I’m not confident that Jarred ever finds success in the NBA. The injury issues certainly don’t help.

Wrap-Up

There it is, my power rankings of former Kentucky players in the NBA. Do you agree with my list? What would you do differently? I wish all the success in the world to these former Cats. Go Big Blue!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TaninSmith! Also, follow our Kentucky twitter account for breaking news and interactive content @OTHwildcats!

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