Fantasy Basketball: Kentucky’s Influence on NBA Draft Picks

by Andy Stitzer
2019 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Preview

It’s been a difficult few years for fans of the Kentucky Wildcats, who just haven’t seemed to be able to get over the hump despite entering with high expectations entering every season. A 12 year championship drought might be par for the course—or even recent history—for fans of most college basketball teams, but the Wildcats are a blue blood for a reason, which makes it all the more disheartening that head coach John Calipari’s “one and done” recruiting strategy hasn’t been able to produce any more championship winners.

Despite the Wildcats’ inconsistent play on the court (to clarify, by that I mean making the Elite Eight every few years instead of winning a championship) we’ve still seen plenty of former Kentucky players go on to enjoy great individual success.

By recruiting extraordinarily talented players who only need a year or two of development in college before declaring for the NBA Draft, Calipari hasn’t always had time to mold a roster to his preference… but there are certain to be quite a few former Wildcats finding their names called among the ranks of NBA Hall of Famers in a few years time. Here’s a look at some of the most influential Wildcats of the Calipari era.

Devin Booker

While Devin Booker has rightfully emerged as one of the biggest stars in the NBA over the past few seasons, that wasn’t always the case. Booker’s Phoenix Suns were downright awful during his first few years in the pros, and while Booker still managed to perform well in spite of the pitiful roster around him—like when he scored 70 points in a loss against the Celtics in 2017—he often faced allegations of stat padding because his individual success rarely resulted in wins.

While Booker’s legacy has always been secure among those who know basketball, the good news is that now he’s receiving the recognition he deserves among the average fan as well. The Suns had a nice showing during the NBA Bubble playoffs during the COVID-altered 2020 season, a sign of things to come as the team made a run to the NBA Finals the following season.

This year, they’re one of the hottest picks to win it all now that Booker has had the chance to team up with Kevin Durant, listed at or around +1400—the fifth-best odds in the league—under various Kentucky Betting Promo Codes.

The Brow, Anthony Davis

It would be impossible to write any kind of all-time Wildcats list without mentioning Anthony Davis, the man who helped Kentucky win their most recent national championship. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft, a four time first-team all pro and an NBA Champion who probably should’ve won the Finals MVP award in 2020, it feels crazy to say that Davis’ professional career has almost been a disappointment.

The towering center is one of the best players in league history, but for me his name will always be associated with questions of what could have been. Davis has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and especially during the past five seasons. Right now he’s on track to play his first full season (or at least close to it, as he’s never played an entire 82 game campaign) since he was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.

He’ll turn 31 next month, and already has a spot in the hall of fame locked up… but we could be talking about Davis in the same breath as James and Michael Jordan as one of the best players ever, if only he’d been able to avoid the injury bug.

Jamal Murray

In true Wildcats’ fashion, I’ll close this list out with another champion. The Denver Nuggets drafted Jamal Murray with the seventh overall pick in 2016, and he’s since developed into an excellent option alongside Nikola Jokić and Michael Porter Jr. in one of the NBA’s most potent lineups—and the reigning league champions.

One of the most impressive things about Murray is his ability to play team basketball. He’s a star in his own right, but he’s perfectly happy with taking the back burner and letting Jokić do his thing, facilitating the Nuggets’ offense through his passing and opportunistic scoring rather than trying to be a one man show.

It can be extremely difficult for players to accept that type of role, but Murray occupies it with gusto because he knows that it helps the team win games. If the Nuggets’ opponents decide to double team Jokić, Murray is more than ready to clean up and make them pay for the lack of attention. His ability forces opponents to play an honest game, which makes him a game breaking contributor when one considers their talent across the board.

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