Kentucky Basketball: Rajon Rondo Leads Strong 2012 Showing of Wildcats in NBA

Nick Nafpliotis@@NickNafster79Correspondent IJune 10, 2012

Kentucky Basketball: Rajon Rondo Leads Strong 2012 Showing of Wildcats in NBA

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    With 16 players currently on an NBA roster (and probably six more to come after this year's draft), University of Kentucky Wildcats alumni are giving the Big Blue Nation plenty of reasons to follow professional basketball.

    The following is a list of former Wildcats in the NBA and how they performed during the 2011-2012 season.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics PG

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    Sixth Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 4.8 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    17.3 PPG, 11.9 APG, 6.7 RPG

    While much was made of the Boston Celtics' age-defying playoff run, their floor general is still in the prime of his career. He's also arguably their biggest difference maker.

    Rondo nearly averaged a triple-double in the postseason (he had six in the regular season and four in the playoffs), dishing out his usual 11-12 assists per game. He also created more scoring opportunities when the Celtics needed it most, including an improbable 44-point outburst in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  

    With a consistently low amount of  turnovers, great ball-handling skills, and toughness and tenacity that goes well beyond his limited years in the league, it's easy to make the argument that Rajon Rondo is currently the the best point guard in the NBA.

    Despite being plagued by trade rumors earlier this season, the Celtics would be wise to build a new nucleus around him if and when they decide to get some value for their aging veterans. His play has continued to improve the last three seasons and looks to only get better in the years to come.

Demarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings PF

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    Second Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    18.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.2 BLKPG

    After repeated clashes with the Sacramento Kings former coach, Paul Westphal, Demarcus Cousins has thrived under new head coach Keith Smart.  

    His play, along with the rest of his team, saw noticeable improvement. We also got to see Demarcus Cousins seem to revert back to his goofy and fun-loving personality that Kentucky Wildcat fans saw during his time in Lexington. Can you honestly ever see Westphal letting Cousins wear his jacket and pretend to coach the team from the bench?

    With Cousins averaging a double-double and along with shaking off the whispers about being the second coming of Derrick Coleman, the future in Sacramento looks pretty bright for Boogie and the Kings.

John Wall, Washington Wizard PG

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    Second Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    16.3 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.5 RPG

    Despite a very strong showing statistically, Wall often times seemed frustrated and tried too hard to force things offensively in his second year as the Wizard's floor leader.

    Aside from his field-goal percentage improving, the rest of his personal stats remained relatively flat from his rookie season, though he was the Wizard's leading score. If Wall is going to thrive in the nation's capital, he cannot remain the team's best (and oftentimes only) scoring option.

Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons PG

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    First Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    12.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.2 RPG

    Life can't be easy being a rookie point guard for the Detroit Pistons, but Brandon Knight made the most of it, being named to the All Rookie First Team and being one of only one of only two rookies to hit over 100 three-pointers.

    Despite a less-than-stellar turnover-to-assist ratio and a typical rookie tendency to try and force things, Knight showed plenty of upside, proving that the Pistons made a wise choice in making him the starting point of their rebuilding efforts.

Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons SF

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    10th Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    12.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 4.5 RPG

    Despite playing in his 10th NBA season, Prince saw a midseason rise in his scoring that brought his production near the levels of his best days with Detroit. Despite he and Brandon Knight never playing anywhere close to each other at Kentucky, the pair have formed a Big Blue Nation bond that bodes well for the Pistons' immediate future.

    Knight and Prince have both vowed that the Pistons will make the playoffs next year. While that statement will inspire a healthy dose of skepticism from most, an improved and more mature Knight dishing the ball to Prince should mean a lot more for Pistons fans to cheer about next season.

Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers PG

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    Second Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    3.3 PPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    7.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.4 RPG

    After recovering from knee surgery at the beginning of season, Bledsoe started before having an exceptional stretch of games for the Clippers during the postseason off the bench.

    Helping to fill in for an injury slowed Chris Paul in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals against the Spurs, Bledsoe scored 23 points, giving San Antonio one of its few positives during the series.

    With his per-36 minute averages at 10.5 points, 5.1 assists and five rebounds, a healthy Eric Bledsoe should see much more playing time and a subsequent increase in production next season.

Josh Harrellson, New York Knicks F

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    First Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    4.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    2.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG

    The man they call "Jorts" had become a fan favorite in New York for his hard-nosed play before suffering a broken wrist against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 21.

    Harrellson came back from the injury on March 6 and picked up where he left off, providing the Knicks with solid defense and rebounding off the bench. Look for him to have an even bigger role next season as New York looks to make a deeper run into the postseason.

Patrick Patterson, Houston Rockets PF

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    Second Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    7.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG

    Patrick Patterson saw a steady increase in his minutes (and subsequent production) off the bench for the Rockets. Houston can expect to see more of the same as he continues to grow and mature.

Jodie Meeks, Philadelphia 76ers G

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    Third Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    8.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    2.7 PPG

    After a strong start this season, Meeks saw his shooting (and subsequently amount of playing time) decline. He eventually lost his starting position and saw fewer and fewer minutes for the 76ers off the bench, playing only a marginal role in the postseason.

    With Meeks being a restricted free agent this summer and Philadelphia having plenty of depth at the guard position, it wouldn't be surprising to see him end up with another team next year in need of a guard that can score in bursts while shooting from outside.

Chuck Hayes, Sacramento Kings C

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    Seventh Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    3.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 4.3 BLKPG

    As I wrote about early in the season, the Houston Rockets wanted to keep Hayes this year, but Sacramento made an offer that he couldn't turn down.  

    Despite not having very gaudy stats (and leaving for another team), Houston saw fit to make a video tribute to him when the Kings visited the Rockets this season. His hard work and unmatched intensity that made him a fan favorite at Kentucky seems to be working well for Hayes in the NBA, too.

    He has found a place coming off the bench this year for the improving Kings and seems to be having a lot of fun playing along side fellow Wildcat Demarcus Cousins.

Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz C

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    First Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    4.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    4.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG

    Enes was finally freed from Mark Emmert and the NCAA's ridiculous ruling about his eligibility and was able to show off his skills on the hardwood coming off the bench for the Jazz.

    After a year of not playing organized/competitive basketball, Kanter's minutes were limited this season. Expect that to definitely change next year and for Kanter to make a much bigger impact in Utah.

Nazr Mohammed, Oklahoma City Thunder C

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    14th Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    2.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    2.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG

    The season may not be over for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but for all intents and purposes, Nazr Mohammed's most likely is. Aside from the conference quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, he has seen a greatly diminished role off the bench during this postseason, playing only five minutes in Game 2 of the conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

    He is still a good option for the Thunder off the bench for some size, but probably won't see much playing time at all during the finals against the Miami Heat.  

Kelenna Azubuike, Dallas Mavericks SF

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    Fifth Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    2.3 PPG

    After having a breakout 2008-2009 season with the Golden State Warriors (14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.1 apg), Kelenna Azubuike suffered a terrible knee injury which required multiple surgeries to repair.

    The Dallas Mavericks have decided to count on their excellent training staff and take a chance on him, signing Azubuike on March 23. If he can return to his pre-knee surgery form, the Mavericks will have made an excellent acquisition. 

Jamaal Magloire, Toronto Raptors C

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    12th Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    1.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG

    Despite air-balling a free throw earlier this season, Magloire is still a solid reserve option for the Raptors if they need instant defense, toughness and rebounds off the bench.

Deandre Liggins, Orlando Magic G

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    1st Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    1.9 PPG

    Liggins finally got to see the floor a bit for his team in turmoil, the Orlando Magic. Hopefully the intangibles and great defense that he gave to the Wildcats during their 2010 Final Four run will get him into the Magic's rotation more next season.

Daniel Orton, Orlando Magic PF

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    Second Season

    2011-2012 Regular Season Statistics

    2.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG

    2011-2012 Post Season Statistics

    1.0 PPG, 0.5 RPG

    Orton received very limited minutes this year, but showed flashes of the talent that he demonstrated during his one year in Lexington.

    Daniel Orton isn't well liked by a lot of Kentucky fans (and for good reason), but he's tried to make amends, and at the end of the day, he's still a Wildcat. Here's to hoping that he gets more playing time next season.

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