NBA Draft 2012: Which Kentucky Wildcats Would Make Best Teammates?
According to the Draft Express Top 100, six of the top 35 players in the 2012 NBA Draft are former Kentucky Wildcats.
From the clear No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis, to the borderline first-rounder Marquis Teague, it appears Kentucky head coach John Calipari has personally gift-wrapped a shipment of NBA talent and sent it off to commissioner David Stern.
Despite being part of the top recruiting class, the 2011 Wildcats put their egos aside and worked together to form one of the deepest, most talented college basketball teams in recent memory. That very unselfishness and willingness to put the team first is something that had league evaluators salivating as the Kentucky crew headed into the NBA.
Between lottery picks Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, their floor leader Teague, versatile forwards Terrence Jones and Darius Miller, and sharpshooter Doron Lamb, the Wildcats have six players who have a realistic shot at cracking the 1st round tonight – but with all Kentucky’s talent, which Wildcats will make the best teammates at the professional level?
6) SF Darius Miller
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
6’ 7” 233 Pounds
Projected: Early 2nd
Playing for head coach John Calipari, Miller was a bit of a rarity, in that he played four seasons of college basketball.
Calipari usually attracts the “one-and-done” recruits, who want to get in-and-out of college as quickly as possible in order to get to the NBA. Since Miller was already in Lexington before Calipari began roaming the sidelines, he saw a wide variety in the level of talent during his four years with the Wildcats.
As a junior in 2010, Miller played 31 minutes per game and averaged 10.9 points, while shooting 44.3 percent behind the three-point arc. With an influx of talented freshmen coming to Kentucky in 2011, Miller’s minutes and scoring output decreased to 26.1 and 9.9 points, respectively.
After being a focal point to Kentucky’s offensive attack, along with Terrence Jones, Miller was willing to take a backseat to talented freshmen Davis, Teague and Kidd-Gilchrist in the scoring department.
His willingness to be simply a role player will be tested yet again as he enters the NBA this next season.
Miller is a prime example of a player that “looks the part.” He definitely “looks good getting off the bus.” Whatever cliché you want to use, Miller has an NBA-body and he’ll be able to guard a wide variety of offensive players early in his NBA career.
5) SG Doron Lamb
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
6’ 5” 199 Pounds
Projected: Late 1st
Caught in a cluster of talented scorers, Doron Lamb made the most of his limited opportunities with last year’s National Champions.
Behind potential No. 2 pick Brad Beal, Lamb is in contention with Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins as the second-best pure shooter in the 2012 NBA Draft. Playing 31.2 minutes per game for the Wildcats, Lamb shot an incredible 46.6 percent behind the three-point arc.
Despite being a good ball-handler and relatively versatile offensive player, Lamb took one for the team and accepted his role as a spot-up shooter because the team lacked consistent three-point threats.
The NBA has a constant need for three-point shooters, so for that reason, Lamb will likely crack the 1st round. One possible landing spot for Lamb is the Boston Celtics, who will likely lose Ray Allen, and, despite having a replacement at shooting guard in Avery Bradley, could use a spot-up shooter such as Lamb.
Lamb demonstrated a tremendous amount of mental toughness and willingness to be versatile when point guard Marquis Teague suffered some growing pains as a freshman. With Teague struggling with turnovers, Lamb was relied upon to be a facilitator without a true backup point guard on the roster.
Versatility can be the deciding factor between a three-year NBA career and a ten to fifteen-year NBA career. If his two years at Kentucky are any indication, Lamb could likely be in the league for the long haul.
4) PF Terrence Jones
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
6’ 9” 252 Pounds
Projected: Mid 1st
Whenever a highly touted prospect decides to put the NBA on hold in favor of returning to school for another season, the main goal of doing so is to win a National Championship.
Rarely, however, does the season end as the player had hoped it would – unless of course the player’s name is Terrence Jones.
Jones is a rare exception to head coach John Calipari’s “one-and-done” trend from his time at Memphis and Kentucky. Instead of entering the 2011 NBA Draft as a likely mid-to-late 1st round pick, Jones returned to Kentucky in hopes of winning college basketball’s most prestigious team honor.
Combined with the top recruiting class in the nation, Jones and the Wildcats were able to put their personal egos aside. The result was Calipari and his young crew cutting down the nets in New Orleans, as National Champions of the college basketball world.
Jones’s unselfishness extended beyond his decision to ignore the NBA’s fame and fortune in favor of winning on the college level, to the basketball court where he often deferred to his teammates who may have had a better shot in a certain possession or a better matchup in a given game.
Headed into Thursday’s draft, Jones could be selected as a late-lottery pick, or he could last until the middle of the 1st round. Either way, he has enough ability and a good enough work ethic to become a solid role player and a great teammate at the professional level.
3) PG Marquis Teague
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
6' 2" 180 Pounds
Projected: Late 1st
As the freshman starting point guard for the Kentucky Wildcats, Teague led the team in minutes and played a vital role in his team winning last year's National Championship.
Despite Teague being heavily recruited out of high school, he often deferred to Kentucky’s plethora of scorers on the offensive end. As a high school senior, Teague was clearly his team’s go-to scorer, but he took a backseat as a scorer at Kentucky, averaging a solid 10 points per game—the fifth-best scoring average on the team.
With shooting guard Doron Lamb as the Wildcats’ only other reliable ball-handler, Teague was the man behind the wheel of college basketball’s most powerful offensive machine. Teague’s blazing speed and elite athleticism allow him to be at his best in a fast-paced, up and down game.
If a fast-paced team picking late in the 1st round grabs Teague and inserts him into their rotation, he could play valuable minutes immediately in his rookie season.
Teague not only played more minutes than any other Wildcat in 2011, he also led Kentucky in assists per game with an average of 4.8. His willingness to share the ball will be a vital asset in determining how successful his NBA career will be.
Able to shoulder the load as the team’s primary ball-handler while being on the court more than any other Kentucky player, Teague certainly projects as a top-tier teammate at the NBA level.
2) PF Anthony Davis
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
6’10” 222 Pounds
Projected: No. 1 Pick
There hasn’t been a more obvious No. 1 pick in recent years than Anthony Davis, and for such an elite prospect, there certainly hasn’t been a more unselfish player at the top of a given draft.
Davis has everything you want for in a power forward. He stands 6’ 10” with a 7’ 5.5” wingspan, has incredible athletic ability, possesses a great work ethic, and he allows the game come to him.
His unselfishness as a player leads to an efficient shot selection, which allowed him to hit on over 65 percent of his shots inside the arc last season. To be a good teammate, a player must always keep his eyes open to set up others for shots, but another aspect of being a good teammate is demonstrating a willingness to do “the dirty work.”
On top of being an efficient scorer, Davis is at his absolute best in other areas of the box score. He led the Wildcats last season in rebounds per game with 10.4, as well as blocks per game with 4.7—both of these statistics will be greatly appreciated by his teammates at the professional level.
Come Thursday evening, the bright lights will be shining down on Anthony Davis, but unlike most No. 1 picks, the Kentucky big man isn’t fazed by the heightened attention.
He plays his own game, he’s his own man, and that’s worked out pretty well for him thus far.
1) SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
6’ 7” 233 Pounds
Projected: Top Five
Despite the fact that Anthony Davis is clearly the top-rated player in this draft and an unselfish player in his own right, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist projects as the perfect teammate at the professional level.
With a variety of offensive skills in his arsenal and the proper work ethic to build upon those talents, Kidd-Gilchrist will continue to improve his game with proper NBA coaching. As a perimeter defender, there aren’t many better than MKG, and on the offensive end, he’s more than willing to defer to more talented scoring threats.
He makes an otherwise unselfish Anthony Davis look like Carmelo Anthony.
Other than at the point guard position, it’s incredibly rare to see an NBA Lottery pick as unselfish and hard working as Kidd-Gilchrist. Although he’ll more than likely be a top-five pick, Kidd-Gilchrist would be absolutely fine with looking past his draft position and playing the role of a defensive specialist as a rookie.
For several teams picking in the top 10, MKG would immediately become their top perimeter defender, and he’d be asked to guard some of the league’s most talented scorers in his first season—despite not turning 19 until September 23.
In his freshman season at Kentucky, Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, so his value clearly goes beyond his role as a defensive specialist; however, it’s his never-ending motor and willingness to do whatever needs to be done that will demand the respect of his NBA teammates.