For once, the NBA is looking like a team sport.
Teammates were a major theme of the 2012 NBA Draft. Kentucky freshmen teammates Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were selected first and second overall, marking the first time that college teammates were selected one and two. Kentucky had six members of its National Championship team declare for and get selected in the draft, another NBA first.
While most people expected all six Kentucky players to be selected, it was somewhat surprising that four University of North Carolina Tar Heels were drafted before the fourth Kentucky Wildcat was picked. Tar Heel players were selected at spots seven, 13, 14 and 17 overall, compared to the Wildcats who were chosen at spots one, two, 18, 29, 42 and 46 overall.
Kentucky and North Carolina stole the headlines by submitting ten of the 60 total draft picks, but other schools had multiple student-athletes drafted by NBA teams as well.
Syracuse University had three members of its 2012 Elite Eight team selected, being picked at numbers four, 22 and 51. Joining Cuse in the Three-Drafted Club is Baylor University. Three Baylor Bears were selected at spots 28, 37 and 38, respectively. The third collegiate member of the 2012 Three Club is academic powerhouse Vanderbilt University. Three former Commodores were selected at spots 23, 30 and 31 overall.
Think about that. Five highly respected universities produced one third of the entire 2012 NBA Draft class. Consider also that six additional universities each had two players drafted (Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Missouri and Washington), and 11 universities made up 31 of the 60 total draft picks.
Several years ago, the NBA changed its draft eligibility rules so that a player must be at least one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft. This move created the hotly debated "one-and-done" college star, a la Anthony Davis, and changed the landscape of college basketball to reward the coaches and programs that are able to provide the best environment for a 12-month college visit.
Full credit goes to John Calipari and the University of Kentucky for their well-deserved National Championship. Congratulations are also due to all the institutions that proudly sent young men they educated to potential NBA careers. But, with such a high density of this NBA rookie class coming from less than a dozen colleges, will this 2012 Draft class be full of team-first guys that recognize how much their teammates and coaches helped them or are they just a bunch of millionaires in waiting?
It will take time before this draft class has any type of NBA legacy, but I'm optimistic that the NBA just received 60 new employees that are prepared to perform at the world's highest level. Many of these young men will enter the Association with former teammates as current teammates or division rivals; either way, it's good news for the NBA because players are like fans in that they feel comfortable around familiar faces and everyone now recognizes the unibrow.