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Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 04th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
A few weeks ago, UK deputy athletic director DeWayne Peevy told KSR listeners he had been in contact with the Golden State Warriors in an effort to get the team to Rupp Arena. His idea? An All-UK vs. Golden State matchup for the annual Kentucky Alumni game.
At first glance, the idea seems like a blowout in the making, especially considering this Warriors team is considered arguably the greatest team in NBA history.
When you break down the numbers, however, Kentucky’s superstars match up extremely well against the Warriors.
We saw the Warriors run through the NBA Playoffs like a knife through butter, losing just one game in 17 contests en route to their second championship in three years. But what would it take for an All-UK roster to take down the mighty Warriors?
Let’s break down the potential matchups:
John Wall vs. Stephen Curry
Wall: 6’4, 215 lbs. Seven years of experience.
Curry: 6’3, 190 lbs. Eight years of experience.
Traditional statistics comparison:
Advanced statistics comparison:
Wall is considered one of the fastest, most electrifying guards in the NBA. Curry, on the other hand, is the greatest shooter the league has ever seen.
Curry finished last year with an astonishing true shooting percentage of 62.4% compared to Wall’s 54.1%. Both very impressive, but Curry’s numbers ranked among the top five in NBA history. The former Davidson guard also had a higher overall offensive rating, 118.1 compared to 111.2. Off the dribble, catch and shoot, spot up, etc., Curry can destroy you from deep in every way imaginable, being ridiculously efficient in the process.
It’s no secret, however, that Wall’s biggest struggle in both college and in the pros has been his shooting beyond the arc. For his career in Washington, Wall has shot just 32.1% from deep, while Curry is a career 43% three-point shooter. But if you’ve watched Wall play – and you have – you’d know that’s not where his bread is buttered.
The former Wildcat star lives and breathes transition basketball, along with isolation baskets at the rim in half-court sets. The Wizards score 1.28 points per possession in the half-court offense with Wall as a facilitator and 1.5 points per possession in transition (1.13 points per possession with Wall alone.) Washington has finished in the top-four of fastbreak points scored per game the past two years almost entirely due to Wall’s presence as both facilitator and scorer.
Though Curry is the better scorer and more efficient shooter, Wall actually creates more points for his team on a daily basis. Wall creates 27.1 points per game from assists alone, compared to Curry’s 15.5. When you factor in Wall’s 23.1 points per contest on top of his points created through assists, his total comes out to a whopping 50.2 points per game. Curry’s? 40.8 total points created per game. Advantage: John Wall.
Wall does commit more turnovers and gets fairly sloppy at times, but he still has a better assist to turnover ratio than Curry. A lot of this has to do with Wall having to put the team on his back and do the majority of work on his own, while Curry can play more relaxed with his All-Star peers taking pressure off his shoulders.
The big debate right now between Wall and Curry involves defensive ability. Wall is the better athlete with better length, and averages more steals and blocks per game than Curry. Curry, however, is a tactician on the defensive end and allows just 100.9 points per possession compared to Wall’s 107.3. When it comes to on-ball defensive intensity, Wall is considered elite and is known for making clutch stops when his team needs it most. Curry does an excellent job of playing the passing lanes and excels in help-defense situations, but the former MVP doesn’t compare in one-on-one/isolation situations, where Wall thrives.
Curry is the most gifted shooter of all time, but Wall’s ability to create for his teammates makes this matchup a draw.
Devin Booker vs. Klay Thompson
Booker: 6’6, 225 lbs. Two years of experience.
Thompson: 6’7, 215 lbs. Six years of experience.
Traditional statistics comparison:
Advanced statistics comparison:
One of Booker’s biggest NBA comparisons coming into the league was Thompson, and now they have the chance to go head-to-head in the superteam matchup.
Both players are similar in size, similar in athleticism, and have similar skillsets. Hell, both players put up almost identical numbers last season, only Thompson was slightly more efficient.
The main difference? Experience.
As the latter half of the Splash Brothers in Golden State, Thompson has carved out his role as a catch and shoot player. The star shooting guard has the ability to weave through traffic to find even the slightest bit of open space to catch a pass and launch it from deep, a skill he has nearly perfected. With Curry’s presence, he is rarely asked to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot, but has shown the ability to if need-be.
Booker, on the other hand, is the star of the show in Phoenix and has the ball in his hands like one. He’s still considered a two, but the former Wildcat has transitioned to more of a combo guard with the ability to bring the ball up the court, thriving both on-ball and off. His teammates rely on him to create his own shot, both driving to the basket and from beyond the arc. His shots per game have jumped from 11.4 to 18.3 in just one season, and he’s also taking over two more free throws a game, as well.
The most significant statistic? Booker’s usage has increased, going from 23% to 28.4% in his second year, but his true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, 3PT%, FT%, and overall offensive rating have all either stayed the same or increased.
Oh yeah, and Booker casually broke the Suns’ franchise record for scoring 70 points in a game this season against the Boston Celtics. Just the sixth player in NBA history to do so, no big deal.
On defense, however, Thompson currently has a major edge on Booker. In the advanced analytics, Thompson gives up just 100.9 points per 100 possessions, while Booker gives up 110 points per. The 6’7 guard is usually tasked with defending the opposing team’s most talented player due to his impressive length and never-ending stamina, and he usually produces. It has been reported that Thompson ran 77.6 miles on the defensive end throughout last season, yet he never seems to get tired. The scariest part? Opponents shot 41.5% on Thompson last year, nearly 4% below the league average. He’s not going to rack up blocks or steals to stand out on any All-Defensive team, but he’s going to be a pest on that end of the floor.
As for Booker, most NBA analysts would consider the former Kentucky star’s defense to be mediocre, at best. When opposing offenses set screens on him, Booker often gets caught in traffic and rarely catches back up to the shooter. He has a tendency to get bullied by stronger guards, especially toward or around the basket. In transition, he has shown some impressive spurts of success, but he has a lot of issues in the half-court set. With his length at guard, the defensive potential is there, but he’s definitely going to be more offensively-driven throughout his career.
Shooting wise, Thompson is more efficient, but Booker has already proven to be an elite scorer with ridiculous upside. On defense, Thompson thrives while Booker has a lot of work left to do.
Thompson takes this matchup, but the difference isn’t significant enough to make a massive difference in the game.
Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Kevin Durant
Towns: 7’0, 250 lbs. Two years of experience.
Durant: Listed 6’9, actually 7’0, 240 lbs. Ten years of experience.
Traditional statistics comparison:
Advanced statistics comparison:
The NBA is going away from a traditional one-through-five lineup, transitioning to the “positionless” basketball John Calipari has come to love. The idea of Towns playing the three seems like a wild idea, but it’s actually the perfect recipe for slowing down former Kevin Durant.
Towns had one of the most effortless transitions to the NBA we’ve seen in recent history. He came in the league as the No. 1 selection in the NBA Draft and became the first unanimous Rookie of the Year in history, averaging 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest to go with 51 double-doubles in his first year. He was just the 26th rookie in NBA history to average 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.
In a game against KD’s Thunder team two years ago, Towns switched onto the former Texas forward and not only held his own, but thrived. His polished offensive moves, physicality, and length weren’t like any ole rookie, and it forced Durant to go into his bag of tricks to establish dominance. Durant won the first matchup, but he showed enough to make the former MVP tip his cap out of respect.
After the game, Durant told reporters “(Towns) is going to be a Hall of Famer in this league.”
This past year, Towns averaged 25.1 points per game, identical to Durant’s numbers, on 54.2% from the field and 36.7% from three. In the final Wolves-Warriors matchup of the year where the two players matched up throughout, Towns finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds, while Durant put up just 22 points and eight rebounds.
The biggest problem with players defending Durant has been his ridiculous length. He’s listed at 6’9 by the Warriors, but after heavy criticism and photo evidence of him being taller, he’s since admitted to actually being 7’0 tall with a 7’5 wingspan. Even elite defenders with similar size like LeBron James struggle guarding Durant, as evident by the nightly blowouts in the NBA Finals. Towns, on the other hand, matches that length on defense, and returns similar ability to shoot the ball on offense. Durant is more athletic and has proven to be a better ball handler, but Towns has the footwork and lateral speed to stay in front of the Warriors star to defend a jumper or make a play at the rim.
Durant is certainly the better player, but Towns has proven time and time again he is more than capable to return the punches right back in this matchup. We’ve seen Durant for years; we know exactly who he is as a player.
For Towns, we’re just getting started.
Durant maintains the edge right now, but there’s no doubt in my mind Towns will surpass him in the next few years.
Anthony Davis vs. Draymond Green
Davis: 6’11, 255 lbs. Five years of experience.
Green: 6’7, 230 lbs. Five years of experience.
Traditional statistics comparison:
Advanced statistics comparison:
Similar to Towns, Davis exploded onto the NBA scene immediately as one of the most versatile bigs in the league. With the ability to bring the ball up the floor, shoot from mid-range and beyond the arc, and dominate in the post on offense, teams were nervous. When it came to Davis’ defense, his ridiculous length and shot-blocking ability absolutely petrified opponents.
Since then, Davis has turned into one of the NBA’s biggest and brightest stars, holding a spot in the MVP race the past two years and almost certainly a candidate to win the award in the near future. He has developed a brand of his own and has become one of the most sought-after players in the league, as he’s capable of scoring 30 points and 15 rebounds on a nightly basis.
According to the Washington Post, advanced statistics prove that Davis is “one of the game’s most-efficient player whether he is working out of the pick and roll (1.13 points per possession), in the post (0.98 PPP), or going one-on-one against a defender (1.03 PPP).”
In the history of the NBA, only three players have averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks a game, with Shaquille O’Neal (2000-01) being the most recent. Davis just did that.
Green, however, is also one of the league’s top players and has the ability to produce triple-doubles at will. When he’s not scoring, he can get you the clutch rebound, assist, block, or steal you need to win a game. As easy as it is to hate on the guy for his on-court antics, Green is an absolute winner and goes to war for his teammates each night.
Green is a pest on defense and can guard just about every position on the floor, but Davis is a whole different animal on both ends of the floor. His length allows him to score over anybody in the league both facing away from the basket in the post and toward it on face-up jumpers. He’s polished, he’s athletic, and he has the motor to compete against anybody.
With his versatility, Davis also has the ability to switch onto Durant without skipping a beat if Towns is struggling. He has shown the ability to defend all forward positions, and can even hold his own against larger guards for shorter periods of time.
Anthony Davis is an All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Star, and Inspector Gadget-like MVP candidate all mixed into a single eyebrow. He’s like a science experiment gone incredibly right. Green is a great player, but Davis takes this matchup by a significant margin.
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Zaza Pachulia
Cousins: 6’11, 270 lbs. Seven years of experience.
Pachulia: 6’11, 275 lbs. 14 years of experience.
Traditional statistics comparison:
Advanced statistics comparison:
This would easily be the most overwhelming matchup of the game, as Cousins is considered one of the NBA’s most dominant big men since Shaquille O’Neal, and Pachulia is, well, just Pachulia.
Cousins averaged 27 points per game last season on a true shooting percentage of 56.2% and effective field goal percentage of 50%. In the past few seasons, Cousins has worked on extending his range, shooting five threes per game in 2016-17 at a rate of 36.1%. Not the best, but impressive for a guy not known for shooting in his first half-decade in the league.
In the paint, however, Cousins shot 56.4% from the field, filled with some of the most polished post moves the basketball world has ever seen.
The Warriors rarely go with a true center for extended minutes, with Durant and/or Green usually playing both “big” positions in small ball situations and Iguadola running the three. With a frontcourt of Towns, Davis, and Cousins, however, the Warriors would have their hands full and need to throw in some legitimate size to counter.
Pachulia’s statistics are bloated on this Warriors roster due to easy baskets, and even still, they aren’t anything special. The ball rarely goes through Pachulia, with the majority of his baskets coming on layups and dunks.
Pachulia would likely rotate in with JaVale McGee and David West to compete with Kentucky’s size, but the talent separation is massive from anything Golden State has to offer down low.
In this game of Boogie vs. the Warriors last season, Pachulia was injured and did not participate, but you can see how easily Cousins was able to dismantle Golden State’s front line.
Pachulia (or whoever the Warriors decide to start at center) doesn’t stand a chance. Significant edge to Boogie Cousins here.
Kentucky: De’Aaron Fox, Jamal Murray, Willie Cauley-Stein, Malik Monk, Julius Randle, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyler Ulis
Golden State: Andre Iguadola, Nick Young, Omri Casspi, Shaun Livingston, David West, Damian Jones, JaVale McGee
Iguadola and Young are impressive bench pieces for the Warriors, but they aren’t enough to move the needle. Iguadola has been a Finals hero in recent memory, but his game isn’t what it used to be. He made a career out of high-flying dunks and superior athleticism, but he’s now seen as a defensive specialist and the fifth or sixth scoring option. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may not be an offensive powerhouse, but he can shut down Iguadola’s offensive production, while any of Monk, Fox, and Murray can shut down Young. Beyond Iggy and Young, Golden State’s bench takes a significant nosedive in talent.
Offensively, Kentucky’s bench would light up the scoreboard on all three levels. Tyler Ulis and De’Aaron Fox have the ability to drive to the basket and score with ease, or pull up for mid-range jumpers if given space. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the perfect slasher for this roster, creating several buckets at the rim. Malik Monk and Jamal Murray, two of UK’s greatest shooters of all time, can float beyond the arc and hit all the open threes they can handle. Willie Cauley-Stein provides the Wildcats a unique defensive-minded big with unbelievable athleticism, while the newly-upgraded Randle acts as an enforcer in the paint to grab rebounds and give the corpse of David West all he can handle on offense.
The Wildcat bench destroys Golden State’s, and it isn’t even close.
Salary Cap (2017-18)
The most significant part of all of this? This team would be 100% eligible to compete in the NBA under the salary cap restrictions.
The 2017-18 salary cap, though several million less than the anticipated cap, is still set at $99.09 million. The combination of these former Kentucky superstars finish just over that threshold, but still remain in good standing with the NBA.
John Wall- $18,063,850
Devin Booker- $2,319,360
Anthony Davis- $23,775,506
Karl-Anthony Towns- $6,216,840
DeMarcus Cousins- $16,784,031
Bench: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13,000,000), De’Aaron Fox ($4,609,200), Jamal Murray ($3,355,320), Willie Cauley-Stein ($3,704,160), Malik Monk ($2,904,480), Julius Randle ($4,149,242), Tyler Ulis ($543,471), other vet minimum contracts.
Total cap hit: $99,425,460.
Though the total cap number is above the $99.09 million limit, teams are allowed to go over the cap to sign rookies and re-sign their own players under the Bird Rights provision. Teams that go significantly over the cap must pay a hefty luxury tax fee, but this Kentucky roster’s tax bill would be slim to none. And even if it was massive, any competent owner would fork over the extra money to keep this gem of a team together.
Also, you can always sign players for the veteran minimum, so if guys like Terrence Jones, DeAndre Liggins, Rajon Rondo, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb, etc. want to join in on the fun, they are more than welcome to.
While the Warriors possess four of the top twenty players in the NBA, the All-Kentucky team provides the perfect mix of superstars, seasoned veterans, and up-and-coming studs. With a relatively balanced starting lineup between both teams, things would look relatively even to start the game. After some of the bench players from both teams entered the game, the Wildcats would take over and never look back.
Moral of the story, not only would an All-UK lineup have a chance to defeat the Golden State Warriors, I believe they’d come out on top more often than not.
Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 04th, 2017 @ 7:00pm
After years of controversy, locker room turmoil, technical fouls, and coaching changes, former Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to New Orleans at the trade deadline for pennies on the dollar.
For Cousins, it was an opportunity to team up with former Kentucky star Anthony Davis and revamp his image. For the Kings, they were able to avoid re-signing Cousins to a massive contract extension and get a head start on rebuilding from a rebuild.
It was a much-needed breakup, but the hard feelings with Sacramento haven’t vanished in Boogie’s eyes.
The Pelicans will be playing in Sacramento for the first time since the trade and Cousins is hyped.
“I can’t wait. Oh, my God. I can’t wait,” Cousins said in an interview at the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa camp. “I’m praying it’s the first game. I just got a lot to get off my chest. I can’t wait.”
As far as what he misses about playing in Sacramento, he went out of his way to mention everything but the actual franchise.
“I miss the community. I miss the people. I miss the fans. That’s it,” Cousins said.
The three-time NBA All-Star has his sights set on taking the Pelicans to new heights this season. In an interview with NBA.com from South Africaa, Cousins said he’s recruiting some of the top players in the league to join him in New Orleans.
“For one, we want to win, so we needed as much talent and as many pieces as we can get,” Cousins said. “I’ve reached out to everybody. I mean, I don’t want to throw names out there, but some of the biggest names on the block right now, I’ve reached out to.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 04th, 2017 @ 5:00pm
Yesterday, Julius Randle married his college sweetheart and Kentucky native, Kendra Shaw in a gorgeous ceremony in California. Several of Julius’ former Kentucky teammates were in attendance, including Dakari Johnson, Derek Willis (and his fiancée Keely), Dominique Hawkins, James Young, and Alex Poythress. Here are a few pictures that leaked out from the festivities:
Is James Young wearing caution tape as a belt?
Julius, Dakari, and Referee Guy:
A post shared by Dakari Johnson (@dakarijohnson) on
Snapchats from Randle and some of the guests (including Nick Young’s hilarious video Drew shared this morning):
And finally, Julius and his mother, Carolyn Kyles doing the mother-son dance:
— Carolyn S Kyles (@CKyles30) August 4, 2017
Awesome. Congrats to the Randles.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 04th, 2017 @ 1:17pm
John Wall is going into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of the upcoming Class of 2017 to be inducted later this year.
Wall is a unique entry into the Hall, as you well know, considering he wasn’t even in Lexington for a full calendar year before he left for the NBA and was drafted first overall by the Washington Wizards in 2010. But in that one basketball year at Kentucky, Wall shattered records and earned the program’s first national player of the year award, as well as several other awards, accomplishments and accolades.
Today, in speaking at a press conference about his new supermax contract with the Wizards, Wall was asked by CSN Mid-Atlantic about his Hall of Fame induction.
“It’s an honor, it’s a blessing,” Wall said. “A lot of guys don’t get into the Hall of Fame unless they stay more than three, four years. But to be able to do what I did in one year was spectacular.”
Wall also thanked Big Blue Nation, the University of Kentucky, his teammates and coaches for helping him become the point guard he was then and is today.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 04th, 2017 @ 10:30am
Julius Randle married his college sweetheart at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Orange County, California on Thursday, in front of several of Randle’s basketball teammates, past and present.
Former University of Kentucky players Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Derek Willis were among those in attendance, as well as Randle’s former Lakers teammate, Nick Young.
Young has been known to have a little fun with his Instagram account, and he did not disappoint at the wedding.
Watch his commentary during the ceremony, in which he begs Randle not to cry.
Is that the Forrest Gump theme when Randle walks down the aisle? NICE.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 03rd, 2017 @ 11:00pm
When you think of the best shooters in Kentucky’s rich history, names like Tony Delk, Cameron Mills, Travis Ford, and Jodie Meeks quickly come to mind. Many talented sharpshooters, mostly spread over the course of several decades.
In the Calipari era, however, we’ve seen some of the most dominant three-point shooters to ever come through the program year after year. Nearly every year since Coach Cal arrived, the Wildcats have had at least one shooter make their mark in the record books and on timeless highlight reels. In some cases, we’ve seen these players suiting up at the same time, with 12 of the program’s top 35 career three-point shooters (3P%) playing under Calipari in the last eight years.
But who’s the best?
Let’s break down the long list of top marksmen:
Jamal Murray, Doron Lamb, Malik Monk, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight, Aaron Harrison
- Effective field goal percentage (eFG%): calculates two-point and three-point field goals made compared to total attempts, factors in additional difficulty of three-pointers
- True shooting percentage (TS%): calculates total points scored compared to total field goal and free throw attempts
- Three-point percentage (3P%): 3P FG/ 3PA
- Overall impact made on games
58.87% eFG% (Top 150 players in college basketball history)
True shooting percentage of 63.4%
Career 47.5% three-point shooter, freshman year shot 48.6% from beyond the arc (Kentucky school record)
The case for greatness:
Read the statistics again and you have your answer.
When we think of massive impact players of the Calipari era, fans don’t usually think to include Doron Lamb anywhere near the top of that list. He wasn’t flashy, he wasn’t extremely athletic, and he wasn’t the best passer or defender.
When it came to shooting, though, Lamb was a machine.
Every time the guard from Queens, NY lifted up for a jumper, you automatically assumed three points were added to the scoreboard. In fact, when you break down the statistics and revisit the highlights from his two-year career at UK, that assumption wasn’t far from the truth. His shot was effortless from anywhere on the court.
While opposing defenses focused on stopping Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb set up shop on the three-point line and waited. When the defense collapsed in the middle, there he was, wide open more often than not. And when the ball left his hands, he was money.
For comparison’s sake, Lamb’s eFG% of 58.87% would surpass Klay Thompson’s mark of 56% in 2016-17. The former UK guard’s career true shooting percentage of 63.4% would surpass Steph Curry’s mark of 62.3% this year, as well. Two of the greatest shooters in NBA history fall short of Lamb’s records at UK.
The 6’4 shooting guard broke Cameron Mills’ UK three-point percentage record in fewer games and on more attempts, and I find it hard to believe we see anyone break that record anytime soon. The NCAA record for highest career 3P% is Northern Arizona’s Stephen Sir with 46.9%. If Lamb reached the minimum 200 career three-pointers required for the record, he would be the NCAA career leader in 3P%.
50% from deep in one year is ridiculous. Coming just short of that mark in back-to-back years is damn-near impossible.
How about that for #TeamNoSleep?
Lamb may not be the flashiest player in UK’s history, but he’s easily one of the most efficient and impactful.
eFG% of 56%
3P% of 41%
TS% of 59.5%
The case for greatness:
When Murray exploded onto the basketball scene at the Nike Hoops Summit in 2015, fans were drooling at the thought of having him in 2016.
When he announced he would be reclassifying to the class of 2015 and playing at Kentucky with Tyler Ulis, especially after nearly every expert predicted he’d end up at Oregon, the entire BBN about lost it. And rightfully so.
In every game of his Kentucky career, Jamal Murray hit a three-pointer. Every. Single. Game.
Murray’s 36-game feat broke Tony Delk’s record of 34 consecutive games with a made three. His 113 threes on the year came just nine short of breaking Stephen Curry’s record for most threes by a freshman in a season. He finished with a freshman record 720 points (later broken by Malik Monk). First player in school history to score 18 or more in each of the first seven conference games since Jodie Meeks (first freshman ever). And the list goes on.
Somehow, some way, Murray chipped away at just about every freshman shooting and scoring record in the UK history books.
The bow-and-arrow specialist had one of the purest shots we’ve ever seen at Kentucky, and he certainly used it to get through some tough games. Murray had eight makes at home against Florida, seven against Ohio State, six against Georgia and on the road against Vanderbilt, and a dagger against Texas A&M to seal the deal in the SEC Championship.
He put up incredible numbers, but how he managed to do it is even more impressive. His work on the baseline to find an open shot was a thing of beauty, and he absolutely perfected the catch-and-shoot jumper. If he needed to create his own shot off the dribble, he was able to do that too. Anything Coach Cal asked him to do, he not only did, but thrived at.
Most importantly, Murray carried the scoring load for a team that desperately needed one. Skal Labissiere struggled as a freshman, Isaiah Briscoe wasn’t the scorer we expected him to be, Marcus Lee didn’t progress much as a junior, etc. If Ulis or Murray had a bad night, the Cats were doomed. Lucky for us, Murray had just six games out of 36 total scoring less than 16 points, 18 games with 20 points or more.
The backcourt of Murray and Ulis will likely go down as the greatest in Kentucky history. If the frontcourt came even close to preseason expectations, the 2015-16 squad could have been special… What could have been.
eFG% of 54.3%
3P% of 40%
TS% of 59.2%
The case for greatness:
Listed as the top shooting guard in the nation, the hype surrounding Monk going into the year was extremely high. The athletic sharpshooter out of Arkansas was known as one of the top scorers in America, but no one had any idea he would become a star as soon as he did.
Just three games into the regular season, Malik Monk made a major statement by dropping 23 points on seven three-pointers against No. 13 Michigan State. He caught fire, and it didn’t seem like anyone in the world could stop him.
As the year progressed, that fire never burned out.
Monk quickly became one of the most dominant players in the country with the ability to make baskets from all over the court. At one moment he would make a ridiculous dunk worthy of an #SCTop10 nomination, and then on the next possession drill a three in a defender’s eye.
And then another three. And then another. And another.
When Monk got hot, there wasn’t a better shooter in the nation. By a long shot.
He had several impressive games following his scoring barrage against Michigan State, but he officially hit legendary status against North Carolina in Las Vegas. With the lights at their brightest, Monk scored 47 points in the game and single-handedly defeated the Tar Heels on the big stage. Many considered it the best basketball game of the last decade, and Monk’s stone-cold killer threes were the main reason for that.
The big shots continued throughout the year en route to a historic season in both shooting and overall scoring ability.
Right when we thought Jamal Murray was the king of breaking freshman records, Monk went above and beyond. The former Wildcat passed Murray’s freshman record for most points in a season with 754 on the year, managed four of the top seven single-game scoring performances in the Calipari era, and led SEC in scoring in the regular season at 21.2 points per game. Murray may have been the more accurate shooter, but Monk easily became the most productive scorer of the last several years.
The former Wildcat out of Lepanto, Arkansas energized the fanbase on a nightly basis. It was the Malik Monk show, and there wasn’t a better entertainer in the business.
eFG% of 57.1%
3P% of 41.%
TS% of 60.4%
The case for greatness:
With Coach Cal’s platoon system in 2014-15, Booker didn’t average a whole lot of minutes or points, but he made just as significant of an impact on the end result as any starter.
Coming off the bench, Booker’s ability to knock the life out of opposing teams gave fans great pleasure. When they thought they had even the slightest bit of hope, Booker came in and absolutely ripped their hearts out with a few shots beyond the arc. He was the Mariano Rivera of college basketball, snarky grin and all.
With the ball in his hands, off the ball, in transition, wherever, Booker was going to find a way to hit a shot in your face.
In the months of December and January alone, Booker hit 25/47 three-point attempts, good for 53.2% from beyond the arc. He also had a seven-game run shooting 20/28 from beyond the arc (71.4%).
Booker had games of 5/6, 5/6, 4/6, 4/7, 3/3, 3/3, 3/4, and 3/6 in his lone year at Kentucky. He came back to earth to end the season, but there was a time that just about anything he threw at the rim went in. He was the best shooter in college basketball by a wide margin.
The guard out of Moss Point, MS was named to the All-SEC Second Team, All-SEC Freshman Team, managed four consecutive SEC Freshman of the Week honors, and scored in double figures in 20 total games.
And he never started a game at Kentucky.
eFG% of 50.8%
3P% of 38%
TS% of 56%
The case for greatness:
Though Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson, and Patrick Patterson were known as solid shooters in 2010, one of the most crushing moments of the Calipari era came in the form of 4/32 from three in the Elite Eight against West Virginia in Cal’s first year at UK.
After painful struggles from beyond the arc, Calipari signed two of the best shooters in the country in Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, and they lived up to expectations.
Though the biggest shots of his career came on the elbow against Ohio State and at the rim against Princeton, Knight quickly became one of the most gifted shooters in recent UK memory. His lightning-fast release made it tough for even the best defenders to guard, as he was able to knock down shots from anywhere on the court. When his shot wasn’t falling, he knew how to score at the mid-range or at the rim to fill up the scoreboard.
He was a warrior, fighting for every point on every possession.
Whatever it took for his team to win, Knight made it happen.
Through the early-season adversities, Knight led the Wildcats on one of the most surprising Final Four runs in UK history, knocking off some of the best teams in college basketball as a four-seed. The game-winner against Ohio State in the Sweet 16 will remain in Kentucky highlight reels forever. The late victory against UNC in the Elite Eight left you speechless.
Time and time again, the Brandon Knight-led Wildcats put on a show.
The 2010-11 team overachieved by a country mile, and Knight was the primary reason for that.
Career 57.3% true shooting %, but between his junior and senior seasons he had a 60.1% TS%.
Career eFG% of 53.7%, but between junior and senior seasons he had 57% eFG%.
Career 38% from three, 41% between junior and senior seasons.
The case for greatness:
The Maysville, Kentucky native and veteran leader on the 2012 National Championship team will go down as one of the biggest fan-favorites in UK history.
To start his career, Miller was extremely inconsistent and found himself riding the pine following even the smallest of mistakes. Considering he was listed as ESPN’s 33rd overall player in the 2008 recruiting class, both fans and the coaching staff expected him to help the program limp across the finish line of the Billy Gillespie era. Growing pains limited that.
As a junior, Miller became a regular starter and finally found his rhythm from behind the arc.
As a senior, however, Miller’s consistency was one of the main reasons the Wildcats hung a banner in 2012.
He was always in the right place at the right time, usually leading to an open three or a bucket at the rim in transition. When game tensions got high and the “youth” excuses piled up, Miller was the veteran leader to calm things down. He was the “I got this” man.
Former Kentucky star Anthony Davis summed up his leadership pretty nicely.
“When we were at Kentucky Darius Miller, who was a senior, came and sat all of us down, the entire team. He said, ‘Look, I’m trying to win a ring before I get up outta here.’ And he told us, ‘Leave y’all’s egos at the door. We’re all trying to come here and win,” Davis said.
Between Lamb, Miller, and Kyle Wiltjer, the 2011-12 Wildcats had more three-point weapons than other teams could handle, and there’s a championship banner to show for it.
Career eFG% of 49%.
Shot 36% from three as a freshman, 31.6% as a sophomore.
Career TS% of 54.2%
The case for greatness:
With Aaron Harrison, we saw “quality over quantity” come to life time and time again. As a career 34% three-point shooter, his numbers don’t jump off the page at you, especially for the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2013 recruiting class.
But with the game on the line, there was no better clutch shooter in Kentucky history.
Harrison had ice running through his veins like no one we have ever seen before. We saw it against Louisville. And then Michigan. Then Wisconsin. Then Notre Dame the following year.
When the team needed a clutch shot, Harrison delivered time and time again. The phrases “Harrison… OH HE MADE IT” and “This is the point where he always hits it, OH! AARON HARRISON” still sends chills down fans’ spines.
Dakari Johnson said it best following the epic Wisconsin shot.
“He’s got big nuts, to be honest,” Johnson said. “He can’t even walk right now.”
For a team with 40-0 expectations going into the year, yet countless adversities throughout, the roller coaster ride that was the 2013-14 season was one of the most memorable of the Calipari era. And we have Harrison to thank for that.
He wasn’t a consistent shooter and he had some rough cold streaks in his time at Kentucky, but Harrison’s post-season track record will place his name in NCAA Tournament history books and highlight reels forever.
The list of candidates is impressive, with each having their own incredible qualities.
But one sticks out from the rest.
Not only is Doron Lamb the greatest shooter in the Calipari era, he’s likely the greatest shooter in Kentucky history.
If he had stayed one more year and produced similar numbers, he would’ve broken nearly all three-point records and considered one of the all-time best shooters in NCAA history.
Numbers never lie.
Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 02nd, 2017 @ 11:05pm
What did Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk buy their mothers with their first NBA paycheck? Bam Adebayo started with dinner.
“I took my mama to Cheesecake Factory,” said Bam, who was drafted 14th by the Miami Heat. “She didn’t really want anything, so I took her to Cheesecake, took her out to eat.”
Eventually, Bam admitted that he bought his mom a condo as well, in the same building as his in South Beach.
“I bought her a condo,” Bam said. “My mom doesn’t drive, so I couldn’t buy her a car. My mom is moving with me to Miami. We’re going to be in the same building, but she’s going to be on the fifth floor because she doesn’t like heights and I’m going to be on the 46th.”
By now, you know about Bam’s close relationship with his mother, Marilyn Blount. When Bam was seven, his mom moved him from Newark, New Jersey to her home state of North Carolina to give him a better life. The two lived in a trailer as Marilyn worked long hours as a cashier to support her son’s basketball dreams. Bam told reporters today that being able to take care of her now is an “indescribable” feeling.
“It’s indescribable. Just being able to tell your mom, ‘You don’t have to work anymore.’ She can just sit back and relax and you can buy her whatever she needs.”
Monk, who also grew up with a single mother, agreed. After being drafted 11th by the Charlotte Hornets, Monk bought his mom a house and a car, the latter of which he surprised her with at work.
“It just pulled up on her at work,” Monk said of the car. “I didn’t get a video or anything but I got a phone call. She was super happy. She said she wasn’t crying, but I heard her.”
That’s what it’s all about. Watch the funny exchange between Monk and Bam around the six-minute mark below:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 02nd, 2017 @ 4:30pm
Patrick Patterson was already well on his way to becoming one of the most beloved Kentucky Wildcats in the program’s history, but this move may have pushed him to the top.
While hosting a basketball camp in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia yesterday, Patterson — now with the Oklahoma City Thunder — agreed to take a picture with a young fan under one condition: the camper had to take off his Duke jersey. Wisely, the kid obliged:
Patrick Patterson made this kid take off his Duke jersey before he'd take a picture with him. pic.twitter.com/oxoP1RNHk9
— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) August 1, 2017
Hopefully it was enough to convince the young Dukie to switch sides.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 02nd, 2017 @ 3:00pm
Like many Kentucky fans, Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk have no desire to ever relive Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The former Cats spoke to reporters while in town for the John Calipari Pro Camp this afternoon, and both said they’ll never watch the game again; in fact, Bam said that when he saw a clip from it — likely of Luke Maye’s game-winning shot — on Twitter recently, he reported it.
“I’m not watching that ever again,” Monk said of the loss.
“Yeah, I feel the same way,” Bam said. “I feel like it just didn’t work out for us. We moved on. I probably won’t ever watch that clip either.”
“It popped up on Twitter the other day and–”
“I reported it!” Bam interrupted. “As an annoyance.”
“I ain’t get back on Twitter all day,” Monk said.
You can report a tweet to Twitter for four reasons: 1) lack of interest; 2) if it’s spam; 3) if it displays a sensitive image; or 4) if it’s abusive or harmful. I’m guessing Bam selected number three or four. Hopefully, Twitter did us all a favor and granted his request.
Thanks to LEX18, you can see the moment for yourself around the 3:40 mark:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 02nd, 2017 @ 11:00am
When Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer ended up on the same trip to Hong Kong, we hoped there would be a Goonies reunion, and to the Big Blue Nation’s delight, they delivered.
In Hong Kong for the Yao Ming Charity Classic, Willie and Kyle teamed up for another YouTube classic. Watch as the two stroll the streets of Hong Kong to see if anybody recognizes them:
Man, I miss those guys. Relive their old adventures below:
Today’s fans of the day greet us from high atop the continental divide at Tincup Pass (elevation: 12,154 feet) in the Taylor Park area of Colorado. This group of friends hails from Knottsville, Kentucky and, as you can tell from their shirts and three goggles, love UK and KSR. Well done, guys. We salute you.
We’re trying some new things out on the site over the next month, so instead of a recap of yesterday’s stories, you’re only going to get a preview of what’s happening today in the world of UK sports, along with whatever random thoughts we come up with.
We’ll hear from Matt House and the defense
House is a man of few words, but he and select players will be available starting right about now at the football training center. We’ll have all the news from day four of camp for you in just a bit. In the meantime, please catch up on the latest episode KSR Football Podcast, which should be waiting for you in your podcast queue.
Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk will catch up with reporters
Yesterday, De’Aaron Fox, Dominique Hawkins, and Derek Willis addressed reporters on day one of John Calipari’s Pro Camp, and today, Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk will do the same. Look for quotes to start rolling out around 2:30 p.m. Yesterday, Willis told reporters that due to a mistake in his paperwork, his fiancée Keely was actually the one to get the call from the Detroit Pistons offering him a deal, which may be the most Derek Willis thing ever.
Recruiting tease of the day: Blue Smith
The four-star wide receiver was originally scheduled to announce his college decision on August 27, but last night, he teased Kentucky and Ohio State fans by tweeting that has changed:
There has been a change in my commitment date…
— BLUE📿 (@bluesmith_) August 1, 2017
Marketing move of the Day: Rogers get free tickets
Calling all Rogers! Stop by Gate 7 at Kroger Field now before the K goes up and present your ID to get 2 free tickets to UK vs EKU on 9/9! pic.twitter.com/9dOTEKYWtc
— DeWayne Peevy (@UKDeWaynePeevy) August 2, 2017
You probably saw the picture last night of the Kroger Field sign minus the K. Being the marketing mastermind he is, DeWayne Peevy decided to have some fun and offer all “Rogers” (first or last name) that show up to the sign before the K goes up free tickets to the home opener vs. Eastern. Get on out there, Rogers!
Video of the Day: Amanda making Ryan get his hair cut
ryan gets a mandatory haircut https://t.co/IjtGsUvEVE
— Ryan Lemond (@ryanlemond) August 1, 2017
Yesterday, Matt issued a challenge to Ryan to keep growing his hair out until basketball season. Well, Ryan’s wife Amanda wasn’t having it. Check out Amanda putting her foot down by making Ryan get his hair cut. As Ryan says several times in the Periscope, she clearly wears the pants in the family.
Charity 5K of the Day: Jennifer Colon in the West Fight On: Cycle, Run, Walk
Jennifer Colon is a huge Kentucky fan who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in December 2016. On September 16, she’s participating in the West Fight On: Cycle, Run, Walk charity 5K and bike race to raise money for the West Cancer Center in Germantown, Tennessee. If you’re interested in hearing more about her story, click here.
Salad Dressing of the Day: “Ranch”
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) August 1, 2017
That’s how they say it in the mountains, apparently. I’ll have another fun Kash video for you later today.
Matt Vacation Story of the Day: ?
Yesterday, he told us about getting trapped in someone’s backyard in Luxembourg. What story will he tell today? Tune in an hour from now to find out.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 01st, 2017 @ 5:58pm
One lucky camper at John Calipari’s Pro Camp will receive their own pair of special edition Nike basketball shoes, thanks to De’Aaron Fox.
Fox, in Lexington from Sacramento to assist with the camp, knocked down a halfcourt shot on Tuesday to award one camper the new shoes.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 1, 2017
And they say he can’t shoot.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 01st, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Dominique Hawkins took a break from John Calipari’s basketball camp in Lexington on Tuesday to field questions from the media about his future in basketball… and football.
Hawkins, an All-SEC Tournament honoree in his senior season at Kentucky, is still committed to pursuing a professional basketball career, but last week he tested out his football legs in a workout with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Basically, I’m just weighing out all my opportunities,” Hawkins said on Tuesday. “I haven’t decided on what I really want to do yet, but I definitely want to continue with basketball so far. Just waiting for what’s going to be the best for my future.”
“I definitely have a passion for basketball and I love it so much,” he continued. “I really don’t want to leave it. I’ve just given football a try to see what I can do. I went to that workout last week and they told me I did pretty well.”
Hawkins hasn’t been on the gridiron since his senior season of high school, and he didn’t even play defense back then. But he has since developed the physical makeup of an All-Pro defensive back, so teams are taking him into consideration, despite his lack of experience.
“Everybody tells me I’m an NFL football player,” he said. “I remember my high school coach, he wanted me to play in college. He was always telling me I’d be a top three round draft pick… But I just had so much love and passion for basketball. It grew up as my first love and I just want to continue and enjoy it.”
It sounds like Hawkins is pretty committed to basketball, which will certainly land him a deal somewhere sooner than later. But wouldn’t it be a cool story if a college basketball player with two Final Four appearances picked up the game of football and made it in the NFL?
Whatever he does, Hawkins’ athleticism and work ethic will make him a lot of money in the near future.
By Drew Franklin on ©August 01st, 2017 @ 1:00pm
A judge ruled in favor of Josh Harrellson to the tune of $1 million in his civil case against Leon Smith, a former director of basketball ops at Kentucky, who Harrellson said got deep in his pockets as his financial advisor after college.
Harrellson alleged that Smith defrauded and stole from him while Smith was supposed to be looking out for his investments and finances early in his pro career.
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine’s Monday ruling on punitive damages — $1,025,308.14 — is six times the amount of compensatory damages — $170,884.69 — she ruled that Smith also must pay Harrellson.
“Leon Smith preyed on Harrellson’s financial vulnerability,” Goodwine wrote in her final judgment. “His conduct is egregious. He engaged in deliberate, repeated acts of theft over the course of two years.”
Back in May, Smith’s Legacy Athlete Management was charged with conning athletes out of over $1.2 million via a variety of methods, some of which included forging signatures and receiving payroll checks issued to his clients. One of those checks was a $40,000 royalty check from the NBA Players Association, that was supposed to go to Harrellson.
Smith, a former UK athlete himself, pleaded not guilty.
Read more the Herald-Leader’s story here.