I think fans were in agreement that if Nick Richards or EJ Montgomery had left UK this offseason, they would be taking a huge risk and the odds would be they would have flamed out in the NBA. Luckily, they decided to return and avoid that possibility for now. But it also got me thinking about the multitude of guys who didn’t make that decision and one guy always comes to mind: Marquis Teague. In 2 seasons on 2 different teams, Teague played in 88 NBA games, starting just 3 of them. He averaged 2.3 ppg and 1.4 apg in his career. All told, Teague is one of the few UK guys under Calipari that have had no success in the NBA. But did he make the biggest mistake of all the players who left early in these 10 years? It probably all depends on what you consider successful.
On the one hand, Teague did make 2.1 million dollars in those 2 years. There is never FAILURE when you make that much money. But at the same time, you have to wonder if another year of college would have improved Teague’s draft stock, thus garnering him more money in his initial rookie contract, likely putting him on a worse team and thus giving him more playing time earlier. Plus, the point guard class in the following NBA Draft (2013) was not exactly strong. The first point guard taken was 9th and that was Trey Burke. CJ McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams followed right after. Shane Larkin was taken just outside of the lottery. If Teague had stayed for the 2012-13 college season, he would have likely flirted with the lottery. Because let’s not forget what a train wreck that team was, with Ryan Harrow running the point. But for Teague that would have meant more of a chance to truly lead an offense, something he didn’t get a chance to do in 2011-12.
I think very few people could argue that Marquis Teague couldn’t have used another year of college ball. But was his early departure the worst decision of the Cal era? I would think that along with Teague there are really only 2 other options: Daniel Orton and Jared Vanderbilt. For Orton, I think a good argument can be made he is answer here. I wouldn’t agree though for 2 reasons. First, his relationship with Calipari has been said to have been fairly poor. Continuing that relationship could have been toxic for everybody involved. But secondly and most importantly, the NBA loves big men. The fact Daniel Orton was taken in the 1st round of the draft after the freshman year he had at Kentucky proves that more than ever. And despite the fact he hasn’t made any impact in the league, he did stay on a roster through this season, racking up 2.8 million in earnings in the process. He was able to stay in the NBA 2 years longer than Teague despite being a worse player. That tells you all you need to know about how much the NBA loves centers. The jury is still out on what kind of impact Jared Vanderbilt might make in the NBA but his departure left many UK fans sour.
It’a hard to feel bad for a guy that is a millionaire. But I feel bad for Marquis Teague. He won a national title in 1 year as the starter, saw his entire team leave for the NBA and bolted with them. And that is why he came to Kentucky in the first place was for 1 season of college basketball. But in retrospect, Teague would have benefited so much from an extra year of college more than any other player in the Calipari era.