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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: The 5 Most Crucial NBA Decisions of the Cal Era

(photo courtesy of

I think there has never been a more crucial NBA decision in the Calipari era than the one the Harrison twins will be making.  If they leave, UK will have just 3 scholarship guards next season and only Dominique Hawkins will have any experience.  If they return, suddenly the Cats are quite deep at the guard spot and likely find themselves back in the Top 10.  I am not sure if there has been another decision (or 2 in this case) as crucial for the next year’s team more than this one.  At least not one that was realistic.  Certainly an Anthony Davis or John Wall leaving had a greater impact, but those guys were never any risk of staying.  Here would be my Top 5 for crucial decisions under Calipari:

1. Marquis Teague (LEFT)
-At the time, there is no way that Teague’s was the most crucial, but as it turned out it became that way.  If we could have seen the struggles Ryan Harrow would have in 2012-13, there would have been a greater sense of urgency to get Teague back to Lexington.  I continue to argue that Marquis Teague would have made the 2013 team an NCAA participant for sure and a potential Top 15 team.  It would have taken a significant amount of pressure off of Harrow and likely would have made Teague some serious cash.  As it stands now, Teague is bouncing around the league, Harrow left, and that team made the NIT.

2. Doron Lamb (RETURNED)
-Lamb was never much risk to leave Kentucky after his freshman year, but he had such an impact in his sophomore year that goes unappreciated.  Lamb was the 2nd leading scorer on a national championship team.  That puts him in the same category as Antoine Walker, Nazr Mohammed, Rick Robey, Johnny Cox, Ralph Beard, and Alex Groza.  He was the leading scorer in the title game and gave UK a consistent shooter from the outside, something that cost them a title in 2010.  Plus, he gave UK that much added experience in the starting lineup and a consistent performer at the 2-guard.

3. Terrence Jones (RETURNED)
-Much in the same mold as Lamb, Jones coming back was less expected than Lamb.  He certainly had the stats to leave after 1 year, but coming back gave Kentucky one of the best frontcourts in school history.  While the 2012 team was awesome, you can argue that if they lose either Lamb or Jones, that might not have been the case.  Once both came back, that team was nearly unstoppable.

4. Daniel Orton (LEFT)
-Yes, Josh Harrellson became a solid contributor for the Cats the year after Orton left, but once Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible, UK needed Orton to be that big offensive guy in the post.  Terrence Jones would go on to fill some of that void, but that 2011 UK team actually needed Orton, even though he wasn’t a fan favorite.  His departure put a ton of pressure on Jorts, who responded, but a lack of a consistent post scorer did hurt at certain points in the season.

5. Patrick Patterson  (LEFT)
-The fact that Patterson gave Kentucky 3 years was an incredible treat.  But there was some serious belief that Patterson would come back for his senior season after the 2010 Elite 8 loss.  Alas, Pat decided to forgo and head to the NBA lottery.  If he had returned for his senior season and played on that Brandon Knight team, I have little doubt that team takes home the title.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

49 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: The 5 Most Crucial NBA Decisions of the Cal Era

  1. TM
    9:09 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    I’d put Meeks way up there, maybe at the top. If I remember right, Cal had been named the coach before Jodie declared for the draft, so it could count as “Cal Era”.

    With Meeks, that 2010 team crushes everyone.

    • jdl
      9:39 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      100% agree

    • Jesus
      10:03 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      1 a. Jodie Meeks
      b. Harrison Twins
      2. Teague
      3. Jones
      4. Lamb
      5. Orton

    • Walden
      12:14 am April 16, 2014 Permalink

      Absolutely agree. Meeks leaving or staying could have been the difference between a few national titles.
      The john wall team wouldn’t have been ice cold from 3 against west virgina, Bledsoe would have likely not left after 1 year and certainly could’ve been the difference with the Brandon knight lead team as well.
      Very happy for Meeks, but that one decision could have prevented a 3 year sweep of titles.

  2. Wes
    9:12 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    How about Jodie Meeks, if he had stayed for Cal’s first season that would have been a championship team.

  3. Dandy Don
    9:16 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    BTI sucks but really great post. I agree with Teague being the most crucial NBA decision, him staying a second season could have really benefited him and the team.

    • DT in DC
      9:49 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      I think Marquis Teague’s decision to leave was the one that surprised me the most – even more than Orton. Teague’s family was financially set, so he didn’t have to rush to the NBA to help support his family, and his numbers weren’t out of this world. Does anyone actually know if there was another reason he left?

  4. kyngfish
    9:19 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    I think Willie’s decision to stay is big, but the guards are going to be even bigger.

  5. TheArmadilloJackal
    9:20 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Although technically not in the “Cal era”, Jodie Meeks was by far the most important decision… his skill set was exactly what the Wall/Cousins team was missing

  6. Boone
    9:21 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Jodie and the twins are by far the two biggest decisions we’ve had since Cal started.

  7. asdf
    9:23 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    The way I remember it, it was a fore-drawn conclusion that PPat was leaving because he graduated in 3 years.

  8. Aaron Craft's Rosacea
    9:23 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Jodie Meeks would have gotten us #8 in his first year. I’m still a firm believer in that.

  9. somerset bill
    9:26 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    “If he had returned for his senior season and played on that Brandon Knight team, I have little doubt that team takes home the title.”

    you may be right, he was a 73% free throw shooter.

    • somerset bill
      9:26 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      patterson that is.

  10. Dub
    9:26 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    I think all of those make sense. I would also add Jodie Meeks in there. I know he wasn’t he a Cal player, but he had an opportunity to stay just as Patrick did. However, if I’m not mistaken, I don’t really think Patrick was coming back after his junior year due to him getting his degree. I may be wrong on that, but I thought that was his situation.

  11. asdf
    9:30 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Jodie Meeks would have been perfect for Cal’s system. It’s a crying shame that he didn’t come back one more year. When West Virginia zoned us and dared us to shoot in the Elite Eight, Jodie would have single-handedly blown them out.

    • Jesus
      10:06 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      Every team zoned us and dared us to shoot that year. Jodie would have had a field day and been a lottery pick.

  12. technicolor yawn
    9:32 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Has anyone mentioned Jodie Meeks?

  13. lonnieb
    9:44 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    I agree with everyone on here. meeks 1st….all they were missing was his jumper. Twins 2nd. Teague does not even matter. Noel got hurt and that team could not have won anything anyway

  14. Meeks for Fiddy
    9:45 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    the Wall / Boogie team really could have used a shooter like Jodie Meeks , just something to think about

  15. dahc
    9:47 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    However, when Kanter was ruled ineligible and Orton left, that opened the door for Jorts. When Jorts battled Sullinger in the 2011 Sweet 16 tourny game was one of my favorite moments as a Cat fan.
    Jorts had Aaron Harrison balls that day.

    • I wear Jorts on Christmas Day...
      10:04 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      Totally agree. Remember that fastball he slammed into Sullinger? So awesome!

    • Jesus
      10:09 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      Sullinger scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds… Harrellson did come up big (17 and 10), but Sullinger got his.

  16. ohiocatfan
    9:51 am April 15, 2014 Permalink


  17. Just Sayin...
    9:54 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    If Meeks returns, not only do we win that title, but we dont lose a game…

  18. Superfan
    9:56 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Has anyone thought about Meeks?

  19. Cliff Hawkins
    10:01 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Couldn’t agree more with everyone who said Meeks! Why is he not on this list?

    We hang #8 in 2010 if he’s there

  20. youbetcha
    10:01 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    agree with meeks but how bout NCAA decision on kanter?

  21. ciphercomplete
    10:01 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    The first thing I thought about when reading this was Jodie Meeks. Think about how good that Wall/Cousins team would have been with Jodie Meeks guys. Its something to think about.

  22. js2
    10:06 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    As everyone has noted – MEEKS. That would have led to a championship because he would have provided the outdoor shooting we needed. Come on BTI … that is a no-brainer.

    • ukbradstith
      11:11 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      Meeks never palyed for Cal, you can’t count him in the Cal era.

  23. Doron fan...
    10:07 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    D Lamb was very under appreciated. He was the most consistent scorer on the 2012 team and really created the separation against Kansas in the title game.

  24. As I recall Patterson graduated in 3 years, so he wasn’t going pro early education-wise, so I don’t think it was that surprising that he left.

  25. MattInHouston
    10:14 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Orton…lol…who the hell scores a point a game and decides they are ready for the NBA? Worst decision ever.

    • Jack Bauer
      11:25 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      Actually it was a great decision. The next year he hurt his knee again and likely wouldn’t have shown anything to the scouts. He’s never taken off since. So do you get three years guaranteed and a few million bucks or do you stay 2-3 years with nothing to show for it and you don’t get drafted because you have no stats and can’t stay healthy? Orton absolutely made the right call to leave.

  26. Charles Moore
    10:27 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Patrick Patterson wanted to return, but coach Calipari reportedly said “go do something for your family”. A person I know who works at Rupp and was friends with Patrick’s parents said they weren’t happy about the situation. Patrick would have returned for a senior season. I have been told that story more than once.

  27. Rob Lock
    10:35 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    One thing that no one’s mentioned is the domino effect Meeks’ return would have had. Not only the title in ’10, but Bledsoe maybe doesn’t get drafted that year. Having him back in ’11 = 3peat.

    • lonnieb
      11:36 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

      You are looking at it backwards. If meeks stats jodie does not come. However on that team meeks would have been a much better fit with wall than bledsoe b/e eb and wall were essentially the same player

  28. the ghost of Bill Hicks
    10:48 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Can’t believe no one brought up Meeks.

  29. Al B. Frank
    11:03 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    First of all, I agree with everyone about Meeks. The rest of the list is fine, but one could argue that Lamb could be on the list twice. Agreeing with the one that talks about his return, but another impact that he made was by leaving. If he had stayed, most likely his consistent shooting would have really helped that NIT team the following year. Could say the same about Jones, but looking at Jones in the league right now he probably made the best decision in leaving.

  30. Mack
    11:15 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Every time I see Meeks on TV I have a flash back to the WVU Regional game the season after he went early. Patterson did something none of the others on your list accomplished, graduated in 3 years!!!!

  31. Jack Schimidt
    11:22 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    We’ll be a top 10 team if Harrisons return?! Try top 3! lol

  32. 2020
    11:45 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    RE: Teague, UK was an NCAA participant already if Nerlens doesn’t blow out his knee. With Teague, they would have been Top 10 for sure.

  33. Jodymeeks
    11:45 am April 15, 2014 Permalink

    If Jody Meeks had come back, an undefeated season would have been a real possibility. Then again, if my aunt had balls, she would be my uncle

  34. Jodie Meeks
    12:57 pm April 15, 2014 Permalink

    If I was playing instead of Darnell Dodson, Kentucky would have beat WVU and won a championship…

  35. Tom Blevins
    1:42 pm April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Meeks leaving was big. The 2010 team probably would have won the NCAA championship with him. Their big weakness was outside shooting. Jodie could shoot. Man, could he ever shoot!
    Orton might have made the right choice to leave when he did he did get some guaranteed money from the NBA.. But if he had came back to Kentucky, he might not have reinjured his knee. There is no way an NCAA schedule would be as likely to injure him as an NBA schedule. I would like to have seen him get healthy, and get an opportunity to show his skill set while at Kentucky. I know some fans will think I’m crazy for what I’m about to say, but I think he had the potential to be a lottery pick with another year at Kentucky. I remember in one of the all star games after his senior year of high school. he had the best outlet pass since Bill Walton.

  36. a21CATSfan
    4:01 pm April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Very good list. Idk if he didn’t include Meeks Bc he didn’t play for Cal but he would’ve been huge in 09-10. Not just in the WVU game. He would be #3 on my list right in front of #4 Teague/Lamb staying for 12-13. Either would’ve added some much-needed stability in the backcourt that year; assuring another NCAA run. #5 Orton staying for his sophomore season would’ve been nice but he opened the door for Enes…Eloy…I mean Josh Harrellson. But my #1a and #1b would definately be Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb staying Bc they actually WON. Without them we don’t get #8 and we may still be stuck at 7. GO CATS!

  37. caveman2
    5:25 pm April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Orton had bad knees. I am not sure he would have helped.

  38. gottalovekentucky
    5:38 pm April 15, 2014 Permalink

    Its a good piece, but there is one GLARING bullet point here. Change 5. Patrick Patterson (LEFT) to 5. Patrick Patterson (STAYED)!! After UK missed the NT in 2007, Patterson faced a decision going into one of the most critical seasons in UK basketball history. We had been struggling for some time, on our longest final four drought ever, and our answer was a coach who had us missing the NT by his second season. It was a dark time, one of few low points UK has experienced. Would Patrick Patterson leave, putting bad memories of BillyG behind him? Or would he return, and try to help UK return to glory? Patterson stayed, played a lead part in one of the all time great turnaround stories, and brought the swagger back in the blink of an eye.

    I’d put this higher than #5, myself