John Calipari doesn’t just produce No. 1 overall picks, he produces franchise-changing No. 1 overall picks.
Bleacher Report ranked all 20 of the No. 1 NBA Draft picks since the year 2000 and all three former Kentucky Wildcats were listed in the top 9 choices; John Wall (WAS) at No. 9, Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) at No. 7, and Anthony Davis (LAL) at No. 2. Another former Calipari point guard, Derrick Rose, found himself smack-dab between KAT and Wall at No. 8.
Four of the nine best No. 1 picks over the last 20 years all came from the same head coach. Not bad. The fact that Calipari even has four is an insane feat. Had Rose’s knees not betrayed him so early in his career, there’s a good chance the four of them wind up making the Hall of Fame down the road.
Nevertheless, here’s what Andy Bailey had to say about the trio of top Kentucky picks.
9. John Wall, Washington Wizards, 2010
John Wall is in the midst of a devastating spate of injuries, but he was one of the game’s most dominant point men before that.
From 2013-14 to 2016-17, Wall averaged 20.0 points, 9.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. In that stretch, the Wizards were plus-3.1 points per 100 possessions with Wall on the floor and minus-5.2 with him off.
But he’s only managed 73 appearances since the start of the 2017-18 campaign and has yet to play at all this season. Here’s hoping he can manage a comeback similar to the next guard on this list.
7. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves, 2015
Karl-Anthony Towns is on track to be one of the best offensive players of all time. His 4.8 offensive box plus/minus is tied with Anthony Davis for 13th in NBA history. And among the 69 players with career scoring averages over 20 points per game, Towns’ true shooting percentage (62.2) trails only Stephen Curry’s (62.3).
He’s also had an overwhelmingly positive on-floor impact on the Minnesota Timberwolves over the course of his career. They’re plus-0.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and minus-5.0 with him off.
If he can develop into a reliable defensive anchor, he’ll have an argument for top-center-in-the-league status.
2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, 2012
“[Anthony] Davis has taken the guesswork out of the top of the 2012 NBA draft,” Jonathan Givony wrote for DraftExpress in 2012. “While he surely has plenty of things to work on, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be anything less than a huge success in the NBA.”
That was a common refrain from analysts and scouts on Davis back then. His box plus/minus from his freshman campaign at Kentucky is the second-highest on record (trailing only Zion Williamson’s), and all those things he needed to work on were pretty much rectified by his second NBA season.
Now eight seasons in, his career averages of 24.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game leap off the screen. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson are the only players in league history to match or exceed those marks through their first eight years.
Davis is among the most skilled big men the game has ever seen. He has a classical post game, a reliable jumper, a budding three-point shot, a nose for shot-blocking and rebounds and physical tools that belie his 6’10”, 253-pound frame.
And now that he’s paired with a legitimate GOAT candidate on the Los Angeles Lakers, there’s a solid chance he’ll add a championship to his resume. Once (or if) that happens, he’ll undoubtedly be one of the best No. 1 picks of all time.
If you guessed LeBron James as the easy choice for No. 1, you would be correct. Although it would have been just as easy to guess who came in at No. 20 – Anthony Bennett, coincidentally another draftee of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cleveland actually had three No. 1 picks in this span with Kyrie Irving in 2011). Then you have other “busts” near the bottom of the list such as Kwame Brown and Andrea Bargnani, who were most definitely busts in terms of where they were drafted. But for me personally, I don’t categorize injury-riddled players as “busts”, such as Greg Oden or even Markelle Fultz. Yes, they should be slotted at the bottom of this list, but not because they weren’t elite players.
Other players of note are Andrew Bogut (his Utah Utes squad fell to UK in the 2005 Sweet 16 before he declared for the draft, so Kentucky technically ended his collegiate career) who came in at No. 12 and Zion Williamson who snuck in one spot ahead at No. 11 despite playing less than a half a season of professional basketball.
Of the athletes who Bailey ranked in the top 10, Towns arguably has the highest potential to move up the list. Others ahead of him (Blake Griffin, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard) are either retired or have already played out the primes of their career. Just five seasons into the league, Towns is already one the world’s most versatile offensive big men.