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John Calipari doesn’t know why Keldon Johnson dropped to No. 29 in the NBA Draft

© Brad Penner | USATSI

© Brad Penner | USATSI

With three first-round picks, two being lottery selections, the Kentucky basketball program had yet another impressive night at the NBA Draft.

For PJ Washington and Tyler Herro, they landed right where they were projected to as late lottery picks. For Johnson, however, he had a noticeable slip to the very end of the first round.

Originally expected to be taken anywhere from the late-lottery to No. 20 or so, it was a drop that left Kentucky head coach John Calipari wondering what happened from the time the Wildcat forward tested the waters and the night of the draft.

“I’m still trying to figure out how Keldon (Johnson) – they said he was a top-10 pick when he left here and then a month and a half later he’s picked 29th,” Coach Cal said. “Knowing the draft the way I do, I haven’t spent time really going into that knowing that there are teams that you didn’t work out for and you slip a little bit and then all of a sudden you slip by those teams, and then it’s like what’s wrong with this kid?”

If you ask Calipari, though, San Antonio’s selection proved that there is nothing wrong with the former Wildcat. If a franchise as historic and well-respected as the Spurs wants you, it means you’ll be just fine in the long run.

“Because there’s nothing wrong with them and what proved it was San Antonio took him,” he said. “San Antonio is about a culture, about good kids who will compete and fight and be coached. By them taking him, it confirms who he is. But 29, I had no idea what went on and I was on the phone the whole time.”

And according to the Kentucky head coach, he didn’t have to sell anything to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs franchise. They were interested all along.

When he saw Johnson falling a bit, Calipari said he went over to the former Wildcat and comforted him, letting him know that he had “two back stops” and wouldn’t fall out of the first round.

“I didn’t sell anything. The only thing I talked to [Keldon], when I saw what was happening and knew he didn’t work out for some teams and knew where this could go, I thought he had two back stops in two different teams,” he said. “I went over to him and his family and I said, ‘Listen to me, I’ve done this a long time. You are in the NBA, you are going to be with a team. This stuff, most of it is ego, and it’s more about being on the right team. So just relax and understand that this stuff happens.’”

With the dust now settled, Calipari said he is ecstatic with where Johnson landed and the opportunity he’ll have to work with a first-class organization.

“He ends up going to San Antonio, which is the best team,” he said. “We’re talking Hall of Fame coach (Gregg Popovich), an organization that does unbelievable work developing young players, and then those guys become – you know they took a kid from Colorado no one heard about, they took a guy, (Kawhi) Leonard, that no one really knew about, so they don’t miss very often.”

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Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

11 Comments for John Calipari doesn’t know why Keldon Johnson dropped to No. 29 in the NBA Draft



  1. nocode96
    9:45 pm June 22, 2019 Permalink

    Spot on, San Antonio is the standard in the NBA, Keldon got lucky.



  2. mashburnfan1
    10:07 pm June 22, 2019 Permalink

    Can’t believe more was not said about the kid that skipped college and did not even play last year, instead he worked for New Balance and prepared for the draft and was selected 23rd. Never heard of the kid or the story until he was drafted but he went higher than Johnson from UK and Little from UNC.



    • 4everUKblue
      11:31 pm June 22, 2019 Permalink

      Do you have an orgasm every time you find fault with Cal or one of his recruits?



    • nocode96
      11:52 pm June 22, 2019 Permalink

      Come on 4ever, mashman obviously is a person who’s not having ANY orgasms, I know a guy who’s 40 and never been laid and he suffers from chronic constipation and he’s not quite as cranky and negative as our boy mash. I think his name is virginiacat or something. I bet you if we could get the two of them together they’d have a fun time ending their droughts.



    • 4everUKblue
      7:09 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t know what came over me nocode. You’re right we should hook those two up and help them have a happy ending.



  3. njcat54
    12:27 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

    When was the last time Cal did not have a top 10 pick?



    • Megan
      9:33 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

      He’s obviously lost it. Can’t land a top 5 recruit, can’t sign a No. 1 class, can’t produce a top 10 pick, can’t win a championship every five years. It’s just embarrassing. How can we go on living like this?



    • nocode96
      9:55 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

      Right Megan? I say we get him fired and bring in Evansville’s coach, he knows how to keep guys here for years. The nerve of these kids and this coach trying to go live out their dreams when we are just sitting here as THE WINNINGEST COLLEGE BASKETBALL PROGRAM EVER! It’s embarrassing really.



  4. Carcrook
    12:45 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

    Biggest shock of the night for me was Cameron Johnson @ 11, too much talent left on the table, for him to be picked in the lottery! Sun’s, needed a PG and should’ve stayed at #6 and picked White!



  5. madarchitect
    8:26 am June 23, 2019 Permalink

    WONDERING what happened?



  6. Big Sexy
    12:51 pm June 23, 2019 Permalink

    I wouldn’t have been shocked if he fell into the second round. So his salary will be $1,362,000 $1,595,100 $1,671,000. Around $4.6 million. Not too shabby. Had Keldon stuck around another year and went at the end of the lottery his salary would be $3,001,800 $3,152,000 $3,302,100 which is roughly $9.5 million. Quite the difference. Granted it’s not guarantee he would’ve been drafted in the lottery but would be pretty likely. Too many of these young people are shortsighted and want the money now….see Tyler Herro and his watch, to be fair could be a loaner or a “lease”.