John Calipari’s Kentucky crusade has put dozens of former Wildcats in the NBA. Some of the players who have heard their name called in the NBA Draft have not transformed stars, but there are quite a few dominating the NBA.
Each year Sports Illustrated curates a list of the Top 100 players in the NBA. This year’s preseason poll features eight Kentucky Wildcats. Leading the charge at No. 5 is MVP candidate Anthony Davis.
No other player—not LeBron James, not Kevin Durant, not anyone—is so consistently dominant on both sides of the ball. Davis could win Defensive Player of the Year while leading the league in scoring. He could be the captain of a top-five offense, the anchor of a top-five defense, or both. We’re nearing the pantheon days of Davis’s career—the beginning of his entry as an all-time great player, beginning with his MVP candidacy in the season to come.
What makes Davis great is also what kept him from climbing further up the list. A complete player that can dominate on both ends of the court, SI held him behind players who put up jaw-dropping offensive numbers, James Haden and Steph Curry.
Two other Wildcats are in the Top 25, Karl Towns and John Wall. Last year DeMarcus Cousins was a Top 25 player, but the Sports Illustrated staff is uncertain how Boogie will fit in at Golden State following a season-ending Achilles injury.
Stepping back from the injury-induced whirlwind, it’s worth noting that Cousins’s year-plus stint in New Orleans didn’t provide definitive answers to the major questions that dogged him in Sacramento. Nine seasons in, he still hasn’t played in a playoff game. His raw stats—on par with prime Shaquille O’Neal—haven’t translated to elite team performance. And, at 28, he is still plagued by emotional outbursts and ejections.
Nevertheless, Cousins was correct when he called his summer signing a “chess move,” as the Warriors can slow-play his rehabilitation, lighten his load, and afford to hold him to a higher personal standard. If healthy, Cousins would have placed in the top 25, but SI’s Top 100 is a one-year exercise.
A rundown of every Wildcat in the SI Top 100:
5. Anthony Davis
19. Karl Towns
24. John Wall
50. Devin Booker
53. Eric Bledsoe
55. Jamal Murray
68. DeMarcus Cousins
72. Julius Randle