A whopping 9% of the NBA’s top 100 players played are former Kentucky Wildcats.
For the ninth consecutive season, ESPN.com has predicted the top 100 players in the NBA for the upcoming season, and to no one’s surprise, the list is loaded with former Wildcats.
With the final rankings coming out this morning, nine BBNBA members are on the list, including one player ranked in the top five, three ranked in the top 25, and five in the top 30.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis led the way for Kentucky players, coming in at No. 5 overall, a one spot jump from last season.
5. Anthony Davis
Previous rank: 6
Projected RPM wins: 9.8
One big question:Is he built for May and June basketball? We don’t know because we’ve never seen it. There’s no question that Davis is one of the best big men in the game, but it’s fair to ask if he’s ready to help LeBron James get back to the NBA Finals. Think about it this way: Since Davis entered the league in 2012-13, he’s made it to the playoffs only twice — and past the first round of the playoffs once. In that same time frame, James has missed the Finals only once. — Kirk Goldsberry
Next, Karl-Anthony towns came in at No. 18 overall, a one spot drop from 2018-19.
18. Karl-Anthony Towns
Previous rank: 17
Projected RPM wins: 10.4
One big question:Can Towns become as good on defense as he is on offense? His offensive numbers are grand — he’s a double-double machine — but the league’s best big men control the game on defense, too. Last season, Towns and the Wolves ranked 24th in defense. The season before, they were 25th. That isn’t good enough, folks. Towns has the size and the talent to change his team’s defensive culture, and the future success of the team is riding on him. — Kirk Goldsberry
Making his NBA top-100 debut? De’Aaron Fox, who is ranked No. 25 overall this season.
25. De’Aaron Fox
Previous rank: NR
Projected RPM wins: 4.5
One big question:Can Fox make another leap?
Despite finishing third in Most Improved Player voting, Fox made the most dramatic transformation of any player last season, going from sub-replacement level as a rookie to a quality starting point guard. Our panel is expecting another jump from Fox, who won’t turn 22 until December and made a strong impression with USA Basketball this summer. I’m a little wary given the possibility that his dramatic 3-point improvement (from 31% to 37%) might not hold up. — Kevin Pelton
Jamal Murray saw a significant jump, going from No. 46 overall last year to No. 27 this year.
27. Jamal Murray
Previous rank: 46
Projected RPM wins: 5.8
One big question:It’s a two-parter for Murray: what and when? What does the next evolution of his game look like, and when is it coming?
Year 2 to 3 is traditionally an important developmental stretch for a young player, and Murray took significant strides last season. Coach Mike Malone praised Murray for his poise, ball control and generalship of the young Nuggets, but for Denver to move up another rung in the Western Conference, Murray needs to start scratching the surface of being a star. — Royce Young
Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker saw a slight jump, as well, moving up from No. 31 to No. 30.
30. Devin Booker
Previous rank: 31
2019-20 projected RPM wins: 6.0
One big question:Will Booker find a way to make his teammates better and win? Phoenix’s struggles haven’t been all Booker’s fault. Far from it. In 2018-19, he averaged career highs of 26.6 points and 6.8 assists, and now he’s on his fifth head coach in as many seasons. However, at some point, if Booker is going to be a star, he will have to lift the Suns to more than 21 wins — the number he has averaged over his first four seasons. — Ohm Youngmisuk
After an impressive rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers, new Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made his top-100 debut, coming in at No. 64 overall.
64. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Previous rank: NR
Projected RPM wins: 0.9
Schmitz on SGA’s potential:I’ve long been a supporter of Gilgeous-Alexander as the best long-term point guard prospect in the 2018 draft, and I’ll remain on that island for the time being. While not clearly as dynamic as Trae Young, I love the fact that Gilgeous-Alexander should be able to defend up to three positions in time, all while making every pick-and-roll read, striding it out into finesse finishes and keeping defenses honest from 3-point range.
Gilgeous-Alexander has the approach to the game — along with the physical upside — that could make him one of the league’s best two-way point guards down the line. He needs to continue shooting it better from 3 and rely less on inside-the-arc jumpers, but I’m keeping my stock in Gilgeous-Alexander for the moment.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe saw a slight drop, falling from No. 56 to No. 67.
67. Eric Bledsoe
Previous rank: 56
Projected RPM wins: 5.6
Lowe on Milwaukee and Bledsoe: Even the Bucks are worse off for losing Malcolm Brogdon, their second-best player for parts of the Eastern Conference finals. (One of biggest swing questions in the 2020 title race is whether Bledsoe has permanent playoff-itis. With Brogdon, the Bucks almost made the NBA Finals despite Bledsoe struggling. Without him, they have limited margin for Bledsoe error.)
Bam Adebayo made the list for the first time in his young career, coming in at No. 81 overall.
81. Bam Adebayo
Previous rank: NR
Projected RPM wins: 3.8
Lowe on Adebayo passing Hassan Whiteside last season: Adebayo is a legit starter — hoppy, fast, a smart passer with growing confidence in his elbow jumper.
Despite having a monster season in New Orleans last season, Julius Randle dropped from No. 84 to No. 92, rounding out the former Wildcats on the list.
92. Julius Randle
Previous rank: 84
Projected RPM wins: 1.0
Adrian Wojnarowski on Randle joining the Knicks: Randle has developed into one of the NBA’s most versatile offensive frontcourt players. At 24, he had the best NBA campaign of his five-year career last season, averaging 21.4 points on 52% shooting to go along with 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the Pelicans