Since taking the reins at UK in 2009, Coach Cal has stressed his “Player’s First” mentality pretty heavily. Under this philosophy, getting players to the NBA is equally as important as winning a national championship. While his strategy occasionally draws some flack among the BBN — it’s worked pretty darn well. In Cal’s six years at Kentucky, he’s turned 25 young men into millionaires and gone to 4 Final Fours in the process.
With a record-tying four lottery picks and six players drafted, the tradition continued this Thursday night. But where does this recent class rank among Cal’s others? Let’s examine. Of the six classes during Cal’s tenure at UK, most would agree that his best years have been 2010, 2012, and 2015. Here’s a review:
Draftees: John Wall (1st), Demarcus Cousins (4th), Patrick Patterson (14th), Eric Bledsoe (18th), Daniel Orton (29th)
Cal started his Kentucky career with a bang. All five of his players that declared for the draft were taken in the first round. Two were taken in the top five (and have since become all stars) and another was also taken in the lottery. If one values the amount of first round picks above other factors, this class is clearly Calipari’s best.
Draftees: Anthony Davis (1st), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd), Terrance Jones (18th), Marquis Teague (29th), Doron Lamb (42nd), Darius Miller (46th)
Cal’s national championship team did pretty well in June also. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd Gilchrist became the first teammates to ever go one and two. While only two lottery picks came from this group — four Cats were taken in the first round, and Terrance Jones probably should have gone in the lottery any way. Leading scorer Doron Lamb was able to stay on a roster for a couple of years, and Gillespie-recruit Darius Miller saw his NBA dreams come true. This one might be the most special for Kentucky fans.
Draftees: KAT (1st), WCS (6th), Trey Lyles (12th), Devin Booker (13th), Andrew Harrison (44th), Dakari Johnson (48th)
While this season’s disappointing ending took away a bit of the excitement for the draft, it was still another historic night for the Cats. Four players were taken in the lottery (the most during Cal’s tenure), and like the 2012 team, six were drafted in total. If a team would have wised up and picked Aaron Harrison, we’d be looking at another record for Kentucky. Does the volume of this class and the number of players taken in the top 14 make this Cal’s best?
Overall, it’s a pretty close race. Which one you think is the best ultimately comes down to personal preference. Personally, getting the first and second pick in 2012, along with the six players drafted in total make that group the best for me. The national championship was pretty nice too.
Regardless, it’s interesting to see how strongly correlated team performance is with the amount of players drafted. Cal’s three best regular seasons have also been his three best draft years. Hopefully we can all agree that talent is pretty important.