There’s no doubt the most dominant power in college basketball when it comes to delivering NBA-ready players is Kentucky. With 26 active players in the league, and 31 signed by NBA teams since John Calipari took over the program, one has to wonder if a Kentucky-only team is good enough to win a championship.
Before diving into the actual players, looking at the numbers of their draft picks, they certainly suggests this is a special team: Three number one picks in John Wall (who is probably credited for beginning the trend), Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns says a lot. Seven more players in the top 10 says even more. A team built out of Kentucky players has depth, plenty of it, star power. Pretty much has it all.
So who makes the team? This is the 13 players I came up with. I know NBA rosters are 15, but the two other spots aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things:
Guards: Eric Bledsoe (Suns), Devin Booker (Suns), Brandon Knight (Suns), John Wall (Wizards), Rajon Rondo (Bulls)
Forwards: Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Terrence Jones (Pelicans), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hornets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Julius Randle (Lakers).
Center: DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Enes Kanter (Thunder), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
The roster built here shows just how Calipari likes to build his rosters. Athletic freaks, and making up teams that are simply physically superior to everything they face. But they always lack shooting, which is why this roster has one weakness: The perimeter. The four guards on this roster are all point guards. Bledsoe, Booker and Knight can all play shooting guard and they do together on the Suns, but there’s no shooting small forward or natural shooting guard, which can be a problem.
Other than that? The frontcourt is incredible. With Cousins, Towns and Davis, the Kentucky-Only team has three of the best big men in the NBA. Kidd-Gilchrist can guard 3’s and 4’s, Julius Randle is emerging as one of the more gifted young power forwards in the NBA, and Trey Lyles who played out of position under Calipari, is quite a useful player too. There’s not lack of scoring or vision coming out of the backcourt. Shooting, as we mentioned before, is the only problem with this team.
Which is why I’m not sure putting a team like this together would turn them into automatic favorites to win the league. Small ball will be hard to run without shooters and strong perimeter play. You can make up for that with someone like Davis as the center, but even moving MKG still leaves a big hole at the ‘3’ position, maybe even the ‘2’.
Conclusion: A team based on Kentucky products only beat any other college when it comes to current NBA talent, but the team’s inferiority in the ‘2’ and ‘3’ positions is something that is difficult to hide in today’s game. Maybe in the 1990’s this kind of team would have been regarded as the best in the league. Right now? A contender, for sure, but not someone you see beating the Warriors or the Cavaliers in a playoff series. Maybe not the Spurs or Clippers either.