It’s a great time to be a fan. As this year’s Cats start to live up to their potential and the NBA season marches toward All-Star Weekend, I thought it might be a good time to catch up with our former Blue-White heroes of years past. While there was at least one notable snub from last week’s Team USA pool selections (John Wall, we’ll always love you), former University of Kentucky ballers are by and large living up to their outsized potential.
To make it a little more interesting, I thought it would be cool to see what an All-Pro UK team might look like. So, without further ado, here’s your 2013-204 starting lineup:
C – Demarcus Cousins: Big "Boogie" Cousins is quickly becoming the best center in the league. Averaging a stellar 22.6 PPG and 11.6 boards, Demarcus Cousins is the present and the future for a rebuilding Kings franchise. While there have been immature moments on and off the court (Boogie also leads the league in technical fouls this season), he is reportedly much happier with his new head coach.
Cousins’ potential goes beyond simply being a stat-stuffer. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is 5th in the NBA, ahead of fellow big men Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a breakout season of his own.
PF – Anthony Davis: We know him as NCAA POY and National Champion "Fear the Brow" Anthony Davis. The NBA knows him as the future Kevin Garnett. That’s NBA Insider David Thorpe’s opinion, at least. After a rookie campaign that showed glimpses of potential, Davis’ Sophomore year has been nothing short of outstanding.
His PER is 6th in the League, and he’s averaging 20, 10, and 3 BPG. Not even an early injury could slow The Brow. A broken hand was projected to keep the Pellies big man out 4-6 weeks. He missed just 7 games.
SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: This is the weak position on an otherwise stellar starting line-up. MKG, one of my favorite Cats of all-time, has not transitioned well to the NBA. Averaging less points and rebounds than during his less-than-stellar rookie campaign, MKG still has kinks to work out in his shot.
That said, he’s still playing with the passion and energy we came to expect during his short stint in Lexington. He also suffered a broken hand, and the team averaged 5 points worse per 100 possessions in his absence. Not old enough to drink, he’s still averaging 25 minutes a game in the Association. Well done, young man. Right now, however, the Bobcats are the black hole of the NBA and it’s my gut belief that MKG won’t reach his potential until he is put in a better situation (think Lance Stephenson with the Pacers). Also, a special shout-out to Terrence Jones who is having a breakout season and could probably play the 3 for a spell.
Who cares what you think Aronia, just give me the links! Rufus On Fire talks MKG (Charlotte’s SB Nation Community); MKG Named "Triangle All-Star" (Grantland)
SG – Eric Bledsoe: From a minor disappointment to a minor surprise, Eric Bledsoe is turning out to be an All-Star caliber guard. After working under the tutelage of Chris Paul, he is the Kentucky flavoring of the NBA’s feel good story: the Phoenix Suns. Averaging 18 and 5 APG in his first season as a starter, Bledsoe is playing alongside Goran Dragic, a good two-guard model for this All-Kentucky Team.
He is 13th in the country in PER among backcourt players, and his usage rate is much higher now than if he were playing SG. We could expect a modest improvement in efficiency, particularly if he is able to expand his game beyond the 3 point line (he currently shoots a modest 35% from deep). The only downside? He’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries this season, playing only 24 games thus far and projected to be out for quite a while.
PG – John Wall: REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD. It’s a backcourt throwback with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe playing together once again. The Great Wall of Kentucky is an All-Star, and he should be on Team USA. Damian Lillard? You’re good, but you’re not John Wall Good. When you Google "John Wall Amazing Play" there are 543,000,000 results. I’m not kidding. Try it.
John Wall is the only player I’m not going to talk stats about (although his have been pretty good). His speed, quickness, and playmaking ability defies conventional and advanced metrics. To give you a sense how good John Wall is: he makes Washington Wizards games interesting. Playing alongside fellow SEC-alum Bradley Beal, John Wall has been nothing short of outstanding, becoming a more efficient yet still explosive version of himself.
Who cares what you think Aronia, just give me the links! John Wall’s Top Ten Plays of 2013; Oh, He Also Plays Defense (Bullets Forever, SB Nation)
Overall, I think this is a starting five that could compete with anybody in the league. What do y’all think? Strengths? Weaknesses? At some point I might get around to the All-Pro Kentucky Bench if there’s interest.