I hope you enjoyed the first edition of the best of the current Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA. Let's start with a guy that has won a NBA championship, a Gold Medal for the United Stars, and has had one of the more distinguished pro careers of any Wildcat.
#11: Tayshaun Prince
Current Team: Detroit Pistons
Draft Pick: 23rd Overall
Years in the NBA: 13
Games Played in 2014/2015: 26
2014/2015 Stats: 7.5 ppg; 1.6 apg; 3.6 rpg
While Tayshaun Prince may not be what he once was in the NBA, he's had an extremely distinguished career. He was an NBA champion in 2004 with a Detroit Pistons team that shocked the world by defeating the juggernaut LA Lakers. He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008. He was named to the NBA All Defensive Team four times. He averaged 11.8 points for his career and was an integral part of the defense that Detroit defense that was so feared during his tenure in the Motor City. Now with the Grizzlies, Prince is a player/coach on the bench that gives a talented Memphis team vocal leadership. While he may not be running guys down and swatting their shot into the stands, he is still an important part of the roster.
#10: Jodie Meeks
Current Team: Detroit Pistons
Draft Pick: 41st Overall
Years in the NBA: 6
Games Played in 2014/2015: 60
2014/2015 Stats: 11.1 ppg; 1.3 apg; 1.7 rpg
While Jodie Meeks was one of the best pure scorers to ever put on a Kentucky Wildcat uniform, he's been a bit of a journeyman in the NBA. He's played for four different NBA franchises and has been a solid contributor at every stop along the way. He still has the ability to shoot the ball from long range which is a skill that is becoming increasingly valuable in the Association. With the rise of the Golden State Warriors, it appears that the NBA is transitioning into a shooter's league, which puts the skills of a player like Meeks in prime position to do some major damage in the coming seasons. While he hasn't had anything really close to the 54 point outburst that he once had at Kentucky, Meeks is still a valuable asset to the Detroit Pistons .
#9: Enes Kanter
Current Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft Pick: 3rd Overall
Years in the NBA: 3
Games Played in 2014/2015: 75
2014/2015 Stats: 15.5 ppg; 8.9 rpg; 0.4 bpg
Even though Kanter didn't play a single minute at Kentucky, he will always be a Wildcat and very much deserves a spot on this list. Kanter had a lot of expectations coming into the NBA without a lot to go on. His breakout moment didn't come in college but in the Nike Hoops Summit game before he arrived in Lexington. In that all-star game, Kanter wowed the crowd and the scouts with a fluid inside/outside game that made NBA GM's drool. Without much to go by in college, Kanter was drafted third by the Utah Jazz.
While he had some decent games in Denver, he didn't really live up to his high draft status. But then he was traded to a much better franchise with much better players in Oklahoma City. Kanter saw his career 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds jump instantly. Thanks in large part to a guard of Russell Westbrook's caliber getting him the ball, Enes finished the regular season scoring over 20 points in six out of the last eight games. If Kevin Durant returns healthy and ready to go in 2015/2016, Enes could be a key piece to the Thunders' road to the Western Conference Finals. He's an extremely young player with an extremely bright future. Sometimes all it takes is the right team.
#8: Rajon Rondo
Current Team: Dallas Mavericks
Draft Pick: 21st Overall
Years in the NBA: 8
Games Played in 2014/2015: 68
2014/2015 Stats: 8.9 ppg; 7.9 apg; 5.5 rpg
In all honesty, Rondo should be higher on this list. But a tumultuous stint in Dallas knocked him down. One of the most talented point guards in the NBA has turned into a player more known for his temperament than for his skills. In Boston, Rondo was arguably the best point guard in the league. He helped the Celtics win an NBA championship and was a times the best player on a team that included Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnette; all players that will one day be in the NBA Hall of Fame. He's a four time All Star and a two Time NBA All-Defensive Team member. While his numbers were down in Dallas, that weren't disastrous in spite of the controversy. I still think Rondo has a something left in the tank as long as his knee holds up. If he can land on a team with some talent and a coach he can connect with, then I don't see why Rondo cannot produce All Star numbers once again. But which team is willing to take a chance on him? Certainly not the Dallas Mavericks.
#7: Nerlens Noel
Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Draft Pick: 6th Overall
Years in the NBA: 1
Games Played in 2014/2015: 75
2014/2015 Stats: 9.9 ppg; 8.1 rpg; 1.9 bpg
Nerlens Noel would have been the top pick in the 2013 draft if not for the ACL injury he suffered at Kentucky. He possesses all of the skills and abilities one needs to be a successful big man in the NBA. He missed his first season while recovering from his injury and had a slow start to this season before really taking off. He logged 17 double-doubles this season for the Sixers and progressed in his offensive game, scoring a career high 30 points against the LA Clippers. He has the ability, the foot, and the hand speed to guard just about any position on the floor which is a rare talent for a center. He averaged 1.8 steals per game and recorded 100 blocks last season. He made First Team NBA All Rookie and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls. Noel is an NBA First Team Defender and All Star in the making.
#6: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Current Team: Charlotte Hornets
Draft Pick: 2nd Overall
Years in the NBA: 2
Games Played in 2014/2015: 55
2014/2015 Stats: 10.9 ppg; 1.4 apg; 7.6 rpg
I'm a big believer in MKG. He had his best statistical year in the NBA this season despite missing a number of games due to injuries. His high motor and his unmatched work ethic is what made me place him so high on this list. He's on the verge of becoming a double-double machine for the Hornets and is the type of defender that could eventually land him on the NBA First Team All Defense list. He's struggled with his shot ever since arriving in the NBA, but that's finally starting to come around. If he can ever get his offensive game turned around, then Hornets fans will see why he was drafted so highly by the franchise and why he was so beloved by Kentucky fans. He represented his team at the NBA Draft Lottery this past season, which goes to show you that they have confidence in his ability and what he can do for them. Michael Jordan may see a lot of Scottie Pippin in the former Wildcat.
That's it for this edition. Any arguments or switches so far? Look for the finale of the list later this week. Who do you think rounds out the top five and how will they be ranked?