On Tuesday, I took a look at 12 of the 25 former Kentucky Wildcats with NBA contracts. As we are on the verge of another NBA season, let's take a look at the rest, along with an update on some other former Wildcats.
Skal Labissiere, Sacramento Kings
- Drafted at #28 by the Phoenix Suns, traded to Sacramento
- Contract Status: $1,188,140 this year, team option after 2017-18
After an inconsistent season at Kentucky, Skal still showed enough potential to be drafted in the first round. Sacramento could be a good landing spot for Labissiere as he has former Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins to mentor him. The Kings liked Skal's length and his shooting. Even though he is still a raw prospect, he has a ton of potential.
PROGNOSIS: Who knows for now? The Kings have stockpiled a lot of younger big men, which could indicate that they still have plans to move DeMarcus Cousins when this season starts to go south again. There is a logjam at the PF position, but Labissiere can play himself into the rotation with a strong preseason. At just 20, there is plenty of time for Labissiere to develop.
DeAndre Liggins, Cleveland Cavaliers
- 13.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.5 APG (D-League)
- $1.015,696 this year, team option after this year
It's been two years and seven months since DeAndre Liggins last appeared in a regular-season NBA game, but it appears that he is close to locking up a roster spot with the world champion Cavaliers. Liggins has a small portion of his salary guaranteed this year, and that seems to indicate the Cavs will keep him around in some aspect. Liggins has made a name for himself in the D-League, and it has paid off. He was the D-League's top defensive player in 2014 and 2016 and the Cavaliers obviously noticed.
PROGNOSIS: Expect another season of shuffling back and forth the D-League for Liggins, especially now that JR Smith has ended his holdout. Even with Smith on the roster, Liggins would seem to have a hold on the 15th roster spot, and it's good to see part of his money guaranteed.
Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz
- 6.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .2 BPG
- Contract status: $2,340,600 this year, team option after this year
The 20-year-old Lyles actually had a pretty solid rookie season and saw the starting lineup 33 times. He actually shot the ball pretty well from long range at 38.3% but needs to still work on his overall shot as he averaged just 43.8%. Lyle improved dramatically as the season progressed, however, and he averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 assists. Aside from gaining confidence, Lyles was able to assert himself firmly into the rotation of the Jazz.
PROGNOSIS: Look for Lyles to get more minutes this season as he has played very well in the Summer League and in the preseason thus far. Watch the progress of Derrick Favors' knee as well as Lyles is pushing to be the first big man off the bench in Utah and could put up some really good numbers as this is a good opportunity for him.
Jodie Meeks, Orlando Magic
- 7.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1,0 APG
- Contract status: $6.540,000 this season, UFA after this year
Last season was pretty much a wash-out for Meeks as he played just three games due to injury. It did not feel that Detroit was a good fit for him and he was a late free agent addition to the Magic, which is a team that can use another sharpshooter. Meeks had foot surgery in July, and he could start playing in November. It is an important season for Meeks as he is an unrestricted free agent after this year.
PROGNOSIS: A lot depends on how quickly Meeks can return but the Magic could definitely use his shooting. He will have a limited role off the bench as he will be backing up Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja. Hezonja is still just 21 and was inconsistent in his rookie season last year. Meeks may see more minutes if Hezonja struggles and Orlando could actually be a possibility for him next year as well.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
- Drafted at #7 by the Denver Nuggets
- $3,210,840 this year, will be a RFA after 2019-20
In the short time we have seen Murray as a member of the Nuggets, he has been impressive, but he faces an uphill battle in Denver to see significant time this year. There has been some talk that Murray could play some point guard but he had turnover problems both at Kentucky and in the Summer League. You do not draft a player at #7 unless you have plans for him and Murray is still just 19 years old.
PROGNOSIS: It's unfair to expect a Devin Booker like season out of Murray. Booker literally re-wrote the book about how young "score first" guards in the NBA develop. Murray has Gary Harris and Will Barton ahead of him on the depth chart. Murray did have 16 points and six assists in one preseason game already, but from all indications, Harris' groin injury is not serious, and Murray will have an uphill climb to get consistent minutes this season.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
- 11.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 BPG
- Contract status: $4,384,490 this year, RFA after this year
To be honest, Noel has had a decent two years in the NBA, although he is still a bit limited on the offensive side of the ball. Noel did improve his shooting from 52.1% from 46.2% his rookie season. Defensively, Noel is in very rare company. Noel and David Robinson are the only two players in the NBA to have 240 blocks and 250 steals in their last two seasons. There is currently a logjam of big men in Philadelphia, so it will be tough for Noel to average 30 minutes a game like he has so far in his career,
PROGNOSIS: The best thing that can happen for Noel is to get out of Philadelphia ... and soon. Joel Embiid has been named as a starter and Noel will be battling Jahlil Okafor for minutes. Noel currently has a strained groin, but that should not limit himself this season. More than likely, this is his last season in Philadelphia and pretty much anywhere else would be a better fit.
Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors
- 6.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, .4 BPG
- Contract status: $6,050,000 this year, UFA after this year
Patrick will likely continue to come off the bench for the Raptors, and he has become one of the best sixth men in the NBA. Raptors coach has said that Patterson is the "sixth" starter for the team, but Patrick will likely back up Jared Sullinger. Patterson has played in 160 games the past two seasons and has done a nice job of developing an outside shot. He has 211 three-pointers over the last two seasons. That is not bad for a guy that went 0-5 from long-range his first two years in the pros.
PROGNOSIS: Even though Sullinger has been named as the starter, don't be shocked if Patterson still presses him for the job. Either way, Patterson is a valuable team player and will produce off the bench, In his career, Patterson has started just 65 of 412 games and averages 23.9 minutes per game. I also would not be shocked if Patterson resigned with the Raptors. He has already resigned once with them and seems to have found a home in Toronto.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
- 11.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG, .4 BPG
- Contract status: $3,267,120 this year, Team option after this year
It was a pretty successful rookie campaign for Randle, who had 34 double-doubles and averaged that on the season. He showed no ill effects of his injury and played in all 81 games and started 60. Randle could improve his shot, as he hit just 42.9% of his shots and 27.8% of his three-pointers. That will come with time, as Randle is still just 21.
PROGNOSIS: Randle is firmly entrenched as a starter for the Lakers as they start their first season without Kobe. Look for Randle to even log some minutes at center, which he has done in the preseason. Randle will be an All-Star and a Laker for a long time.
Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls
- 11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 6.0 RPG
- Contract status: $14M this year, contract not guaranteed next year
Last year in Sacramento was something of a resurgence for Rondo as he had a career-high in assists with 839. He also had his best scoring average in five seasons and shot the ball the best he had in several years. New teammate Dwyane Wade paid the ultimate compliment to Rondo and said that he was the best point guard that he has ever played with.
PROGNOSIS: Depending on how the alpha guards of Chicago gel, this could be a very good year for Rondo. Both Wade and Jimmy Butler have raved about Rondo so far, and this could be career years for both of them with a guard like Rondo next to them. I would look for Rondo to play with a chip on his shoulder as he is with his fourth team in three seasons.
Karl-Anthony Towns - Minnesota Timberwolves
- 18.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG
- Contract status: $5,960,160 this year, RFA after 2018-19
The scary thing for the other teams in the NBA is that Karl-Anthony Towns is only going to be better. He turns 21 in just a month or so and as cliched as it sounds, the sky is the limit for Towns. Towns has said that he has improved as a shooter so look for a rise from his 54.2% and 34.1% from long-range. Throw in more blocks and three-pointers, and you have an unstoppable force in just his second year.
PROGNOSIS: What is next for Towns? He is already an All-Star and one of the best big men in the game. If he can get the Timberwolves deep into the playoffs in the next year or two, we could see a string of MVP Awards in his future.
Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns
- Drafted at #34 by the Phoenix Suns
- Contract status: $918,369 this year, contract not guaranteed after 2017-18
Tyler Ulis dropped out of the first round of the draft, but that did not stop the Suns from rewarding his with a four-year deal, the first two of which were guaranteed. Everyone involved with the Suns has been raving about Ulis' potential and Earl Watson has said Ulis will be "a great one for a long time."
PROGNOSIS: The Suns are absolutely loaded at the guard spots, ironically with former Wildcats. Don't expect to see too much time for Ulis this year except for injury and Ulis could see some time in the D-League as well. Perhaps we may see Ulis crack the rotation when we see what happens to Archie Goodwin and his future in Phoenix. Ulis will get his moment in Phoenix. It just may not be this season.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
- 19.9 PPG, 10.2 APG, 4.9 RPG
- Contract status: $16,957,900 this year, UFA after 2018-19
In his six years in Washington, John Wall has established himself as one of the top point guards in the league. While he struggled with injuries his first three seasons, he has played in 82, 79, and 77 games, He also had offseason surgery on both knees but should be ready for the regular season. There is a buzz that Wall's game dropped off after the All-Star break last year yet Wall had a career-best average in scoring, assists, and three-point percentage. He also had a career-high average of turnovers.
PROGNOSIS: If his recovery from knee surgeries proceeds as expected, Wall will once again be one of the top guards in the league. At 26, he literally is entering the prime for an athlete, and with two healthy knees, he should take the next step up.
James Young, Boston Celtics
- 1.0 PPG, 0.9 RPG, .3 APG
- Contract status: $1,825,200 this year, team option for next year
To say that James Young's NBA career has been an incredible disappointment would be an incredible understatement. In 60 career NBA games, he has hit just 34.1% of his shots and 25% of his three-pointers. His D-League stats are better as he has averaged 18.7 points over the two seasons and hit 44.1% overall and 40.6% of his three-pointers. Granted, he is not being paid to play in the D-League, and that is the problem. The only thing that really gives him a chance to make an NBA roster is the fact that his money is guaranteed this year.
PROGNOSIS: Even with a guaranteed contract, Young is unlikely to see much time on an NBA roster this year. He has not played in the team's first three preseason games and Young really has no trade value at this point. Young will more than likely have to post stellar numbers in the D-League to get any interest at all. The only upside is that he is just 21 and there may still be untapped potential.
Make no mistake, Kentucky has an impressive record of putting players in the NBA and for the most part, keeping them there. There are a few players that were drafted and do not have an NBA contract right now or a foreseeable path back to the NBA. Let's take a look at a few of them.
- Josh Harrellson continues to play overseas after a few years in the NBA. He last played for the Heat in 2013-14, but did sign with the Wizards and played in the preseason in 2015 before being cut. He just signed a deal in Japan with Osaka Evessa for the 2016-17 season. It's hard to believe that Jorts is still just 27 so don't rule out another attempt at an NBA return in the future.
- Dakari Johnson spent all of the last season in the D-League for the OKC affiliate and averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Johnson has not sniffed an NBA roster, but it was recently announced that he would be playing another season for the OKC Blue. Johnson just turned 21 so it is not implausible to think he may see the NBA in the next year or two.
- Doron Lamb has apparently bounced his way out of professional basketball from what I can see. He has not appeared in an NBA game since 2014, although he was invited to the Warriors camp in 2015. He has not appeared in the D-League since 2014-15, and he has bounced through Europe with several teams and has not been able to stick with anyone.
- Darius Miller recently signed a three-year deal with the Brose Baskets in Germany. He played for the same team last year, and he has a pretty good career in Europe.
- Marquis Teague went through a free agent mini-camp with the Timberwolves in the summer and left without an offer. He has reportedly signed with a team in Israel and will be there for the next year or two. He is just 23 so he could make another run at the NBA in the next couple of years.