You hear it all the time. How good would an all-Kentucky NBA team be? Are there enough good former Wildcats in the league to make a contender?
Of course, there is no way to come up with a definitive answer here. Even if Big Blue Nation's worst nightmares come true, and Coach John Calipari takes an NBA gig, he would not be able to sign all of his former players.
However, there is a quasi-scientific way to look at what might happen if this roster was ever to come to fruition. This weekend, I picked up my PlayStation 4 controller and got to work on creating an NBA 2K16 squad comprised completely of former Kentucky Wildcats.
Creating and managing such a roster was more difficult than you would think, so I created some ground rules to help me stay as objective as possible.
1. Base everything on player ratings. I was able to get an official roster update as of the end of the NBA Finals. So while the newly drafted rookies are not included, the existing NBA players are rated based upon the expectations going into next season. (Example: Karl-Anthony Towns has a rating of 86 instead of his rookie rating of 78.) The 14 spots on the roster of this team went to the 14 former Kentucky players with the highest player ratings per the update.
2. Automatic lineup adjustments. I have my favorite players. You have yours. To avoid any debates, I turned the coaching settings to automatic and allowed my little digital coach to make the big decisions.
3. Include all players that played in a Kentucky uniform. It can be tempting to ignore the guys that came through before Coach Cal, but I chose not to do that. This rule also eliminated Enes Kanter, no matter how many #FreeEnes tweets I sent in 2011.
I should also note that I decided to put these guys on an insignificant team in the Eastern Conference. I chose the Brooklyn Nets.
Given the listed parameters, have a look at your NBA Kentucky Wildcats:
There are cases to be made for some other guys, especially if you are looking at position needs, but this is what I went with, and I think you may be surprised at the results.
Simulating an entire season in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, this team finished with a record of 60-22 and earned the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The starting lineup for the majority of the season (again, this was automatically determined by the simulation) was:
PG - John Wall
SG - Devin Booker
SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF - Anthony Davis
C - Karl-Anthony Towns
DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench to win 6th Man of the Year, earn All-NBA honors (2nd team), and make the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He was joined by Anthony Davis on both the All-NBA team (3rd team) and the All-Star team, with Davis winning Defensive Player of the Year. Both of the All-Stars, in addition to Karl-Anthony Towns, averaged double-doubles for the season.
Despite nagging injuries for John Wall and Anthony Davis in the playoffs, the Nets made an impressive run and nearly reached the NBA Finals.
If asked for my opinion before this simulation, I would have pegged the Nets as a middle-seeded playoff team that would likely be eliminated in the 2nd round. But I think most would agree it would be very impressive for this team to reach the conference finals and to take the Cleveland Cavaliers to 7 games in that series.
I was thrilled with these results and excited to write this post, but I could not stop wondering what would happen if John Wall and Anthony Davis would have been healthy. Could they have beaten the Cavaliers and made it to the NBA Finals? Well, I had to find out.
Using the same roster and simulating another season with injuries turned off, the Nets had a record of 66-16 and finished with the top seed in the Eastern Conference. After another grueling seven-game series with the Cavaliers, they went on to rout the Oklahoma City Thunder and win the NBA Championship!
Does this mean that an NBA team full of former Kentucky Wildcats would be a league juggernaut? Not necessarily. But these results do help illustrate just how big of an impact the talent from the University of Kentucky has made in the NBA.
Feel free to continue arguing amongst yourselves, but I will choose to believe that the results of this video game study would be a certainty in real life.