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Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari’s All-Time UK NBA Players Team as Told by NBA2K17

Much has been made about John Calipari naming his all-time starting 5 for UK Players. I decided to get as close to reality as I could to see what would happen if this came to fruition.

NBA2k17 Screenshot

A little less than a week ago, John Calipari was being interviewed by Bleacher Report and the topic of a ‘dream’ starting five for his former player at UK came up. Cal played along and had the following to say about it.

“Well, Anthony Davis. John Wall. Karl Towns. I’d probably play DeMarcus Cousins and let Anthony be a 3. And what would the last position be? Shooting guard? I’d probably say Devin Booker.”

So, that lineup would look like this:

PG – John Wall

SG – Devin Booker

SF – Anthony Davis

PF/C – Karl-Anthony Towns

PF/C – DeMarcus Cousins

The Big Blue Nation’s excitement of seeing this play out in real life would be the stuff of legend. While it is theoretically possible this could play out in the NBA, it is of course not practical, or even possible due to many factors. Although the Phoenix Suns are seemingly trying to make something like this possible by having Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, and Archie Goodwin on the roster at one point.

Now you can add the New Orleans Pelicans to that category of “teams bordering on a UK superteam” with the recent acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins to play alongside Anthony Davis. If we could just get John Wall to migrate south and have the trio take less, money it could get really close to UK superteam status.

I decided to embark on a fun journey of art imitating life to see how this could hypothetically play out in the NBA. The video game NBA 2k17 is an awesome piece of work and perfect for this effort.

I started a season on the game, but instead of your normal season, you can make a franchise expansion version adding up to 6 teams to the league. I added the Kentucky Wildcats to the NBA, unprotected all the UK guys and drafted them to play for the Kentucky Wildcats and embark on an 82-game season.

One of the awesome aspects of this game is this ability to create virtually anything you want for your team. I decided to update the uniforms to mirror the 2012 Championship team as close I could get them, as well as the look of the players during their time at UK.

In addition, there are some awesomely talented guys out there who have created Rupp Arena and detailed it so perfectly (all the way down to the Rupp Arena logo on the floor, and Lexington Clinic on the revolving scorers table) that it almost looks like a real life video.

NBA2k17 Rupp Arena

You cannot just have five guys for an 82-game season, so I decided to grab other Calipari ‘Cats and here is who and why:

  • Eric Bledsoe (pretty self explanatory, in my opinion... you can argue Jamal Murray or Malik Monk but Bledsoe is nearly an NBA all-star, so no contest for this exercise)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Easy Choice)
  • Tyler Ulis (What can I say, Ulis is an all-time favorite, and would be a great backup for a John Wall)
  • Nelens Noel (I chose Noel over Willie Cauley-Stein because of his defense, no big man is better at steals and he is a little ahead of WCS right now)
  • Julius Randle (I chose Randle over WCS for offense)
  • Brandon Knight (I slated Knight as a 3rd PG and/or 3rd SG because I love Ulis as Wall’s backup)
  • DeAndre Liggins (Calipari LOVES a defensive stopper and great teammate)
  • Aaron Harrison (While he almost never played in this particular journey, gotta include him on the roster)

The full roster is less important, however, because I wanted to try and stay true to Cal’s starting five getting the vast majority of playing time. You are also able to pre-assign the ‘target’ minutes for each player in any given game, so a heavy dose of the starting five with Bledsoe, Ulis, MKG, and Noel/Randle subbing in was how I organized my minutes.

Kentucky, being in the East, was assigned to the Eastern Conference and we were off. The regular season proved to be a stomping ground for Cal’s NBA ‘Cats as they ended up going a league best 62-18 and 1st place in the Eastern Conference.

End of Regular Season Power Rankings

LeBron James was the league MVP and oddly enough there were not a lot of accolades for the UK guys. You would think the team with the best record in the league would garner a lot of accolades. While John Wall and Anthony Davis made the All-Star team, Davis only ended up third team All-NBA despite going for 22 points per game, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Wall and Davis did garner all-defensive second team, however.

Moving on to the Playoffs, the ‘Cats were slated to face the 8-seed Atlanta Hawks. After eliminating the Hawks 4-2, they swept the 5-seed Celtics 4-0 and then dispatched the Toronto Raptors 4-1 to face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals

In game one the ‘Cats dropped 44 points in the 4th quarter to take a 1-0 lead on the Warriors. The ‘Cats were led by Devin Booker’s 25/4/3, DeMarcus Cousins 23/6/2 stat lines along with double-doubles by Towns, and Davis.

Kentucky also won game two by holding off a 4th quarter comeback on the backs of John Wall’s 27 points, 8 assists, and Anthony Davis’ 21/10 double-double

The Warriors came back and won games 3 and 4 to immediately make it a tight series and tied up at 2-2.

The ‘Cats snatched momentum back in game 5 with a 4th quarter comeback to win 93-92 in a nail-biter.

As if you could not guess, the Warriors took game 6 in an elimination game and forced a game 7 to be played at Rupp Arena.

In the end, Calipari’s NBA ‘Cats went on a massive 2nd half run and dispatched of the Warriors 127-105 behind a huge team effort of three guys with 20+ points, and three guys with double-doubles. Booker was one rebound away from a fourth guy going double-double.

So, there you have it, while we are likely to never see a team full of Calipari’s dream starting five, NBA 2k17 thinks that team would be the NBA World Champions, and Anthony Davis (18 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks per game in the Finals) would be the Finals MVP as well.

Of course, this is all completely hypothetical and based on a video game, but it was fun to do. If you are like me, you grew up in the age of video games coming into the foray. For me, I always loved playing the NBA 2k games and the NBA Live games, but always wanted to be able to take our UK guys, form a team and wreak havoc.

Up until now, you could only trade them to a team of your choice (usually a team with similar colors) and go from there. To be able to actually insert Rupp Arena into the game, edit the uniforms to any you want, and then simply add ‘Kentucky’ to the league is one of the more fun things I have done.