This season, I’ve done multiple “updates” on former Kentucky Wildcats who are now in the NBA. With the regular season coming to an end on Wednesday night, and the playoffs starting tonight, here’s a a final report on each Wildcat and where they go from here.
The Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards all tip-off their first round series of the 2018 playoffs tonight. For the Heat, Bam Adebayo will play a key role as his team looks to pull off an upset against the soaring Philadelphia 76ers.
Adebayo finished the regular season averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds as one of the more surprising rookies in the league. While his play didn’t necessarily blow people away, but he was certainly consistent and a key scoring option off the Heat bench.
For the Pelicans, multiple players who wore the Kentucky jersey will take the postseason stage. Anthony Davis, Darius Miller and Rajon Rondo should all be key contributors against the Portland Trailblazers. DeAndre Liggins should also see some playing time. The series should be one of the more competitive matchups this postseason.
With Davis having an MVP-caliber season, the Pelicans have a realistic shot of pulling off the upset. The Brow finished the regular season averaging a double-double of 28.1 points and 11.1 boards along with 2.6 blocks per contest.
Miller (like Bam) was another former Cat who surprised people this season. He made the most of his limited minutes early in the season and played his way into the rotation for the Pelicans, averaging 7.8 points per game and shooting over 41% from behind the arc.
Rondo has bounced around the past few seasons, spending time in Sacramento and Chicago before landing in New Orleans. His former rap with Demarcus Cousins gelled well with Davis, too, as Rondo finished the season 4th in the NBA in assists per game with 8.2.
Liggins has found his way on to the floor some nights, but for the most part has been on the back end of the bench, averaging just 1.7 points.
The Wizards had a rough stretch to end the year, going 3-7 to round out the season. It didn’t help that their star point guard, John Wall, was sidelined for half of the season with a knee injury. Wall finished the season averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 assists. Now, the struggling Wizards will take on the top-seeded Toronto Raptors.
Sunday, the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder will kick off their postseason. For the Pacers, Alex Poythress will see the playoffs for the first time in his career.
However, after only appearing in 25 games this season and averaging 1 point per game, it’s unlikely he’ll see the floor against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the Bucks, Eric Bledsoe has been a game changer at point guard since coming over from the Phoenix Suns earlier in the season. He finished the year averaging 17.7 points for the 7th seeded Bucks. His club will need him to be a key cog in their plot to upset the Boston Celtics.
For the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns will have the challenge of the top-seeded Houston Rockets in their first round series. Towns finished the season averaging a double-double of 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in route to what should be an All-NBA selection.
In Oklahoma City, former Cats Dakari Johnson and Patrick Patterson will start their path to the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Neither had the greatest season, with Johnson only playing in 31 games to average a point and a rebound.
Patterson saw a slightly bigger role, averaging 3.9 points in 82 games.
With these former Wildcats enjoying their reward of a postseason berth, others weren't as fortunate. Some will begin planning their free agent process, such as Demarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, Julius Randle and Nerlens Noel.
Cousins will enter his ninth year in the NBA but has yet to experience the playoffs. With the Pelicans looking like a contender before his gruesome achilles injury, it’s likely the two will have mutual interest in a return next season.
Cousins finished the year averaging a double-double of 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds. However, the Los Angeles Lakers are rumored to show interest in Cousins as they’ll likely have the cap room for two “max” contracts.
Kanter, currently a New York Knick, is reportedly looking to opt out of his player option and enter free agency this summer. Kanter finished the regular season averaging a double-double of 14.1 points and 11 rebounds in his first season in the Big Apple. With most teams having limited cap space this summer, it will be interesting to see Kanter’s market.
I mentioned the Lakers would have enough cap room for two “max” contracts. If they want to clear that space, they won’t be bringing back Randle. Coming off his rookie contract, Randle will be a restricted free agent.
This allows LA to match any offer that is made to Randle. However, if they’re serious about being in the running for Cousins, Lebron James or Paul George, a return to LA for Randle seems unlikely. Randle had a very strong season, averaging 16.1 points and 8 rebounds.
After betting on himself backfired last summer, the market could be even worse for Noel in this free agency period. Noel turned down a monster deal from the Dallas Mavericks and ultimately ended up signing a 1 year, $4 million deal in Dallas instead.
After a disappointing season of 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, along with teams having limited cap space, Noel may be betting on himself yet again. With the NBA suspending Noel for five games at the end of the season, even more red flags have risen.
However, a team like the Celtics could look to sign Noel at the mid-level exception.
Speaking of suspensions, Jodie Meeks received a 25-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. Meeks had finally found a home in Washington, averaging 6.3 points and playing in 77 games.
Meeks was not the only former Wildcat to find a new home this year. Aaron Harrison and Marquis Teague both signed contracts at the end of the season. Harrison played in 9 games for the Mavericks and averaged 6.7 points per game. Teague played in 3 games for the Memphis Grizzlies and averaged 3.7 points and 4.3 assists.
Also on the Grizzlies is Andrew Harrison, who averaged a career best 9.5 points and made 46 starts in 56 games.
Earlier I mentioned Bam Adebayo was going to enjoy postseason play with the Heat. Unfortunately, fellow rookies De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will watch from home. Fox’s Sacramento Kings finished with the 7th-worst record in the NBA and Monk’s Charlotte Hornets weren’t far behind, finishing with the 11th-worst record.
Fox finished the season averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists, which should be good enough to make one of the All-Rookie teams. Monk struggled early but came on late to averaging 6.7 points.
Fox’s teammates who also saw their season end Wednesday are Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. Labissiere started 29 games and averaged 8.7 points while Cauley-Stein started 57 games and averaged 12.8 points with 7 rebounds. Both seem to be in Sacramento’s long-term plan.
Monk’s teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, had another quiet season. The former second overall pick averaged just 9.2 points in 74 games. With just two years left on his deal, along with major changes coming in the Hornets’ front office, it’s unclear if MKG will be there in the long-run.
With Minnesota’s playoff berth came the Denver Nuggets’ exclusion from this year’s postseason. The two clubs battled for the final playoff spot on Friday night, as the Timberwolves edged out the Nuggets in overtime.
With the loss, former Cats Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles will have to wait until next season for postseason action. Murray had a career year, averaging 16.7 points and starting 80 of the 81 games he played in. Lyles also had a career year, averaging 9.9 points while playing in 73 games.
Also out West are former Cats Brandon Knight, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis of the Phoenix Suns. The Suns had a rough stretch to end the season, failing to win a single game in the month of March. Knight missed the entire season due to a torn ACL but should be ready to go for next season.
Booker was banged up throughout the year, playing in just 54 games. However, when he was on the court, Booker was electric, averaging a career high 24.9 points per game. Ulis enjoyed starting 43 of 71 games, averaging 7.8 points and 4.4 assists per game.
The Suns have the best odds to land the first overall pick in this year’s draft, which will likely be Luka Doncic. A backcourt tandem of Doncic and Booker would instantly become one of the best in the NBA.