Eight players from the University of Kentucky flooded Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players for 2018.
The first former Wildcat to show up on the list is Julius Randle at #72. After averaging a career-best 16.1 points per game with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Randle is teaming up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans looking to expand to another breakout season.
One of the biggest shockers from SI’s rankings was them putting an All-Pro player in DeMarcus Cousins at #68 overall. This is likely in part to the fact that Cousins is recovering from the most devastating injury in basketball, the torn Achilles, but also the fact that Boogie is far from a darling in the eyes of analytics.
Whether or not 68 is considered too high or too low, Cousins seems to have just two things on his agenda for the 2018-2019 season with the Golden State Warriors: fully recover and grab himself a championship ring.
By far the least experienced player of this Kentucky pool comes in at #55; that being our favorite Canadian, Jamal Murray. In his second season he put the lock on Denver’s starting point guard role averaging 16.7 points per game with a 57.6% true-shooting percentage. Having the potential to one day be a premiere shot creator in the league, Jamal Murray has a future as bright as anybody’s.
Two spots later at #53 is the starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, Eric Bledsoe. While perhaps most notorious for not wanting to be places, Bledsoe has simply been a steadily decent player since the day he became a full-time starting point guard.
Injuries have hindered his production a good bit, but with Mike Budenholzer running the show in Wisconsin we could be getting ready for the best season of Bledsoe’s career.
Three spots onward from there is arguably the top young guard in the NBA, former SEC 6th Man of the Year Devin Booker. Booker has been a Class-A volume scorer throughout his first three seasons, topping out at 24.9 points per game on 38% three-point shooting.
He’s had clear issues as a defender and an overall game impactor, as he’s yet to come close to leading a winning team. The Suns have a solid young core of talent, and Booker is the face of a franchise that’s been long waiting to be good again.
We go a full quarter of the way through before reaching our next former Wildcat. At #24 is the original superstar of the Calipari-era, the great John Wall. A midseason injury was one of many factors that lead to a frustratingly mediocre season for the Washington Wizards, even after still averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 assists with a career-best 37% from three.
Wall should be more fresh and more reminiscent of his usual self this season, but failing to capitalize on a now-open Eastern Conference would have him forever sitting as a fringe top-20 player in a jam packed league full of talent.
Karl Anthony-Towns comes in at #19 after being a first time All Star and playing in his first playoffs last season. Towns averaged 21.3 points per game, shooting 42% from three. Considering that he is 7’ and 250 pounds, and also averaging 12.3 rebounds per game, it’s safe to say that Towns has fully established himself as one of the most well-rounded center prospects the game has ever seen. Even then, he’s not #1 from the Kentucky heritage.
That right goes to none other than Anthony Davis, who places at #5 overall and you really could argue he should be higher. Finishing 3rd in MVP voting, being First Team All NBA for the third time, leading the league in blocks for a third time, averaging 28 points per game in back-to-back years; we are entering the prime stages of what’s going to go down as one of the best big men careers of all time.
Very few centers ever can match Davis from a talent perspective, he’s asserted himself to a tier worthy of standing with players who’ve all won MVP’s and some championships. While he hasn’t gotten there yet, but we’re all lucky enough to watch him get there.