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NBA Scout: Calipari’s System Hides Flaws In UK Players

Longtime Kentucky sportswriter Larry Vaught recently chatted up an NBA scout and learned something interesting — Wildcat players tend to be overrated as they enter the NBA.  According to, the scout said:


“The interesting thing, and its not a knock, but there is this Kentucky mystique that (John) Calipari has done a great job creating and perpetuating.  The best part about Kentucky’s system is that can hide so many flaws at first glance…

MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) is a good defensive player, but he isn’t as good as people believe.  Having (Anthony) Davis camped around the rim allowed players to play defense in a way which minimized their weaknesses…

The threat of the lob made (Marquis) Teague out to be a better point guard than he really is…

In reality, the Kentucky system is smoke and mirrors.  I remember being out in Vegas for a Summer League and I was sitting and watching games with a long-time director of scouting in the league.  He said he was stunned at how unprepared Kentucky players were for the NBA, and he had drafted one of them.”


First, so what?  A good college basketball system is one that hides players’ flaws and accentuates their strengths.  According to the NBA scout in question, it sounds like Calipari’s system does just that.  (And that fresh new banner hanging in the rafters at Rupp Arena seems to back him up.)

Second, it’s hard to imagine many Kentucky players being well-prepared for the pro game since most of them are one-and-doners.  Such players are drafted as much on potential as anything else.  The league raised its entrance age requirement — and created the one-and-done system — in an effort to curtail the number of high school players who came into the league, learned the game for three years on the team that drafted them, and then headed straight to free agency.  With one-and-doners, their development is only one year better than those kids who were jumping straight to the NBA from high school.  And the Kobe Bryants and LeBron Jameses who had an immediate impact at the pro level are rare.

Lastly, let’s see what the numbers actually show for those first-rounders drafted out of Kentucky and Calipari’s system the past two years:


John Wall (true freshman) — #1 overall pick in 2010 to Washington Wizards

First year: 16.4 points per game, 8.3 assists per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 37.8 minutes per game (NBA All-Rookie 1st Team)

Second year: 16.3 points per game, 8.0 assists per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 36.2 minutes per game


DeMarcus Cousins (true freshman) — #5 overall pick in 2010 to Sacramento Kings

First year: 14.1 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 28.5 minutes per game

Second year: 18.1 points per game, 1.6 assists per game, 11.0 rebounds per game, 30.5 minutes per game


Patrick Patterson (junior) — #14 overall pick in 2010 to Houston Rockets

First year: 6.3 points per game, 0.8 assists per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 16.7 minutes per game

Second year: 7.7 points per game, 0.8 assists per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 23.2 minutes per game


Eric Bledsoe (true freshman) — #18 overall pick in 2010 to Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to Los Angeles Clippers)

First year: 6.7 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 22.7 minutes per game

Second year: 3.3 points per game, 1.6 assists per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, 11.6 minutes per game


Daniel Orton (true freshman) — #29 overall pick in 2010 to Orlando Magic

First year: Spent in NBA Developmental League

Second year: 2.8 points per game, 0.3 assists per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 11.7 minutes per game


Enes Kanter (true freshman, didn’t play) — #3 overall pick in 2011 to Utah Jazz

First year: 4.6 points per game, 0.1 assists per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 13.2 minutes per game


Brandon Knight (true freshman) — #8 overall pick in 2011 to Detroit Pistons

First year: 12.8 points per game, 3.8 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 32.3 minutes per game


So what does that tell us?  Only that like most NBA players, the higher a Calipari Cat is drafted the more likely he’ll contribute right away.  Wall, Cousins and Knight — all top 10 picks — had productive rookie seasons.  Kanter was the exception to the rule, but he spent his time in Lexington watching, not playing due to an NCAA ruling.

Once you get outside the first 10 draft picks, any NBA fan can tell you that early performance is a crapshoot.

This isn’t to refute the scout’s take on things… after all, he’s the one getting an NBA paycheck every two weeks.  But just from looking at the results and following the NBA, it doesn’t appear to this writer that Calipari’s players are any more or less risky than any other coaches’ draft picks.

Might UK players be a bit overvalued thanks to the “mystique” their coach has helped foster?  Sure.  But that’s really on the scouts and GMs who are assigning those values, isn’t it?

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Latest NBA Mock Draft Shows 3 SEC Players In 1st Round

The latest mock NBA draft from isn’t exactly chock-full of ex-SEC players in the first round.  In fact, only three players from SEC schools are projected in that round and only two of those chaps actually suited up for their schools last season:

* Former Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight has risen all the way to #3 on the site’s list.  He is projected to be headed to the Utah Jazz.

* UK’s Enes Kanter — the European center who was never cleared to play for the Wildcats — is expected to go #6 overall to the Washington Wizards.

* And Tennessee forward Tobias Harris has slipped a bit down to #18.  He also is expected to be selected by the Wizards (and GM Ernie Grunfeld, himself a former Vol).

That’s it for the first round, folks.  And things don’t get much better in the second round.

Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins of Georgia have seen their stock drop.  Leslie is projected in the 9th spot of Round Two to the Charlotte Bobcats and Thompkins is expected to land with the LA Lakers with the 11th pick.

Florida’s Chandler Parsons is ticketed to the Indiana Pacers with the 12th pick of the second round, followed by Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson at #26 (also to the Lakers).

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