Sports

Kentucky’s NBA Pipeline: A Look at the Wildcats Who Are Making Their Mark in the League

Kentucky's NBA Pipeline: A Look at the Wildcats Who Are Making Their Mark in the League
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

The University of Kentucky has one of the best men’s basketball programs in the history of the sport, with 59 all time March Madness appearances and eight national championship wins with eight.

Perhaps even more impressive than their tournament resume is the number of players they’ve sent on to achieve success in the NBA. The professional game is an entirely different beast from the college one, and the fact that the Wildcats have been able to win consistently while pumping out NBA talents throughout the years, rarely suffering through a down year or a rebuild, shows just how strong the program that calls Lexington home is. 

Here’s a look at some of the best Wildcats to reach the NBA in recent years, ones who could see themselves enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame some day.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

First on the list is Devin Booker, the sharpshooting guard for the Phoenix Suns. At just 26 years old, it feels insane to project him as a future Hall of Famer anytime soon, but he’s already entering his ninth season in the pros, averaging nearly 24 points per game to this point in his career, along with four rebounds and 4.8 assists. 

For the first half decade of his tenure with the Suns, Booker had the reputation of being a stat padder on a bad team, benefitting from putting up points in blowouts as his opponents dialed back their effort, knowing the game was out of reach… like when he put up 60 points in a double digit loss. 

The Suns have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, though, including an appearance in the 2021 NBA Finals, a postseason run where Booker averaged more than 27 points per game. Booker has continued to flesh out his game with each passing year in the big leagues, as he’s turned himself into an underrated defender in addition to his show-stopping offensive talent, and it feels like just a matter of time before the Suns end up adding a championship to their trophy case with Booker at the helm, especially now that they have Kevin Durant in town to draw attention away from him. 

Right now, Booker’s Suns have the third best odds of winning it all this upcoming NBA season, listed at +600 at BetMGM’s Kentucky Sportsbook. Be sure to use a BetMGM Kentucky bonus code if you want to see Booker add to his resume this season with a championship win so that you know you’re locking in the best odds and offers to win big. 

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Next on the list is Anthony Davis, “The Brow,” another sure bet for the Hall of Fame someday. Davis led the Wildcats to their last NCAA championship in 2012, and was penciled in as the future first overall pick in the draft before he even played a minute in college. 

While he’s been hampered by injuries for much of his career, missing at least two full seasons because of them, Davis has shown his ability as one of the best players in the league when healthy for more than a decade, averaging a double-double for his career with 24 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, supplementing his offensive ability with four NBA All-Defensive Team awards. 

Davis, like Booker, requires a double take when you remember that he’s still just 30 years old, a byproduct of Wildcats’ head coach John Calipari’s one-and-done system that recruits players good enough to join the NBA after just one collegiate season. 

He’s got a lot of miles under his belt that could limit his ability to cement his name among the all-time greats by virtue of counting stats, but still managing an NBA Championship and a laundry list of accolades is something to be proud of in a career filled with “what-ifs.”

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Rounding out the list is Karl-Anthony Towns, Booker’s teammate with the Wildcats during the 2014-15 season and the first overall pick in that year’s draft. KAT, as he’s known, averages a double-double for his career with 23 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. 

He isn’t quite as polished as his fellow Wildcats, prone to defensive lapses. With that being said, he’s taken steps to improve his defensive game in each of the past few seasons, and at 27 years old, he has plenty of time to continue improving his game. 

The Timberwolves haven’t done him many favors, fielding a playoff-caliber team around him just three times in eight seasons to begin his career: not everyone can stand on their head on a bad team like Davis did, racking up individual awards on terrible Pelicans teams for years.

While he may not typically be thought of as a future Hall of Famer like Booker and Davis, his offensive stats alone have him well on the road to joining them there someday: if he’s able to play for a team that can complement his skill set someday instead of hanging him out to dry, the rest of the league should be on notice. 

In Conclusion

The University of Kentucky boasts a storied basketball history, with 59 March Madness appearances and eight national titles. Beyond college achievements, Kentucky’s influence extends to the NBA, producing top-tier talent consistently. Key Wildcats alumni making waves in the NBA include Devin Booker, showing immense promise with the Phoenix Suns; Anthony Davis, whose accolades, despite injury setbacks, have marked him as one of the league’s best; and Karl-Anthony Towns, whose consistent performance with the Timberwolves suggests a bright future. Kentucky’s basketball legacy, both in college and the NBA, remains undeniably impressive.

About the author

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Miller Willson

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