Ranking the NBA’s Best Kentucky Alumni

UK has had its share of greats

On the heels of Kentucky’s nearly perfect season, we rank the school's best alumni now in the NBA.

 

13. Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons

One of only two players on this list with a championship ring, Prince was once of the very best wing defenders in basketball. Now, he’s a 35-year-old journeyman with a bank of knowledge that any locker room would be lucky to have.

 

12. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors

Patterson has found a home in Toronto after bouncing around with with the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League. This season, the big man has been an invaluable defense-stretcher with his 37 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

 

11. Jodie Meeks, Detroit Pistons

The Pistons’ sharp shooter earned himself a $19 million contract with Detroit over the summer—one that turned some heads—by having an excellent season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the Nashville native is a key piece of a Pistons squad with a promising future.

 

10. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder

Enes Kanter loves playing for the Thunder. After languishing in the thick of a log-jammed Utah Jazz front court, his trade to OKC has seen him develop uncanny chemistry with Russell Westbrook, and become one of the most productive down-low scorers in the league. Look for Kanter, an upcoming free agent, to lobby for a longer stay in Oklahoma.

 

9. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

The Rockets’ young power forward has struggled with some scary health issues, including a collapsed lung and some recurring nerve problems. But the former NCAA champion (with the 2012 iteration of the Wildcats) is a freewheeling terror when he’s healthy, and a big X-factor for this title-contending Houston squad.

 

8. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns

If Knight has indeed found a landing place in Arizona—after a mid-season trade from the Milwaukee Bucks—it’s a fitting one. Alongside fellow Wildcat of the past Eric Bledsoe, he could make up one half of one of the league’s most exciting young backcourt duos.

 

7. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks

Rajon Rondo certainly isn’t what he used to be. The only other NBA champion on this list (with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics), he’s seen a huge decline in his scoring ability, including a dip in free-throw percentage that’s frankly hard to believe. But Rajon still possesses an elite gamer gene, and could surprise some people anew in a Mavericks postseason run this May.

 

6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets

One of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, Kidd-Gilchrist has failed to reach the proper level of attention from fans due to a mismatched Hornets roster that’s too short on shooting to do much winning at all. Perhaps one day, though, MKG’s tenacious efforts will find a better context.

 

5. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are widely criticized for eschewing functional talent in the name of future, asset-based goods, but in Noel they have themselves a blooming winner. As a rookie, he’s already one of the fiercest rim protectors in the NBA, with terrific hair to boot.

4. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

Bledsoe, like Kidd-Gilchrist, has seen his star fade some for reasons beyond his control. The off-court mayhem that has been the Suns’ season has robbed us of a playoff run from Phoenix and “Mini LeBron,” the full-court terror that is Bledsoe. Don’t be surprised to see him shutting down other elite point guards in the years to come, though.

 

3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is the most compelling big man talent in the NBA. His mixture of bullying post moves, deft footwork and outside shooting makes him essentially unguardable when he’s on. If Sacramento can provide him with some coaching and roster consistency… watch out.

 

2. John Wall, Washington Wizards

Wall has developed into more than an All-Star in his fifth season. The Wizards’ superstar is one of the very best players in the game, matching his speed and instincts with a new court vision that takes Washington to another level at times. If his team decides to can his underachieving coach and replace him (maybe with John Calipari?), Wall will quickly invade even more living rooms.

 

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

The Brow is the future of the NBA—but he’s the present, too. As a 22-year-old, Davis is already a bonafide MVP candidate, reaching the rare air of a 30.0 player efficiency rating in just his third season. There’s truly no precedent for how good this guy can get.

 

— John Wilmes
@johnwilmesNBA

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