LEXINGTON, Ky. – They led the pack in the regular season, so it’s of no surprise that Kentucky’s NBA Cats are leading the charge into the NBA Playoffs.
After leading the regular season with the most representatives, 13 of UK men’s basketball’s NBA players will continue their 2017-18 seasons into the NBA Playoffs, which begin Saturday. Kentucky’s 13 players, spread across seven teams, ties UCLA for the most in the postseason.
UK started the 2017-18 NBA season with 27 players on opening-day rosters and had 30 players appear on NBA rosters this season, more than any other school.
The New Orleans Pelicans highlight Kentucky’s dominance with five former UK players – DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Rajon Rondo – on their postseason’s roster. Also appearing in the playoffs will be Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks), Dakari Johnson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Jodie Meeks (Washington Wizards), Patrick Patterson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Alex Poythress (Indiana Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) and John Wall (Washington Wizards). Adebayo, Johnson, Miller, Poythress and Towns will all be making their postseason debuts (Cousins will miss the playoffs because of a season-ending injury).
Dwane Casey, who won a national championship as a player at UK in 1978, will lead the Toronto Raptors as head coach into the playoffs as the East’s No. 1 seed.
The games begin Saturday with the first Wildcats in action Saturday at 5:30 p.m., when Casey’s Raptors host Wall, Meeks and the Wizards on ESPN. Later that day, at 8 p.m. on ESPN, Adebayo and the Heat play the Philadelphia 76ers before the five Wildcats on the Pelicans face the Portland Trail Blazers at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN.
A full schedule of the NBA Playoffs is available at nba.com.
Kentucky players had another banner NBA regular season in 2017-18. Davis and Cousins put together All-NBA seasons and are likely to pick up most valuable player votes. Towns led the Timberwolves back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons, keeping up on his promise to end the NBA’s longest postseason drought. Devin Booker continued to score at a record pace and won the league’s Three-Point Contest at the All-Star break. Wall, along with Cousins, Davis and first-time All-Star Towns, was back in the NBA All-Star Game. Bledsoe shined in a new setting. Rondo proved he’s still got plenty left in the tank after an already magnificent career. UK’s rookies made an immediate impact on their respective teams.
And that’s just to name a few.
Here’s a look at the complete breakdown of the NBA Cats in the 2017-18 regular season:
Kentucky has experienced unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under John Calipari. In the nine seasons of the Calipari era, 31 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school.
Included in the recent run are 24 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Towns and Wall), seven top-five picks and 17 lottery selections.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans but not Meeks or Rondo) have amassed nearly $1.5 billion in career NBA contracts ($1.457 billion). In the eight seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled more than $1.09 billion in NBA contracts.
In just the 2017-18 season alone, UK players made more than $179 million. Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose and Evans but not Meeks or Rondo) will make more than $178 million.
Calipari has had at least one player selected in the top 10 of the draft in each of the last 10 seasons, dating back to his time at Memphis. No other school in the country has had a first-round pick in each of the last 10 seasons. Calipari is the only coach in the history of the sport to have four players drafted No. 1 overall (Rose – 2008, Wall – 2010, Davis – 2012, Towns – 2015).
‑ GO CATS –