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Calipari's NBA Mill; A Look Back and a Look Ahead

UK fans have seen this movie before; no it doesn't include a character named Moses leading his people from the tyrants of Egypt to the Promised Land, no it doesn't include some hero leading a small band of people across a post-apocalyptic land in search of the last tree on earth. This movie includes throngs of young people who dash to the NBA Draft as if all of them have that golden Willy Wonka ticket in their pockets, and at the end of the day they may all indeed have that golden ticket in their pockets. Their Moses is either John Calipari or William "World Wide Wes" Wesley.

We witnessed a player in Daniel Orton go in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft who may have averaged more points for the opposing team than he did his own, if goal tending calls were counted against his scoring total (3 PPG) it would have been mighty close. Orton has struggled in his first two years as a pro but is a team favorite and is getting his first shot at some playing time. Hopefully for Orton this chance to shine will result in an extension of his rookie contract next season. But I expect him to be waived.

We witnessed a player like Deandre Liggins leave for the NBA and struggle, 55th pick overall, but his amazing and unmatched work ethic resulted in a one year guaranteed contract worth $473,604 . After taxes, that sum of money in the real world will dry up quickly. Liggins is a long shot to survive waivers next season. If he would have returned, even though he may have found himself on the bench most of the time considering the talent on this year's roster, his stock may have been a bit higher on the draft boards.

Next we have Patrick Patterson, who was a first round draft pick (14th overall), struggle mightily in his rookie season. He was sent to the D-League after an unfortunate injury but found himself in the Houston Rockets starting lineup because of injuries and quickly became a town favorite. Houston loves Patrick Patterson, but his performance is borderline. He is lucky that he serves as the backup for the aging Marcus Camby and considering Camby's steady flow of injuries Patterson has been able to play extra minutes. Patterson averages 7.5 PPG and 4 RPG this season. We can also play the "what if" game with Patterson as well. There is no doubt that if Patterson would have returned he would have led Kentucky to a National Championship last year and he would have been top ten pick. His draft position was great after his junior year, so you can't blame Patterson for leaving, but his skill set would have improved dramatically with one more year under Calipari. I think Patterson has a decent shot next year and should survive waivers, but it would not surprise me if he is either traded, or waived.

Now we come to this years batch of future pros. I have no doubt that Anthony Davis, Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist and "maybe" Terrence Jones will have fine pro careers but we can predict that Jones, Lamb and Teague may struggle. We know Calipari has the connections to get you into the league, and that is fine and dandy in my book, my beef with Calipari's system is that he is too interested in his player's draft potential. Yes, he hides behind the "players first program" motto. Yes, he hides behind the tear jerking Disney song theme of realizing your dreams but I have a sneaking suspicion that Calipari pushes these players toward the draft. We will have a better understanding of Calipari's system after this batch goes pro. We will be able to analyze the success versus failure rate of his UK players.

We will list Calipari's UK players who are in the NBA and rate their chances for longevity. We will rate these players on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest potential for a long NBA career.

John Wall - 10 (1st pick overall 2010 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Wall has a long NBA career ahead of him. He is one of those "once in 20 years" type of players. We will not see a John Wall for a long time.

DeMarcus Cousins - 10 (5th pick overall 2010 NBA Draft)
Analysis: If Cousin can mature he will be, as he is today, one of the top 5 big men in the NBA and barring injury Cousins will likely be playing for 15 plus years.

Brandon Knight - 10 (8th pick overall 2011 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Knight can flat out score in bunches. He is a solid pro and will stay on an NBA roster one way or the other. But I can see Knight being a NBA journeyman before it is over.

Eric Bledsoe - 6 (18th pick overall 2010 NBA Draft)
Analysis: After battling injury Bledsoe is stuck as a perennial backup point guard and will likely be traded after this year. I can see a team picking up his option thus extending his pro career. Bledsoe must find a starting spot somewhere in the league to ensure a long career.

Patrick Patterson - 6 (14th pick overall 2010 NBA Draft)
Analysis: After suffering an injury in his rookie year Patterson found himself in the D-League and he used it as an opportunity to get better. He is a fan favorite in Houston and is playing more minutes. I give Patterson a 60% chance of surviving waivers next season.

Daniel Orton - 2 (29th pick overall 2010 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Orton is finally getting his shot starting only his 3rd game since HIGH-SCHOOL this Friday, yes high school. He is a team favorite but I cannot see Orton surviving waivers next season.

Deandre Liggins - 1 (55th pick overall 2011 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Liggins battled for a roster spot and achieved a league minimum contract. I foresee Liggins being waived at the end of this season.

Predictions for this year's class

Anthony Davis - 10 (1st pick overall 2012 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Barring injury Davis will have a fine career.

Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist - 10 (3rd pick overall 2012 NBA Draft)
Analysis: If Kidd-Gilchrist develops a consistent mid-range shot he will be an All-Star player in the NBA.

Terrence Jones - 7 (15th pick overall 2012 NBA Draft)
Analysis: The enigmatic Jones cannot afford to be tagged a "head-case" in the NBA. His inconsistency this year begs one to wonder if Jones would have benefited by coming back for another year. If he plays to his potential he will have a good career and a backup Power Forward in the NBA.

Marquis Teague - 6 (19th pick overall 2012 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Teague is quick and may turnout to be a fine NBA point guard but he is no Rajon Rondo so he will have to develop a quicker and more consistent shot in the NBA to survive. I see Teague as career backup point guard.

Doron Lamb - 3 (33rd pick "2nd round" 2012 NBA Draft)
Analysis: Lamb is an undersized shooting guard with limited ball handling abilities. He will have to change his shooting style to survive in the NBA, which is no small feat. His slow and smooth approach to driving the basket will not work on the pro-level. He will get swatted more than flies in July. Lamb will have to bulk up and become a stronger more direct player. In the 1970's Lamb would have been a star but Lamb may be a casualty of this year's draft.

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