Having that number of potential draft picks is unprecedented, and Calipari acknowledged that Kentucky’s goal “would be to say, ‘Hey, half the NBA All-Stars started with us.’”
In Chris Mannix’s latest mock draft for SI.com, Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns was the No. 1 projected pick, followed by guard Devin Booker at No. 8, center Willie Cauley-Stein at No. 12 and forward Trey Lyles at No. 14. Guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison and center Dakari Johnson are also eligible to be drafted.
On Thursday, Calipari explained Kentucky’s ability to produce so much NBA talent by saying the Wildcats choose not to focus on which positions players play.
“We're basically playing positionless basketball and have for some time. We're not -- it's not trying to pigeonhole any player in one point. I want them all to be multi-position players, when you look at Willie. Karl, if he had his druthers, would've been a two guard. I mean, now you're talking about a post player who can step out on the court. Was not unanimous (as the No. 1 pick). It was other players who were gonna be that 1 pick. Now you're looking at it, it looks like it should be him. Willie, Trey we put at a three position to make him more versatile.”
Calipari, who continually faces criticism for the number of “one-and-done” players Kentucky produces, also admitted that a player’s future pro potential is something the program pays attention to.
“Now you're talking our guards, who are big – because of Tyler Ulis, Andrew can play with another point guard. Aaron could play the three if he needed to because of his size. You're looking at Devin Booker and you're saying, 'Wait a minute, that kind of shooting, that size,' and all of the sudden you get what we were trying to do. I mean, our goal is not just to help guys get in the league. We want guys to become All-Stars. We had three last year, and if you took Derrick Rose there's a fourth. Our goal would be to say, 'Hey, half the NBA All-Stars started with us.' So it is about positionless basketball. When you look at our guys, I think you say, 'Wow, all of them do have the ability to play two and three more positions, and even four.’”
Last year, two Wildcats—forwards Julius Randle and James Young—were selected in the first round of the draft. In 2013, another two players taken as first-rounders.
In 2012, four players from Kentucky’s most recent NCAA championship team went in the first round, including No. 1 overall pick and 2015 All-NBA First team selection Anthony Davis. Two more Wildcats were drafted in the second round in 2012.
The 2015 NBA draft will be held next Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
- Mike Fiammetta