The Kentucky men’s basketball program’s impressive NBA presence will once again spill over from the regular season to the postseason with 13 former players set to appear in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
Twelve active NBA players and Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey will take part in this year’s NBA postseason, which will begin Saturday with four games. UK’s 12 players, spread across seven teams, is the second most of any school.
UK started the 2018-19 NBA postseason with 31 players on opening-day rosters with 33 total Wildcats appearing on an NBA roster this season, more than any other school.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets highlight Kentucky’s presence with three former players – Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel and Patrick Patterson on the Thunder and Trey Lyles, Jamal Murray and Jarred Vanderbilt on the Nuggets – on their postseason roster. Also appearing in the playoffs will be Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks), DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Los Angeles Clippers), Enes Kanter (Portland Trail Blazers) Skal Labissière (Portland Trail Blazers) and Jodie Meeks (Toronto Raptors).
Casey, who won a national championship as a player with Kentucky in 1978, will lead the Pistons as head coach into the playoffs as the East’s No. 8 seed.
Cousins, Gilgeous-Alexander, Labissière, Murray, Noel and Vanderbilt will be making their postseason debuts (Cousins was on the 2017-18 Pelicans roster but did not appear in a game due to injury).
The games begin Saturday with the first Wildcat in action on Saturday at 5 p.m., when Meeks’ Raptors host the Orlando Magic on ESPN. Later that day, at 8 p.m. on ESPN, Cousins and the Warriors will face Gilgeous-Alexander and the Clippers. Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt and the Nuggets host San Antonio at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Five Wildcats (Diallo, Noel, Patterson, Kanter and Labissière) will begin the playoffs Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC in the Oklahoma City-Portland series. Bledsoe, one of the key players on the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Bucks, play Sunday at 7 p.m. on TNT against Casey’s Pistons.
A full schedule of the NBA Playoffs is available at NBA.com.
Kentucky players had another banner NBA regular season in 2018-19. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) and Karl-Antony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), both NBA All-Stars in 2018-19, were once again two of the best big men in the game. Cousins returned from an Achilles injury in less than a year’s time and quickly regained his dominating form on a Warriors team in search of its third straight championship. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) continued to score at historic rates and nearly posted three straight 50-point games last month. Murray is one of the leaders on a Nuggets team that has their sights set on a deep playoff run. The same can be said for Bledsoe and the Bucks. De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) has become of the game’s best point guards. UK’s rookies made an immediate impact on their respective teams, including Gilgeous-Alexander making the postseason and Diallo winning the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
And that’s just to name a few.
Here’s a look at the complete breakdown of the NBA Cats in the 2018-19 regular season:
Kentucky has experienced unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under John Calipari. In the 10 seasons of the Calipari era, 35 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 26 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Towns and John Wall) and 19 lottery picks.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans but not Meeks or Rajon Rondo) have amassed nearly $1.9 billion in career NBA contracts. In the 10 seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled more than $1.5 billion in NBA contracts.
Calipari has had at least one player selected in the top 10 of the draft in each of the last 11 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 11 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 –
For more information contact: