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Losing games hurts draft status, but Calipari still thinks first-round possible for Vanderbilt and Diallo

Hamidou Diallo (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky is likely to have two first-round draft picks — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox — in Thursday’s NBA draft.

However, coach John Calipari admitted Monday that UK’s 26-11 record last season, and disappointing loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, hurt the draft status of Kentucky players.

“We lost four (games) in a row (during the season). That hurts your draft position. … If we won 38 straight games (as UK did in the 2014-15 season), what? These guys would have been considered right there,” Calipari said.

“That’s why winning matters here. That’s why winning championships matters. That’s why winning national championships and being in Final Fours matters. And you try to tell the kids.”

Kentucky has had a player go in the top seven picks of every NBA draft since Calipari has been at Kentucky. That seems unlikely this year even though Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox are both projected as lottery picks in various mock drafts.

Calipari compared Knox to Jayson Tatum, the former Duke star who was the third pick in last year’s draft and became a standout for the Boston Celtics as a rookie.

“People knew he was good. They didn’t know he was that tough. And Kevin falls into the same mold right now. When that toughness sprouts, that’s when everybody says, ‘How did we pass on this guy?’” Calipari said.

Many wondered whey Jared Vanderbilt kept his name in the NBA draft after playing only 14 games for UK in his third straight injury-plagued season. But the UK coach said Vanderbilt’s “analytics stuff was off the chart” and NBA personnel have noticed.

He thinks Vanderbilt could go late in the first round or no later than midway of the second round.

“NBA motor, goes after balls, quick twitch, can pass it, can bounce it. I think with his numbers, pro spirit, pro energy, NBA body all that stuff, my guess is he’ll be gone by the end of the first round,” Calipari said.

Calipari projected Hamidou Diallo as being picked late in the first round or midway through the second, too.

“You’re talking about one of the best athletes in the draft who played at Kentucky,” Calipari said.

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  1. Losing games hurts the UK program, a program that has the deepest, strongest, and most loyal fan base in all sports. Having a 4 game losing streak in a season is so rare for this program that every member of the BBN was keenly aware of this situation after just the second of the four losses.

    Yet, comments from the coach and the players told us that for these people, they were both unaware of the situation, and did not seem to really think it significant at the time, and prior to the completion of the 3rd and 4th losses.

    A similar situation last season surrounding the consecutive game streak of made 3 point shots. I understand that this record has no significance to the ability of teams to win or lose games, but it was a programmatic achievement over many decades that all members of the BBN were not only aware, but proud of, and a record or achievement that was so important that Tom Leach noted in every game that the streak continues upon the team’s making of its first 3 pointer of a game AND numerous warning throughout the second half of all games in which a 3 pointer had not yet been made.

    Yet, players indicated an unawareness of this situation either, and the coach poo-poo’d any idea that this streak’s continuing was important.

    Now, we learn that the “true” impact of losing streaks is how it affects players’ NBA value in the draft.

    I call BS on this, and point to it as yet another pitiful example of misplaced priorities by our coach.

    Coach, you have a high paying job for one purpose. Winning championships. If you do that with OAD players and have to rebuild teams every year to do it, that is your choice, and I for one do not ever want to hear the whine and complaints about how difficult that process is for you or your self anointed players. If you do that by building teams the more conventional way, that would be your choice, and I would not welcome a similar whine and complaints about how difficult that is either.

    If Reid Travis agrees to play for the Cats this coming season, he can provide a level of depth and experience that is rare to your tenure here. This coupled with the returning players, few they may be, and the incoming freshmen players, highly ranked and touted as they always are, should give you the team to get it done this year.

    It is now your time to get this job done and complete the deal if you are successful to reach the final four. I suggest you speak at length to Joe B. Hall about the season without job, 1977-78. That is what is in store for you and your boys in 2018-19.

    Have a great day.

    1. Well said. Right on!!!!

    2. Thanks Professor for great analysis there as always

  2. I don’t see Vando or Diallo going in the first round despite all of Cal’s hype. I would not be surprised if neither got drafted at all and that might not be a bad thing. Then they can work as free agents to find a good fit on the right team, but I see G league time for both.
    The Professor is right…Cal works for UK not the NBA. His priorities need to reflect that in his coaching. Brad graduates in 2 years…don’t be surprised if Cal moves on too…even if he wins a title in the next 2 years.

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