NEWARK — The University of Kentucky basketball program has had a pretty good year.
The Wildcats capped off a 38-2 season with a national championship on April 2. And Thursday, Kentucky became the first program in history to produce the top two picks of the NBA Draft.
We’ve known for quite some time that Anthony Davis would be the No. 1 pick. And a month ago, we learned that the New Orleans Hornets would be the lucky team to get him.
But then the Charlotte Bobcats surprised us a little by selecting Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick. To do that, the Cats passed on Thomas Robinson, who most draftniks had pegged as going second.
Charlotte, of course, needed help at every position and on both ends of the floor. There were multiple reports that they discussed trading the pick, but they apparently decided to keep it, and they apparently decided that Kidd-Gilchrist was the second-best player in the draft.
“It’s crazy,” Davis said of he and his teammate going 1-2. “Michael is a great player. We have two down and four more to go.”
The four more Wildcats followed: Terrence Jones went to Houston at No. 18, Marquis Teague went at No. 29 to Chicago, Doron Lamb at No. 42 to Milwaukee, and Darius Miller at No. 46 to New Orleans (where he’ll join Davis).
Kentucky had a little more depth, but the University of North Carolina had four guys drafted before Jones at No. 18. Harrison Barnes went to Golden State at No. 7, Kendall Marshall went to Phoenix at No. 13, John Henson went to Milwaukee at No. 14, and Tyler Zeller went to Cleveland (via Dallas) at No. 17.
In addition to Davis and Miller, the Hornets also selected Austin Rivers with the 10th pick (which was Minnesota’s and was acquired from the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade). Rivers can certainly put the ball in the basket, but it will be interesting to how he and Davis get along on the floor.
A traditional point guard like Marshall may have been a better pick for Davis’ offensive game. And Eric Gordon might not get his touches with Rivers handling the ball.
Interestingly, the biggest trade of the night was the deal that sent Zeller, along with Kelenna Azubuike, to Cleveland for the rights to Jared Cunningham (the 24th pick), Bernard James (the 33rd pick) and Jae Crowder (the 34th pick). After a couple of trades earlier in the week, Azubuike was the only veteran to be traded on Thursday.
The deal allows Dallas to shed a little bit of salary (the $1.1 million owed to Azubuike and the difference between the starting salaries for the 17th and 24th picks) in anticipation of free agency, which starts Sunday.
Robinson slipped a bit, but the player who seemed to slip the most was Baylor’s Perry Jones III, who was a consensus top-10 pick a year ago. Jones has talent, but maybe not the desire teams wanted to see from him. And there was a report earlier in the day that he had a knee issue.
Well, the Oklahoma City Thunder were OK with taking Jones with the No. 28 pick. And it may be a case of the rich getting richer.
Jones was in the audience at the Prudential Center and waiting that long to hear his name called was probably excruciating, but it may have been worth the wait. He’s going to a winning team with a great locker-room environment.