“So as of now, it’s one going to the NBA and three staying. Is that right?”
It has been an annual February ritual for Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans since John Calipari arrived: checking the NCAA mock brackets, making tentative travel plans for March Madness, and keeping a wary eye on the NBA mock drafts to see where the beloved Wildcats may end up. And I admit, the later part of that has taken so getting used to. John Calipari has drug the BBN kicking and screaming into the “one and done” arena. The majority of fans hate the idea of players leaving after one year and John Calipari was publicly mocked for saying that the NBA Draft was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball.
Two Final Fours and a NCAA Title later, and most of the BBN have grudgingly accepted the “one and done” nature of Kentucky basketball. We don’t like it, mind you but no one dones. The fans hate it, the coaches hate it, the pundits hate it, and I’m sure most players hate it. The only people who like the idea is the NBA and trust me, the rule is not going to change as much as we blog, tweet, or rebel against it.
And the system benefits the NBA. The NBA rookie salary scale is relatively low compared to what the “superstars” make and allow NBA teams to draft on potential. John Wall, who was the number one pick in 2010, makes $5,915,880 this year. That is definitely worth leaving school for. But Wall is not the highest paid player on his team by a large margin. Trevor Ariza makes $7,258,000. Nene Hilario makes $13,000,000. Emeka Okafor makes $13,640. Wall, who is a bona-fide superstar, makes roughly the same as Martell Webster, an eight year veteran who is averaging 10.6 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
The rookie pay scale takes a sharp dip the further you go down in the first round. Patrick Patterson was drafted 14th in the same draft and he is a certifiable bargain for the Rockets as he is earning $2,906,760. Still money worth leaving school for, but once you get past the first four or five picks in the draft, players are a relative bargain for several years after being drafted. Which is why the NBA drafts on potential. The money they pay for a top draft pick is still far less than they pay their superstars so they are more than willing to raid the college ranks and pay a lower salary to see whether a player pans out. Only the first couple of years are guaranteed, so it is a low risk, high reward for the NBA with the college draft. And no one recruits better than John Calipari.
So Kentucky has become known as “one and done” university and the BBN seems to wear it as a badge of honor by now. John Calipari did what he had to do and shook up the basketball landscape at Kentucky and no one can argue with the results.
Kentucky is arguably coming off the worst week of basketball in years with two blowout losses to Florida (79-62) and Tennessee (88-58). I would say it was the worse week since December 15-18, 2007. Kentucky suffered a 79-76 loss at Rupp Arena to UAB and were drilled 83-69 to Houston. The Houston loss was UK’s fourth loss in a row and dropped UK to 4-5 on the season. I know that a lot of the BBN is pointing to UK’s 93-52 loss to Vanderbilt on 2/12/2008, but that loss was actually UK’s only setback in a ten game stretch. Regardless, UK basketball is at its lowest point in years and there were no players sprinting off to the NBA after just one year from that team.
Even at this low point in Kentucky basketball, the common consensus is that four UK basketball players will be “one and done”. And to be honest, I really have no problem with players being one and done. I’m a fan and I am not involved in their decisions. I do not know the families financial needs and I am not privy to the dinner table conversations the families have in deciding their son’s futures. For whatever reason they decide to leave, its their decision and I respect it. And in most cases, the one and done status is earned. No one could deny that John Wall, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and others had EARNED the right to be a one and done player. And as a fan, I was more than thrilled to have experienced them playing for my team for a season and was grateful for their contributions.
And most Kentucky fans felt the same way, accepted that a second year at UK was not necessary, and supported their decisions. Of all the players to go to the NBA under Calipari, only Daniel Orton seems to have gotten some real resentment for his decision. Orton spent just 502 minutes as a Wildcat and for his time, averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. Thanks to the success of that team, Orton was still able to parlay his year as a Wildcat into a NBA first round pick. He spent a couple of years on the Magic bench and earned $1,105,560 last season. He is currently bouncing back and forth between the D-League and the Oklahoma City Thunder rosters and his contract numbers not available now. But Orton is a prime example of the NBA throwing money on a first round pick based on potential and it not panning out.
And for Wildcat fans, the resentment towards Orton is not really that he left, but because he did not earn the right to be a one and done.
So the question arises for this current crop of Kentucky freshman. With a 10 loss season and a possible NIT bid, have they EARNED the right to be a one and done player?