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Duke vs. Kentucky – Which School is Better for NBA Prospects?

Over the years, under John Calipari, Kentucky has often been referred to as an NBA D-League team because of “how many guys they get drafted into the NBA.”

But how does where they were ranked coming into college compared to where they were drafted? Does being one of the top ranked players in the country and going to Kentucky mean you’ll be drafted high in the NBA?

Let’s look at the recruiting classes for Kentucky since John Calipari arrived and see how their NBA Draft position compares to their recruiting ranking* (from 247sports.com).

*Only players who have graduated/declared for the draft were included. Anyone who transferred to another school, or never actually played for the school were not included.

Player Class Rank NBA Draft Pick
Skal Labissiere 2015-16 2nd 28th – 2016
Jamal Murray 2015-16 10th 7th – 2016
Karl Anthony-Towns 2014-15 5th 1st – 2015
Trey Lyles 2014-15 10th 12th – 2015
Devon Booker 2014-15 22nd 13th – 2015
Julius Randle 2013-14 2nd 7th – 2014
Andrew Harrison 2013-14 5th 44th – 2015
Aaron Harrison 2013-14 6th Undrafted
James Young 2013-14 9th 17th – 2014
Dakari Johnson 2013-14 10th 48th – 2015
Archie Goodwin 2012-13 15th 29th – 2013
Nerles Noel 2012-13 1st 6th – 2013
Alex Poythress 2012-13 8th Undrafted
Willie Cauley-Stein 2012-13 43rd 6th – 2015
Anthony Davis 2011-12 1st 1st – 2012
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2011-12 3rd 2nd – 2012
Marquis Teaque 2011-12 7th 29th – 2012
Brandon Knight 2010-11 5th 8th – 2011
Terence Jones 2010-11 8th 18th – 2012
Eloy Vargas 2010-11 16th Undrafted
Doron Lamb 2010-11 23rd 42nd – 2012
John Wall 2009-10 2nd 1st – 2010
DeMarcus Cousins 2009-10 3rd 5th – 2010
Darnell Dodson 2009-10 7th Undrafted
Daniel Orton 2009-10 16th 29th – 2010
Jon Hood 2009-10 52nd Undrafted
Eric Bledsoe 2009-10 57th 18th – 2010

*Note: players who transferred or were ineligible and never played for Kentucky were not included.

The Wildcats have had 19 Top 10 recruits in this time span. Nine of those have been drafted in the Top 10. Five were either selected in the second round (non-guaranteed contract) or were not drafted at all. Three others were selected outside the draft lottery.

Over 75% of Kentucky recruits were ranked as Top 25 players, but only 30% of those have ended up as Top 10 picks (one is still in school). Eight of their Top 25 players have spent full or partial seasons in the NBA D-League.

How does that compare to the recruits coming to Duke?

Player Class Rank NBA Draft Pick
Brandon Ingram 2015-16 1st 2nd – 2016
Jahlil Okafor 2014-15 1st 3rd – 2015
Tyus Jones 2014-15 7th 24th – 2015
Justise Winslow 2014-15 9th 10th – 2015
Jabari Parker 2013-14 4th 2nd – 2014
Austin Rivers 2011-12 2nd 10th – 2012
Quinn Cook 2011-12 33th Undrafted
Marshall Plumlee 2011-12 62nd Undrafted
Kyrie Irving 2010-11 2nd 1st – 2011
Josh Hairston 2010-11 35th Undrafted
Tyler Thornton 2010-11 127th Undrafted
Andre Dawkins 2010-11 NA Undrafted
Ryan Kelly 2009-10 15th 48th – 2013
Mason Plumlee 2009-10 25th 22th – 2013
*Note: players who transferred or were dismissed from Duke were not included.

In that same time span Duke has had seven Top 10 recruits, including three straight years of having a Top 3 pick (Parker, Okafor, and Ingram). Only one of those was drafted outside the Top 10 (Tyus Jones #24 overall).

Over 55% of Duke Basketball recruits have been ranked in the Top 25. From those recruits, 50% have been a Top 10 pick (Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Chase Jeter are still in school). Only two of those (Ryan Kelly and Tyus Jones) have spent any time in the D-League.

Looking ahead to the 2017 NBA Draft, DraftExpress.com currently has Harry Giles #1, Jayson Tatum #3, Marques Bolden #8, and Grayson Allen #20. The first Kentucky recruit to enter the Top 10 is Edrice Adebayo at #9. For all the talk about Kentucky having the #1 recruiting class, three of Duke’s recruits are projected to be drafted before the first from Kentucky. Even Dennis Smith from NC State is projected to go #6 overall.

The numbers suggest while Kentucky may get more Top 10 recruits, Duke does a better job of having their ranking translate into a Top 10 draft position.