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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.

PlayerClassRankNBA Draft Pick
Skal Labissiere2015-162nd28th – 2016
Jamal Murray2015-1610th7th – 2016
Karl Anthony-Towns2014-155th1st – 2015
Trey Lyles2014-1510th12th – 2015
Devon Booker2014-1522nd13th – 2015
Julius Randle2013-142nd7th – 2014
Andrew Harrison2013-145th44th – 2015
Aaron Harrison2013-146thUndrafted
James Young2013-149th17th – 2014
Dakari Johnson2013-1410th48th – 2015
Archie Goodwin2012-1315th29th – 2013
Nerles Noel2012-131st6th – 2013
Alex Poythress2012-138thUndrafted
Willie Cauley-Stein2012-1343rd6th – 2015
Anthony Davis2011-121st1st – 2012
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist2011-123rd2nd – 2012
Marquis Teaque2011-127th29th – 2012
Brandon Knight2010-115th8th – 2011
Terence Jones2010-118th18th – 2012
Eloy Vargas2010-1116thUndrafted
Doron Lamb2010-1123rd42nd – 2012
John Wall2009-102nd1st – 2010
DeMarcus Cousins2009-103rd5th – 2010
Darnell Dodson2009-107thUndrafted
Daniel Orton2009-1016th29th – 2010
Jon Hood2009-1052ndUndrafted
Eric Bledsoe2009-1057th18th – 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?

PlayerClassRankNBA Draft Pick
Brandon Ingram2015-161st2nd – 2016
Jahlil Okafor2014-151st3rd – 2015
Tyus Jones2014-157th24th – 2015
Justise Winslow2014-159th10th – 2015
Jabari Parker2013-144th2nd – 2014
Austin Rivers2011-122nd10th – 2012
Quinn Cook2011-1233thUndrafted
Marshall Plumlee2011-1262ndUndrafted
Kyrie Irving2010-112nd1st – 2011
Josh Hairston2010-1135thUndrafted
Tyler Thornton2010-11127thUndrafted
Andre Dawkins2010-11NAUndrafted
Ryan Kelly2009-1015th48th – 2013
Mason Plumlee2009-1025th22th – 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.


  1. To be fair, your playing a game with your words, conveniently limiting your sample to Top 10 recruits. I was looking at your above list.

    Cal usually has somewhere between 4 -5 players entering the draft at a time.

    Also compare the ratio of undrafted.  4 of 14 for K and only 5 of 27 for Cal,and even 3 of those, Eloy Vargas was a transfer from Florida, Dodson was a JUCO and Jon Hood was recruited by Billy Gillespie, not Calipari

    Cal has had 10 of your listed 27 cats go in the Top 10, K has had only 4 of his 14., bout the same, but . . 

    Cal has had nearly as many #1 picks (3) as K has had go in the Top 10 (5)

    Moving it to an NBA court to play out would be foolish. Making NBA Squads from each list would be pretty one-sided.

    I think your lists and rational are skewed. C’Mon Duke writers,  your better than this!

  2. Though there are many ways to dissect this information, I do think it is interesting data to analyze.  Anecdotally, I would guess Coach K does a better job of preparing his players for the NBA by developing both their on-court and leadership skills.  I can think of so many Duke players who I never thought would make it to the NBA but they did because NBA coaches like the leadership, team first fundamentals that Coach K preaches.  And I do think most of Ca’s players have NBA written all over them before they even go to college.

  3. mcchesiii1 So many of K’s players get drafted because GM’s like “Leadsership & Team First” skills K passed onto them?, while Cal’s players were already targeted by GM’s before they even got to UK’s campus?

    Such a fair way to compare it  . . 

    I guess Calipari does nothing to help his players make the next level . . .