April 2, 2012

Could Kentucky beat an NBDL team?

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

For the last little while there has been a furor of debate about how Kentucky would possibly fare against the weakest teams in the NBA. I originally liked the idea considering how this is one of the strongest NCAA teams in history and will very likely take home the championship tonight.

But the fact remains that while the Wildcats have at least four guys that will likely be taken in the first round of this year’s draft, the rest of the roster would just not compare to an NBA squad. So that’s four NBA-calibre guys facing a roster full of NBA-calbre players.

Heck, one Las Vegas bookie even went as far as to set a line as if this game could ever happen. If the Washington Wizards were to face Kentucky on a neutral court, the Wiz would be favoured by 30 points. Granted, I’d love to take the points, but the fact is that Washington isn’t going to lose that game.

So, the better question that I would pose is this: How would Kentucky fare if it played in the NBA Development League?

Tricky question, right?

Right off the bat you could argue that the ‘Cats would have the two best players on the floor with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With their four first-round calibre guys, you could argue that the ’Cats might even have the best four players out there. How many lottery picks ever play in the NBDL? The only high draft pick that I can remember being sent down is Hasheem Thabeet and he’s still kind of garbage.

The NBDL is a league of gunners too; guys that are trying to impress NBA teams with their numbers. I wouldn’t expect a group of guys making less than you or I to be interested in playing as a team. I’ve never watched a D-League game, but I can only assume by the mostly high scores that it’s more akin to rec-league ball than a shutdown defensive affair.

There are two spots that a NBDL team would have an advantage: Their depth and the rules. We would of course have to play with NBA rules, meaning that there would be the longer three-point line and different defensive schemes. This would hurt Kentucky’s chances, but I believe their overall defence is strong enough to get through that difficulty. The game would also be longer, so stamina may become an issue for UK.

In terms of depth, the NBDL team’s bench players would most likely be better than Kentucky’s. In the D League, the bench guys would still probably be past second-round picks and the best of the undrafted players. It would be silly to think that this entire Kentucky team will be drafted one day. I doubt their ninth man is going to make the NBDL even as a walk-on.

So, could the Kentucky Wildcats hang with the Los Angeles D-Fenders or the Fort Wayne Mad Ants? I believe so and I wouldn’t bet against John Calipari’s crew. But come on, let’s just put to bed this silly ‘Kentucky could play in the NBA’ nonsense – even after they win the title tonight.

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