The Kentucky Wildcats and the Philadelphia 76ers are two basketball programs with completely different goals this season. SMU coach Larry Brown said the Wildcats should go 45-0 this season while 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie would love for his team to go 0-82 and secure the top spot in the NBA Draft Lottery. Kentucky is fighting for a National Championship and the 76ers are in full tank mode.
Fresh off of a dominant performance against #5 Kansas in which Kentucky blocked as many shots (11) as the Jayhawks had total field goals (11), Phoenix Suns guard and former Kentucky Wildcat, Eric Bledsoe, said that this Kentucky team could beat the 0-11 76ers in a seven-game series.
“I’m definitely taking Kentucky,” Bledsoe told Brian Geltzeiler and Malik Rose Wednesday morning on SiriusXM Radio when asked who would in a 7-game series. “I think Philly would get probably, maybe one game. I know they’re (Sixers fans) gonna be mad, but I love my Wildcats. ”
Is that a biased answer? To an extent, of course. But it still got us wondering: what if this Kentucky team and the lowly 76ers faced off in a seven-game series? Could this group of college superstars upend arguably the least talented NBA roster in league history?
The answer may surprise you.
Let’s start by breaking down the 76ers roster. It’s hard to play worse basketball than Philadelphia is playing, and the numbers back it up. The Sixers rank dead last in points per game (88.6), 25th in rebounds per game (39.8), 22nd in assists per game (19.9) and 26th in opponents points per game (105.0).
This isn’t ground breaking analysis, but it’s hard to win games when a team isn’t scoring and can’t stop its opponent.
Looking at the players that head coach Brett Brown has to put on the court on a nightly basis is comical. Tony Wroten is the team’s leading scorer (19.3 PPG) but let’s be real with ourselves here – Wroten is an average point guard at best putting up big numbers on an awful team. There’s a reason why he wasn’t able to crack the rotation with the Memphis Grizzlies and the organization gave up on him after one year.
Michael Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year and is just about the only player on this roster that could play for all 30 teams in the league.
Nerlens Noel is still learning the ropes of the NBA game, and it’s pretty evident that his offensive game is a few years away from being at least respectable. He can rebound and block a few shots, like this empathic one on James Harden:
But as good as that is, his offensive game is non-existent at this point of his career.
After those three, the talent level on the roster falls off a cliff. Henry Sims, the undrafted and undersized third year center from Georgetown, is the team’s third-leading scorer (9.1 PPG). Since graduating from Georgetown in the spring of 2012, he’s played in a grand total of 59 games. That’s it. He’d be an end of the bench player at best for most NBA teams.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is playing 27 minutes per game for this Sixers team and his NBA track record should speak for itself. Mbah a Moute spent the first five years of his career in Milwaukee, an almost equally bad team over that stretch, and failed to make any sort of legitimate contributions. He’s good for five to seven points and five rebounds on a nightly basis, but if a team has to rely on him to be a serious contributor, it’ll be in trouble.
Those are two of the NBA journeymen who have found their way onto this roster, but they’re not even the worst of the bunch. Brandon Davies went undrafted out of BYU and is a rotational player now, and the same goes for Hollis Thompson who didn’t hear his name called in the 2013 NBA Draft.
JaKarr Sampson, Drew Gordon, Malcolm Thomas, Robert Covington and Chris Johnson are the five players who round out the 12 man roster, and none of them were drafted.
You’d have to search far and wide for a NBA team that has had a less talented roster than this current Philadelphia 76ers has.
On the other hand, this current Kentucky Wildcats team may be the most talented college basketball squad ever. John Calipari has 9 former McDonalds All Americans on his roster, and for the first time in a long time has a nice balance of freshmen and upperclassmen to round out his squad.
According to DraftExpress’ ranking of the top 100 prospects for the 2015 draft, Kentucky has nine of the top 43 draft-eligible players in the world:
3. Karl-Anthony Towns – F/C
9. Willie Cauley-Stein – C
20. Dakari Johnson – C
28. Andrew Harrison – G
30. Marcus Lee – F
31. Andrew Harrison – G
37. Devin Booker – Wing
39. Alex Poythress – Wing/F
43. Trey Lyles – F
There are seven players on the 76ers roster who weren’t drafted. If the 2015 NBA Draft was today, at least seven Wildcats would be drafted. Just think about that.
Kentucky has only played three games this year, so the stats don’t really matter. It’s too small a sample size to generate any conclusions from just 120 minutes of basketball. The Wildcats dominated Kansas and trailed Buffalo by five heading into the half.
But what is worth talking about is the pure individual talent of some of these players.
Towns may be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and if this hypothetical seven-game series were to happen, he’d be the most dangerous offensive weapon on the floor. Towns has the full package offensively and can score from anywhere on the court.
For a seven-footer with very good athleticism, it’s no surprise Towns scored a ton of points, grabbed rebounds left and right and blocked all types of shots on the prep level. But what does stand out is his number of makes from long-range during his high school career: 127 3-pointers. For an 18-year-old, having that type of range is unbelievable impressive.
Oh yeah, and his post game isn’ too shabby either. Nobody in the league is blocking this shot, which he swished:
Cauley-Stein is almost a carbon copy of Noel. His offensive arsenal consists of put-backs and alley-oops, but he’s a menace on the defensive end. Minus one posterizing dunk in the Buffalo game, there haven’t been many players in the country that protect the rim better than he does.
Lee is a super athletic four who can run the floor and finish with the best of them in transition; Poythress is built from the same mold but plays the small forward position; and Johnson is a legitimate seven-footer who uses brute force to gain position under the rim and finish with finesse or power.
The Harrison twins have elite size for the guard position and have already shown vast improvements to their jumpers this season. If they can start knocking down perimeter shots consistently, they’ll become one of the toughest backcourt covers in the country.
Lyles was a top-10 recruit heading into the season. Although he’s been relatively quiet so far, he displayed an extremely versatile offensive skill set in high school. He can play on the perimeter or on the block, creating mismatches across the board for this huge Kentucky team.
Looking at these two rosters side-by-side, it appears that Coach Cal may have the more talented one. Both teams are extremely young but in five years, there will be more players in the NBA from this Kentucky team than there will be from the scraps of this 76ers squad.
So if these two teams were to play a hypothetical seven-game series, Bledsoe would be right. The Kentucky Wildcats would be victorious in six games.
The talent advantage goes to the Wildcats as does the coaching nod. The biggest adjustment Coach Cal would have to make is losing his “platoon system” and playing his best players 30-35 minutes per game, because his best five could take on Philadelphia’s best five any day of the week.
Cauley-Stein and Noel are a wash. The backcourt edge goes to the Sixers but Kentucky has the deeper roster. Kentucky could deal with foul trouble. The Sixers have proven this year that they can’t. The biggest mismatch is at the power forward position. Towns would simply eat Philly’s interior players other than Noel for breakfast. He’s that big, skilled, and athletic.
The x-factor would be Kentucky’s ability to lock up defensively. Kansas is a very talented team and Coach Cal’s squad made them look like a group of 15-year-olds who play at the YMCA trying to run an offense against a good varsity basketball team. The length, quickness, and athleticism of Kentucky negated everything the Jayhawks tried to do offensively. This 76ers team is god awful offensively. The Bulls had the NBA’s worst offense a year ago and still averaged five more points per game than this Sixers team.
There’s a serious lack of playmakers on Philadelphia’s roster and Kentucky proved it can shut down those type of teams.
Carter-Williams and Wroten have the ability to single-handedly carry the Sixers to a win or two in this series, but those two alone aren’t enough to deal with the enormous talent discrepancy between these two teams.
This Kentucky Wildcats team is this good, and this Philadelphia 76ers team is that bad.
What do you think?
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