Since he was hired in 2009, Kentucky coach John Calipari has churned out high-level talent that can play at the next level. In his first season alone with the Wildcats, he produced three lottery picks in John Wall (No. 1 overall), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5) and Patrick Patterson (No. 14).
Since 2010, Kentucky has produced 22 lottery selections, by far the most of any school during that time frame. The Wildcats have had three No. 1 overall picks since in Wall, Anthony Davis (2012) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2015).
Calipari has produced a handful of top-flight guard talent, too. Though he did not start in his lone season in Lexington, Devin Booker has gone on to have an impressive career with the Phoenix Suns and led them to the NBA Finals in 2021. He is considered one of the top players at his position heading into his ninth season.
Some of the players on this list, such as Wall and Cousins, already reached their peak at the NBA level. Others like Booker, Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander and De'Aaron Fox are fully in their prime. Here is the list of the greatest NBA players at their peak out of Kentucky coached by Calipari.
1. Anthony Davis
When Davis is healthy, he is one of the best players in the world. In his 11-year NBA career, Davis has averaged 24 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 blocks. Davis in his lone season at Kentucky complied one of the best defensive seasons in NCAA history, and those traits directly carried over to the NBA. After starting his career with the Pelicans, Davis was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and created a championship-caliber 1-2 punch with LeBron James. He is an eight-time NBA All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team four times and appeared on the All-Defensive Team four times. Injuries have been an issue for Davis during his time in Los Angeles, but it's hard to argue that another player on this list has been better at the top of his game than Davis.
2. Devin Booker
Booker flew under the radar during his time at Kentucky and came off the bench as a freshman. That didn't stop him from becoming a lottery pick and being one of the youngest players selected in the 2015 NBA Draft. At 20 years old, Booker became the youngest player in NBA history to score 70 points, and his career has been on a steady climb since. The addition of Chris Paul helped jolt the Suns from a lottery team to champions of the Western Conference. Booker is a three-time All-Star and appeared on the All-NBA First Team in 2022. He hasn't hit his peak just yet but is coming off a season in which he averaged 27.8 points and 5.5 assists.
3. John Wall
Wall's prime can not be overshadowed by his final seasons in the NBA, which included holding out a full season with the Rockets and being traded back to Houston after spending just over half a season with the Los Angeles Clippers. During his peak, Wall was an explosive and flashy guard and one of the best two-way players in the league. Wall was the first selection from the Calipari era at Kentucky and became a five-time NBA All-Star. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2015, and despite the Wizards never making it past the second round of the playoffs during his time with the team, his legacy will forever be remembered.
4. DeMarcus Cousins
At his peak, Cousins was arguably the best big man in the NBA. During his later years with the Sacramento Kings, he started to develop a shot from outside, which expanded his game. Cousins made the NBA All-Star Game four times and was famously traded to the Pelicans after the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. Cousins suffered a handful of devastating injuries during the peak of his NBA career, which is headlined by a ruptured left Achilles tendon. That injury knocked out Cousins for almost an entire calendar year. Cousins is currently playing in Puerto Rico, and it appears his NBA career is over. Having more team success during his time in Sacramento would've gone a long way in boosting his personal accolades.
5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
The debate over where to rank Gilgeous-Alexander, Fox and Murray is a spicy one. All three players are coming off the best seasons of their NBA careers for different reasons. Gilgeous-Alexander ranked fourth in scoring this past season, made First Team All-NBA and received some MVP consideration. It was clear when the Thunder traded away Paul George to the Clippers in a deal that included SGA that he would be the centerpiece behind one of the most fascinating rebuilds in NBA history. The Thunder weren't expected to do much this season as a rebuilding team but made it all the way to the play-in game. SGA's ceiling is still sky high, and he has the chance to be an MVP candidate for seasons to come.
6. De'Aaron Fox
Fox is a major reason why the Sacramento Kings broke the longest playoff drought in NBA history this past season. He elevated his game from star to superstar with his performances in the playoffs, which included a 38-point outburst in his first-ever NBA postseason action. Fox shined at Kentucky during the 2017 NCAA Tournament and raised his game even more during the NBA Playoffs. A knock on Fox's game is his team couldn't win during his first five seasons, but he put those doubts aside this past season. Fox hasn't hit his peak yet, but the 2022-23 season was by far the most successful season of his career.
7. Jamal Murray
Injuries, including a torn ACL in 2021, have forced Murray to miss significant time in his career. That limited his growth and the awards he could possibly rack up in the process. He hasn't been named to any NBA All-Star or All-NBA teams, but he proved to be a true No. 2 option on a championship team this past season when the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Murray had electric performances in the NBA Bubble in 2020, but it still doesn't top what he accomplished during the 2022-23 season. He might not be a better overall player than Bam Adebayo or Karl Anthony-Towns, but he now has something they don't: A ring.
8. Karl Anthony-Towns
At one point in his career, KAT was considered one of the few players you would want to build your team around. The Minnesota Timberwolves acquiring Rudy Gobert made him change his game completely. Together on the floor, Gobert became the player playing inside while KAT played like more of a stretch-four. KAT has regressed ever so slightly from his 2019-2020 season when he averaged 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He missed time this past season because of injury, and this season will be a big indicator if he can get back to that level of play. The season that was cut short because of COVID-19 remains the best of his career.
9. Bam Adebayo
Adebayo has been the second option on two separate Heat teams that reached the NBA Finals and lost. He is a two-time NBA All-Star but has made NBA All-Defensive Second Team four seasons in a row. He is one of the best rim protectors in the league and a true threat to win Defensive Player of the Year every season. Like most players on this list that are still actively playing, he has still yet to reach his peak but his résumé can stack up against most best big men in the NBA.
10. Julius Randle
Randle broke his right tibia in his first NBA game, which forced him to miss his whole rookie season with the Lakers. Then he spent one season with the New Orleans Pelicans but has played the best basketball of his career with the New York Knicks as a two-time NBA All-Star. It's hard to see anyone picking Randle over any player ranked above him on this list, but he deserves to be mentioned among the best players during Calipari's time at Kentucky.