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Andy Wittry | | January 6, 2020

The 11 best Kentucky men's basketball players of the 2010s

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Kentucky had between one and three First Team All-SEC selections every year of last decade and there are currently 29 former Wildcats in the NBA, so there has been no shortage of talent to go through Lexington in the last 10 years.

We went through every Kentucky roster from the last decade and picked out the 11 best Wildcats, starting with the beginning of the decade (conference play in the 2010 season) to the end (non-conference play this season).

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We strictly examined a player's college career – not his high school or NBA accomplishments.

11. Jamal Murray (2015-16)

Jamal Murray led Kentucky in scoring in 2016, averaging 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for a Wildcats team that shared the SEC regular season title with Texas A&M, then beat the Aggies for the SEC Tournament title.

He had a 28.8 percent shot rate as a freshman, which was more than five percent higher than any of his teammates, yet he still posted an offensive rating of 118.0, which ranked 182nd nationally. The 6-5 guard shot 40 percent from three on nearly eight attempts per game, 50 percent from inside the arc and 78 percent from the free throw line.

He was named a First Team All-SEC honoree.

10. P.J. Washington (2017-19)

Washington was a consensus Third Team All-American and First Team All-SEC selection last season, when he was the primary scoring option for a 30-win Kentucky team. After being a productive freshman, Washington returned for his sophomore season and got even better, averaging 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He led the 'Cats in scoring and rebounding.

Perhaps his biggest improvement was as a 3-point shooter. After making just 5-of-21 threes as a freshman, he was a 42 percent 3-point shooter on 2.2 attempts per game in 2019.

9. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2011-12)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was Anthony Davis' running mate in Kentucky's frontcourt when the Wildcats won the 2012 national title. The 6-7, 232-pound freshman averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while posting the second-highest usage rate on the team.

He was named to a Second Team All-American by two major outlets and a Third Team All-American by two others.

Kidd-Gilchrist was an efficient scorer around the rim, making 53 percent of his twos, he drew fouls at a very productive rate (a 58.9 percent free throw rate) and his 10.2 percent offensive rebounding rate was nationally ranked.

8. Julius Randle (2013-14)

Julius Randle was Kentucky's best player during the 2014 season, when he was named a Third Team All-American by the AP and NABC. He averaged 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game as one of two players who started all 40 games.

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Randle led Kentucky to the national championship game as a No. 8 seed. He had a double-double in the Wildcats' first four NCAA Tournament games and he scored in double figures in all six games, finishing with 89 points and 59 rebounds.

He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and a member of the All-SEC First Team.

7. Willie Cauley-Stein (2012-15)

While Cauley-Stein's per-game stats, especially offensively, may not jump off the page, he was a consensus First Team All-American and First Team All-SEC choice in 2015, when the Wildcats produced an undefeated regular season. He averaged 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.2 steals and 1.0 assist in just 25.9 minutes per game as a starter.

His greatest value arguably came on the defensive end. According to Sports Reference, Cauley-Stein's defensive rating was 80.0 in 2015, when Kentucky had the best defensive efficiency in the country.

But he was efficient on offense, too. Cauley-Stein's 115.8 offensive rating ranked 198th nationally, largely because he shot 57 percent from 2-point range.

6. Malik Monk (2016-17)

Only one Kentucky player in the last decade (Jamal Murray) averaged more points per game than Malik Monk, who put up 19.8 points per game. Monk, a 6-3 guard, had the ultimate green light as he attempted nearly 15 shots per game, seven of which were threes, on average. He was able to remain an efficient scorer despite his high number of shot attempts and 25.3 percent usage rate as he posted a 115.7 offensive rating that ranked among the top 300 nationally.

He was a consensus Second Team All-American and he won the Jerry West Award, which goes to the best shooting guard in the country.

Monk was a 39.7 percent 3-point shooter, he made nearly half of his attempts inside the arc and he knocked down 82 percent of his free throw attempts. Besides an uncharacteristic seven-day stretch in which he scored just a combined eight points in consecutive games against Texas A&M and Georgia, Monk scored in double figures in Kentucky's other 36 games. He delivered an unforgettable 47-point outburst against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic in a thrilling 103-100 Kentucky victory. Monk was 18-of-28 from the floor that night, which included eight 3-pointers.

He scored at least 20 points in exactly half of Kentucky's games and he never went more than three games all season without scoring at least 20.

5. Tyler Ulis (2014-16)

Tyler Ulis, the 5-9 former Kentucky point guard, had a tremendous freshman-to-sophomore jump, going from a reserve who averaged 5.6 points and 3.6 assists in 23.8 minutes per game on Kentucky's 2015 team that started the season 38-0 before losing in the Final Four to becoming an AP First Team All-American as a sophomore.

He averaged 17.3 points, 7.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as a starter during the 2016 season, when the Wildcats shared the SEC regular season title and won the conference tournament, ultimately earning a No. 4 seed.

Ulis' assist rate (34.3%) was more than 2.5 times his turnover rate (13.0%) and his 125.7 offensive rating ranked 34th nationally. He shot 34 percent from three on 4.6 attempts per game, 48 percent from two and 85 percent from the free throw line.

Ulis' play improved during the SEC regular season as he scored in double figures in 23 of Kentucky's final 24 games, including 13 games with at least 20 points. He scored a career-high 30 points in Kentucky's SEC Tournament championship game victory over Texas A&M and 27 in the Wildcats' season-ending loss to Indiana.

As a freshman on Kentucky's 2015 team that didn't lose until the Final Four, Ulis was the second-most efficient scorer, he shot 42 percent from three and he led the team in assist rate.

4. Karl-Anthony Towns (2014-15)

Karl-Anthony Towns was named a First Team All-SEC selection and a Second Team All-American by the AP and NABC in 2015, when he was the team's second-leading scorer (10.3 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.7 rpg) for a Kentucky team that made a run at being the first undefeated national champion since Indiana. What's even more impressive about his stats as a freshman is that he played just 21.1 minutes per game. Remember, this was Kentucky's "platoon" team that had seven players averaged at least 20 minutes per game and none played more than Willie Cauley-Stein's 25.9 minutes per game.

His per-40 numbers were 19.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game that season.

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Between Kentucky's deep and talented rotation, plus Towns' foul issues (he fouled out six times that season and had four fouls in eight other games), he scored in double figures just 19 times in 39 games but his two highest single-game point totals came in the NCAA Tournament, including a career-high 25 points against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.

Towns had by far the highest PER on the team – 31.4, which was 7.6 points higher than his closest teammate – and he had the best offensive rating (126.8) and defensive rating (78.1) among the Wildcats' rotation players, according to Sports Reference. Advanced stats loved Towns in 2015. He finished third in's national player of the year standings.

3. DeMarcus Cousins (2009-10)

Kentucky enrolled two of the best freshmen in the country in 2009 in DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, and the two teamed up to produce a 35-win season in which both players were named First Team All-Americans.

Cousins averaged 15.1 points and a team-high 9.8 rebounds per game while being Kentucky's focal point on offense. His 31.3 percent usage rate ranked 17th nationally and he drew an absurd 8.3 fouls per 40 minutes, which was the third-highest rate in the country as few defenders could contain the 6-11, 260-pound freshman.

He was an elite rebounder (19.6% offensive rebounding percentage, 2nd nationally; 25.1% defensive rebounding percentage, 28th nationally) and shot-blocker with a 7.5 percent block rate. In Kentucky's four NCAA Tournament games, he scored 55 points, grabbed 31 rebounds and had a four-block game and a four-steal game.

2. John Wall (2009-10)

The decade in college basketball started and ended with a pair of teammates being named AP First Team All-Americans. Duke's Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett earned the honor last season, just like Kentucky's John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins did in 2010.

Wall was a consensus First Team All-American (while Cousins was named a second teamer by many outlets) and he was named the USBWA's Freshman of the Year after averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

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On a Kentucky team with eight future NBA players, he led them all in scoring, helping Kentucky win the SEC East and the SEC Tournament, earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advance to the Elite Eight.

If you had to critique Wall's game his freshman season, you could highlight his turnovers (four per game) and 3-point shooting (32.5 percent on 3.1 attempts per game). In four NCAA Tournament games, Wall averaged 14.5 points, 7.8 assists and five rebounds per game while shooting 38.9 percent on threes and 56 percent on twos.

1. Anthony Davis (2011-12)

Davis was the centerpiece of Kentucky's last national championship team, averaging a double-double at 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the 2012 'Cats. He was a consensus First Team All-American and took home a handful of hardware – the AP, Naismith, Sporting News and Wooden national player of the year honors, among others, multiple defensive player of the year and freshman of the year honors, the Pete Newell Big Man Award and he was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Davis averaged 4.7 blocks per game, more assists (1.3) and steals (1.4) than turnovers (1.0) per game, and he shot a ridiculous 65 percent on twos. His 133.5 offensive rating ranked third nationally, as did his 13.8 block percentage, making him a truly elite player on both ends of the floor.

He wasn't yet a 3-point shooter (he shot just 3-of-20 for the season) but that's about the only hole you could poke in his game. What's even more remarkable is that Davis' usage rate ranked fifth on the team (19.3%) and fourth among Kentucky's freshmen, meaning the 2012 National Player of the Year could've put up even better numbers had he played a larger role offensively.

Also considered: Kevin Knox, Terrence Jones, De'Aaron Fox, Nerlens Noel, Brandon Knight, Patrick Patterson

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