Meaningless sports debates are the best. The best sports debates are those that will never be answered. Who would win in a game of one-on-one in his prime: Jordan or Kobe? Who is the greatest athlete of all time, besides Swaggy P? Better academic performance: Jameis Winston or UNC basketball players?
Kentucky might be the most talented college basketball team ever. Yes, ever. This robotic side dismantled fifth-ranked Kansas on Monday and looked unbeatable in doing so (*cue random attention-seeking Kentucky fan with too much time getting a 40-0 tattoo* ). Kentucky played ten deep, with subs you might see in an elementary school league where each player needs to play.
Philly lost its 11th straight to start the season in which they have all but admitted to trying to lose. The Sixers are not a bad team; they are an historically putrid excuse for a basketball team. They are the sole reason the NBA is scrambling to find an alternative to the current lottery system. This team might not win more than five games all season, and Eric Bledsoe believes that Kentucky would beat them on the court. Bledsoe, a former Wildcat and current member of the Suns, should have atleast an educated point of view on the argument. Yet he could not be more wrong.
The next 1000 words are completely hypothetical. This game, for so many reasons, is never gonna happen, but man it would be quite the game if the Philadelphia 76ers decided to answer the haters and challenge Kentucky to a game. Winner gets a spot in the NBA, loser goes to college – not to mention the substantial raise the Kentucky players would get. Here is the full scouting report for the matchup of the century:
Kentucky starts Andrew Harrison, with 5’9 Tyler Ulis ready on the bench when Cal switches teams. Ulis, a crafty passer, may eventually become the starter in Lexington, but the Freshman would be swallowed up against the tandem of Michael-Carter Williams and Tony Wroten. Sometimes people forget that these NBA players are being paid to be in prime physical condition, coached by the best in the world in every specificity: shooting, dribbling, passing, weight-lifting, etc. They are constantly in the weight room and any NBA player is going to have a significant advantage over a college kid in that regard.
The Sixers guards are physical, skilled, and would physically impose themselves on this game. Tony Wroten, a guard averaging 18 PPG against real, live NBA competition, is the backup on this team. Carter-Williams would be the best player on the floor by a mile.
Devin Booker might be really good someday really soon, but Kentucky could not afford for him to see the floor in this game. Aaron Harrison will be an NBA guard soon, but the 2014 ACC defensive player of the year and Sixers’ 1st team all-ACC KJ McDaniels would have him on lockdown. Jordan McRae and Pierre Jackson were both far above-average college athletes and still don’t see the court for the worst NBA team in 10 years.
Jason Richardson is old enough to be Devin Booker’s father, and could still lock him down. We’re still talking about grown men against 19-year old boys. Getting the picture?
Here is where things might start to get interesting. Jakarr Sampson, Hollis Thompson and Brandon Davies (yeah the same guy who got kicked out of BYU for… um… just Google it) hardly instill fear in anybody – college or pro – and Coach Cal would be wise to attack the Sixers here.
The only problem: who is going to be the one attacking? Marcus Lee should remain on the bench for this game, while UK features Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein (the double-hyphen duo) heavily. Towns and Cauley-Stein are just two of the towers Calipari can run out on the court on a given night. Alex Poythress is athletic, but he’s basically a less refined version of McDaniels. Trey Lyles has all the talent in the world, but he’s just not refined enough yet.
Herein lies Kentucky’s likely downfall; the lack of a go-to dominant scorer on the block to take over this game. They have no Julius Randle, Anthony Davis, or BOOOOGGGIIIEEEE (Sorry, force of habit) on this team – and that, above any other reason, might just be the end to Kentucky’s faint chances in this game. I have no doubt Kentucky can lock down Philly on the block, but on the other end they lack the offensive consistency to reciprocate.
Even if you consider Cauley-Stein a center, the Sixers’ centers, when healthy, would take it to UK. Joel Embiid, the most valuable player in the country last season, would score at will on Kentucky while he and Nerlens Noel erase all chances on the other end. (Side note: I can’t wait to watch them play together at full strength.) Dakari Johnson is going to be a first-round pick if only because he is one of a handful of seven-footers in the world able to walk and chew gum at the same time – sufficient skill-level to be an NBA player at that size. There really is nothing else to discuss here – Kentucky has athleticism and talent, but Philly has the better players by a wide margin.
Philadelphia wins this game by 50. MCW and Wroten combine for 15 steals and 50 points while Nerlens has 10 blocks. That’s hardly an indictment on Calipari’s Kentucky team – though I would argue that they are not the best martyrs for the “best NCAA team vs. worst NBA team” debate due to their youth and lack of a go-to scorer. Kentucky probably has four or five, maybe six NBA-level players; Philly has 10. This argument is stupid and always will be stupid – but, hey, what are sports without stupid arguments?