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Jeff Eisenberg

Did Kentucky produce the best draft class in history?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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When Orlando used the second-to-last pick in the first round to tab Daniel Orton as Dwight Howard's apprentice, it didn't just end the free-falling Kentucky center's slide down the NBA draft board.

It also ensured Kentucky would become the first program ever to produce five first-round picks in the same draft.

The lingering question now facing John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Orton is whether they can claim the title of the most successful draft class from one school.

Connecticut in 2006, North Carolina in 2005 and Duke in 1999 are the only programs ever to have four first-round picks in the same year, but some of those selections didn't pan out. Here's a look at the best-ever draft classes from one school ranked based on the NBA success of the players:

1. Florida, 2007 (Al Horford, third, Corey Brewer, seventh, Joakim Noah, ninth, Chris Richard, 41st, Taurean Green 52nd)

Comment: Not only did the back-to-back national champion Gators become the first team to produce three top-10 picks in the same draft, they also turned out some really good pros. Horford was an instant starter in Atlanta and averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds last season. Noah averaged a double-double in the regular season for Chicago and upped that to 15 and 13 in the playoffs. And even Corey Brewer rebounded from an injury-plagued second season to quietly average a career-high 13 points for Minnesota last season.

2. UNLV, 1991 (Larry Johnson, first, Stacey Augmon, ninth, Greg Anthony, 12th, George Ackles, 29th)

Comment: The most interesting thing about these former UNLV stars is that each of their greatest successes came in the first five years of their career. Johnson averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds during his five seasons in Charlotte, winning rookie of the year in 1992 and making the all-star team in '93 and '95. Augmon was a double-digit scorer in Atlanta before becoming a defensive stopper off the bench later in his career. And Anthony enjoyed his best years as a shooter coming off the bench for the perennially strong Knicks of the mid-1990s.

3. UConn, 2006 (Rudy Gay eighth, Hilton Armstrong 12th, Marcus Williams 22nd, Josh Boone, 23rd, Denham Brown, 40th)

Comment: Gay is the only star among this group, but at least the other three first-rounders have managed to stick in the league so far. Gay averaged 19.6 points and shot a career-best 46.6 percent from the field to lead the Grizzlies to the brink of playoff contention last season. Boone and Armstrong are reserve big men in New Jersey and New Orleans, while Williams backed up Mike Conley at point guard in Memphis.

4. Kentucky, 1996 (Antoine Walker, sixth, Tony Delk, 16th, Walter McCarty, 19th, Mark Pope, 52nd)

The only NBA star from this loaded national champion Kentucky team was Walker, but Delk and McCarty also enjoyed successful decade-long careers in the league. Before he made headlines for filing for bankruptcy earlier this year, Walker was best-known as a three-time all-star and key contributor on the 2006 NBA champion Miami Heat. The well-traveled Delk averaged 9.1 points in 10 seasons in the NBA, while McCarty enjoyed his best years coming off the bench in Boston.

5. Duke, 1999 (Elton Brand, first, Trajan Langdon, 11th, Corey Maggette, 13th, William Avery, 14th)

How you evaluate this Duke Class depends on whether you focus on the success of Brand and Maggette or the failures of Langdon and Avery. Brand was an all-star caliber big man for the Bulls and Clippers before injuries limited his success of late and Maggette has put up good numbers for bad teams throughout his career. On the other hand, Langdon and Avery were major busts, neither earning a second NBA contract after their rookie deals expired following their third seasons in the league.

6. North Carolina, 2005 (Marvin Williams, second, Raymond Felton, fifth, Sean May, 13th, Rashad McCants, 14th)

Comment: Give credit to Williams and Felton for becoming solid starters at the NBA level, but it's probably fair to say that not one of these four has lived up to expectations. May earned limited playing time off the bench in Sacramento last season. McCants did not play in the NBA last season after the Rockets cut him in training camp as a result of an abdominal problem.

Honorable Mention: North Carolina, 2009 (Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green); UCLA, 2008 (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute); Ohio State 2007 (Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook); Arizona, 2001 (Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Wright and Loren Woods), Georgetown, 1996 (Allen Iverson, Jerome Williams, Othella Harrington); Arkansas, 1992 (Oliver Miller, Lee Mayberry, Todd Day, Isaiah Morris); UCLA, 1971 (Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Steve Patterson)

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