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By Alex Forkner, guest columnist
As the farewell tour for the players responsible for the eighth national title banner hanging in Rupp Arena continues, questions abound concerning their next destination: the NBA.
Will Anthony Davis be condemned to play for the Charlotte Bobcats? Will UK players be selected with the top two picks, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist following Davis? Will Terrence Jones be a lottery selection?
And, the most tantalizing question of all, will June 28 be the biggest day in the history of the UK basketball program (if you’re looking at a Coach Cal calendar), when six Cats are selected in the first round?
That feat relies on where senior Darius Miller lands. Current mock drafts rate Miller as an early second-round pick. Of course, it’s possible for his stock to rise once pre-draft workouts begin. Calipari said he’s heard from teams hoping Miller falls that far.
“I expect six first-round picks (from the same school), for the first time in the history of our world,” Calipari told Rivals.com.
If Miller is able to sneak into the first 30 picks, he will be the first UK senior selected in the first round since Tayshaun Prince in 2002. Miller, the pride of Maysville, will also be the first native Kentuckian to play all four seasons in Lexington and be a first round pick since Scott Padgett was selected 28th overall by the Utah Jazz in 1999.
And who knows how long it could be before another thoroughbred baller walks across the podium on draft day. Considering the current one-and-done nature of college basketball, Miller could be one of the last of his kind.
So what teams picking late in the first could desire Darius?
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (25) – Miller could provide depth at the small forward position behind Omri Casspi and enough athleticism to spend some time at shooting guard, where the Cavs are showing some age. Anthony Parker, who is 36 and plays 25 minutes a game, is most likely nearing the end of his career.
2. Miami Heat (27) – Miller could be the heir to Shane Battier’s roster spot, who is in his 11th year in the league. Similarly built but with younger legs, Miller could provide the solid shooting and reliable defense Battier brings off the bench. Plus, Miller has proven he can contribute when surrounded by loads of talent.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (28) – The Thunder only have one true small forward, but that one is Kevin Durant. With Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden at shooting guard, the addition of Miller could make Oklahoma City the deepest backcourt in the league. Capable of guarding bigger players, Miller could be used in smaller, faster line-ups with Serge Ibaka at center.
Ultimately, a team in need of a solid player who can contribute in every phase of the game will take Miller. Whether that team will spend a first round pick on him is yet to be seen. The five early entrants are virtual first round locks, so it’s up to Miller to make history. And just like in the games at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Cal is hoping he shows up late. This time in the first round.