Calipari lobbying for Jamal Murray to go No. 1 in NBA Draft

Guard Jamal Murray shoots a jump shot during the NCAA Tournament second round game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Taylor Pence | Staff.

Kevin Erpenbeck

As he always does, Kentucky head coach John Calipari is raving about another former player of his in the hopes that they’ll be selected earlier in the upcoming NBA draft.  

Calipari appeared on ESPNU’s College Basketball podcast with Andy Katz and Seth Greenburg on Wednesday to discuss a slew of topics, including why he thinks former UK guard Jamal Murray should be selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft on June 23.

The Philadelphia 76ers have the first pick in the draft after winning the draft lottery on May 17 and are projected to take LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram. But Calipari said Murray would be “the safe No. 1” over Simmons and Ingram.

“He can stretch the defense, play off the ball and the NBA is going positionless,” Calipari said in his lobby for Murray. “He can flat-out shoot the ball and is physically ready.”

Calipari also added that he’s had No. 1 picks in the past that have had extreme success in the league, including Derrick Rose, who was the NBA MVP in 2011, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who was named the rookie of the year this season.

“If you’re going to take the No. 1 pick, you probably should do it from our program,” Calipari said.

Kentucky has had three players selected No. 1 overall during Calipari’s tenure (John Wall, Anthony Davis and Towns). Rose was first former player of Calipari’s to be selected No. 1 after playing for the Hall of Fame coach at Memphis during the 2007-08 season. 

Murray is projected by many to be a top-10 pick and has been projected to go as high as No. 3 to the Boston Celtics. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Kitchener, Ontario, worked out for Boston on Wednesday as he hit a Celtics workout record 79 of 100 3-pointers during the session.

“I believe I’m the best player in the draft, but every team needs what they need,” Murray said after the workout.

But Philadelphia may not be the best place for Murray to land. The 76ers have a combined record of 47-199 over the last three seasons. The team has implemented the “tanking policy” in hopes of securing a high first-round pick in the draft lottery by losing most of their games each season.

However, Philadelphia has not much success with its first-round selections in the past. Jahlil Okafor, who was the team’s No. 1 pick last year, had a rookie season hampered by off-the-court issues, including being stopped by police for extreme speeding and being involved in two separate street fights. Okafor’s season was also cut short in early March after it was discovered he had a small tear of the meniscus in his right knee.

Other recent No. 1 picks of the 76ers like Nerlens Noel (2013) and Joel Embiid (2014) have suffered numerous injuries in their young careers and have missed more games than they’ve played. Michael Carter-Williams, the team’s other No. 1 pick in 2013, was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks one year after winning the Rookie of the Year award with Philadelphia.

Only three players on the 76ers’ roster are over the age of 25. 

But Calipari believes Philadelphia need a player like Murray on their team. Either that, or he just really wants to see another player of his go No. 1.

“What does Philadelphia need more than anything else? Someone to make shots and guard play,” Calipari said. “I am biased. I want my guy. But he can play multiple positions, he can physically step in and play right away. He can play the point. He can score in bunches.”