By Jon Rothstein
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Anthony Davis may be the consensus number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft but John Calipari believes another one of his players should be second.
Speaking earlier this week in New York, Calipari said the team that winds up with the second selection in June’s draft should be thinking about one thing and one person — Wildcats’ forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“If he isn’t taken by the team that picks second, it’ll be a mistake”, Calipari said when asked about Kidd-Gilchrist.
An integral piece to Kentucky’s championship run, Kidd-Gilchrist demonstrated tremendous toughness and grit throughout the college basketball season and seems instantly ready to contribute on an NBA roster. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during his one year in Lexington.
“The thing about Michael that’s amazing is he’s only 18 years old,” Calipari said. “He gets it. He came to me before the start of the SEC Championship Game and said that he wanted to come off the bench because he thought it would help Darius Miller play better if Darius started and he came off the bench. That’s the type of sacrifice this kid made. I’ve never had a team with so many talented players sacrifice so much and Michael is a perfect example of that.”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive prowess is what makes him likely to be a factor in the league from day one of his first training camp. Throughout last season at Kentucky, Calipari would often put the small forward on opposing team’s point guards to slow down the opponent’s offense and limit their transition opportunities. In the Final Four, Kidd-Gilchrist guarded Louisville’s Peyton Siva and Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor, both of whom are floor generals.
“He’s going to guard everyone, every position,” Calipari said of Kidd-Gilchrist. “He’s proven he’s quick enough to guard point guards and he’s strong enough to guard power forwards. He’ll also be used on wings as he was in college. He’s going to be a tremendous defender in the NBA.”
As many as six Kentucky players could be selected in the first round of this year’s draft.
Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist are locks for the early part of the lottery while forward Terrence Jones also seems likely to be a Top 15 pick. Three of the Wildcats’ guards –Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller could be selected anywhere from 15 to 30.
Kentucky had a record five first round selections in 2010.