Programs that deliver NBA talent

Kentucky and Duke among nation's best at 'producing' next-level players

Updated: January 21, 2013, 12:45 PM ET
By Jay Bilas and Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

Calipari/KrzyzewskiGetty ImagesMike Krzyzewski and John Calipari have recruited and developed dozens of NBA players.

During college hoops season, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford will start the week off by addressing a big question, evaluating NBA prospects on the rise and looking ahead to the next week.

The discussion: Which college basketball programs are the best at producing NBA-level talent?

Jay Bilas: I may differ with some of my colleagues on this issue. To some, it may be a distinction without a difference, but I do not believe that, generally, colleges or college coaches "produce" or "develop" pros or NBA players. Rather, I believe colleges and coaches simply recruit them, and that most NBA players would have been in the NBA no matter what school they chose to attend, or what coach they decided to play for.

Undoubtedly, many players get better -- and even blossom beyond all expectations -- during their time in college. And some coaches may indeed be more proficient teachers, motivators and communicators. But the narrative that some coaches are especially proficient at developing NBA talent falls short of reality for me. I attend a ton of practices and workouts each season, and I like to think that I have spent a fair amount of time studying the game. I see very little difference in the drill work and skill development of the different coaches I watch. Usually, the development of a player has more to do with the extra work that player puts in rather than the development work done with the coaching staff.

No coach has had more NBA talent in his program over the past three years than Kentucky's John Calipari. Yet I do not believe that Calipari "developed" or "produced" that talent. He recruited it. Of course, he also taught, motivated and coached that NBA talent very well, but the players Calipari recruited would have been pros in any other program. Calipari has had far more NBA players at Kentucky than he had at Memphis. So are we to believe that he didn't do as good of a job developing or producing that talent? Of course not.

The common thread of the players who have come out of the following five programs is that they have been coached and held to a high standard every day in practice, and are well prepared to step into the NBA and have a chance to compete without having it be a shock to their systems.

1. Kentucky Wildcats


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Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst

Chad Ford | email

Senior Writer, NBA Insider