With the NBA Draft nearly upon us, we look at the most impactful Arizona Basketball NBA Draft Classes in program history.
Well, the NBA Draft is around the corner, and three Arizona Basketball players are near locks to be drafted, according to various mock drafts. And leading the way is Bennedict Mathurin, who is projected to be the lone lottery pick for the Wildcats.
However, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry are also gaining interest, as both Wildcats should find themselves selected in the coming weeks.
Three players in one draft from U of A is impressive enough as it is, as this has only happened a few times. The last time this happened, you would have to go back to, well, 2020 when Zeke Nnaji, Josh Green, and Nico Mannion were all selected.
So which previous Arizona Basketball NBA Draft Class was the most impactful in the League? Well, we take a quick look!
While Duke and Kentucky are accustomed to having multiple players drafted most years (to put this in perspective, Kentucky had three or more players drafted in every NBA draft from 2015-2020, including six in 2015), it has been a while since Arizona perpetually had several players drafted, and in large numbers.
With Mathurin, Dalen, and Koloko projected to be drafted this year, the Wildcats are in rare territory within the program’s history.
Since Lute Olson took over the program, there have only been four years of more than two selections, and here are the years in which that happened.
2020: Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion
2001: Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Loren Woods
1998: Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Miles Simon
1996: Joseph Blair, Ben Davis, Reggie Geary
It can be argued that draft classes with two players could have more impact than classes with three players, but looking back there are no two-player Arizona draft classes that would contend with the duos of Jefferson/Arenas or Bibby/Dickerson, respectively.
The former had a total of 28 seasons in the NBA collectively, while the latter had 20. I would submit that the 2001 draft class had the biggest impact in the NBA, especially when you factor in Arenas’ three All-Star Game selections and add in Loren Woods’ six years playing in the NBA.
We shall see how the 2020 and 2022 draft classes fare as things continue to shake out, and we wish the next generation of Cats in the NBA all the success!