Before we get to Daniel Orton, I just watched ESPN’s promo leading out of its first-round draft coverage. It featured all 5 University of Kentucky first-round draftees sharing words to say that ESPN’s coverage of the draft would be right back. You can assume that it immediately will become part of UK’s recruiting video.
Earlier tonight, John Calipari said this was the greatest day in UK basketball history. That, of course, is ludicrous. But I’d say it is the greatest day in Calipari’s hoops history. With four freshmen taken in the first round (and five players overall), he now owns the most powerful recruiting sales pitch in the nation. Now to Orton …
It was getting pretty late into the first round and you wondered if Daniel Orton, the backup center who played behind DeMarcus Cousins last season at UK, would be able to stick in the first round.
He just made it.
Orlando took Orton with the 29th pick of the draft, giving UK a new record — most players from one team taken in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Orton raised eyebrows when he bolted after playing so little. But he quickly started raising eyebrows with his workouts, and with his statements.
He hasn’t exactly been complimentary of UK since his departure, and reportedly didn’t finish his required coursework after leaving, which hurts the program’s NCAA academic standing.
But as a first-round pick he now has guaranteed money, and he’ll work with a team within striking distance of the NBA Finals, though he’ll be playing behind Dwight Howard.
When asked what he saw in Orton that made Orlando take him, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy told ESPN: “I didn’t see much, because I wasn’t the guy making the pick. . . . Our scouts made the pick, but they saw a big physical guy who is a very good defender, good rebounder and good passer and a guy with great upside that they figured if he stayed in school two more years would have been a borderline lottery guy. He has a lot of work yet to do but he’ll get pretty good competition in our practices.”
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said of Orton: “He’s being taken on potential. Wide body, big and strong in the post. You wonnder a little bit, is he better than a guy like Randolph Morris who came out of Kentucky? A lot of people think he may not be. but he has some potential to be better down the line. He needs to get his body in better shape. His body fat was about 14 percent when it was measured.”