John Calipari hired someone to send NBA advanced stats of Kentucky’s players

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Is the University of Kentucky trying to become the NBA’s 31st team?

The pipeline is already strong – 18 draft picks, including 14 first rounders and two No. 1 picks, in the last four drafts – but John Calipari is really pumping up Kentucky’s connection to the top pro league.

The coach will hold a two-day scouting combine in Lexington for NBA executives, and he’s hired Joel Justus as “director of men’s basketball analytics.”

What will Justus do? Among his responsibilities: Improve the draft stock of Kentucky’s many NBA prospects.

Calipari, via Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal (hat tip: Terrence Payne of CollegeBasketballTalk):

“If you’re playing 20 minutes, what will your NCAA stats look like? Terrible for NCAA stats, so we’re going to have big data stats, per-minute and efficiency stats that we can send to NBA teams.

He added: “Our NCAA team stats should look pretty good.”

This is probably more a recruiting ruse than anything. Kentucky’s depth hinders its players from posting gaudy traditional stats, but NBA teams have statisticians that understand that and can evaluate players anyway. For the most part, they don’t need Kentucky putting its own spin on the numbers.

But if Calipari can sell recruits on the idea Justus will sell NBA on them, all the better for Calipari.

More importantly, at least as far as the NBA is concerned, this could better prepare Calipari for a return to the league. NBA coaches typically work with analytical input, an area that is underdeveloped in the college game. Beyond supplying NBA teams with translated numbers, Justus will surely attempt to use his knowledge to improve Kentucky throughout the season. Calipari gaining the experience of working with Justus will help him translate to the NBA.

This offseason alone, Calipari was linked to the Cavaliers, Grizzlies and Knicks. Even though he failed with the Nets, his success at Memphis and Kentucky has put him back on the NBA radar.

I don’t know whether Calipari will ever jump back to the NBA. I’m sure he appreciates the interest. But this nudges him just a little closer – if he wants to go that route.