David Stern

David Stern is Wrong Again: Why High School Players Belong in the NBA Draft

In recent times, whenever the NBA has had to decide on a collective bargaining agreement, one of the major issues inevitably becomes the rules about draft eligibility. In 1995, Kevin Garnett drastically altered the landscape of every future draft class when he declared for the draft out of high school, got taken early in the 1st Round, and became an elite player in the league. After 1995, the number of high schoolers and college underclassmen declaring continued to increase, and, coincidentally or not, many believed the quality of play in the NBA was on the decline. In retrospect, it appears that the NBA simply had a dearth of elite talent during the late 1990’s into the mid-2000’s; not unlike the NBA in the 5-10 years before the arrival of Magic and Bird in 1979-80. However, the influx of young players who were not schooled in the game’s fundamentals led to the league forcing players to declare for the draft at 19, starting in 2006. This would require players to attend college for at least 1 year, or, as Brandon Jennings did, play overseas for a year before entering the draft.

Five years removed from this decision, this seemed as good a time as any to analyze whether “One and Dones” who play college ball for a year actually experience success at a higher rate than their, presumably, lesser prepared colleagues who took the straight out of high school route.

To do this, I took a look at the top high school graduating classes since Garnett’s (1995-2007). There are members of the class of 2008 in college, so I stopped with 2007. I compiled this by taking the top 20 rankings from Statsheet.com and added in any McDonald’s All-Americans who may not have been represented in the top 20. The reason I focused on the highest ranked high school players is that this is the group, overwhelmingly, most likely to jump to the draft early. The way I look at it, you should have a cross-section of players from each of these lists go on to NBA success, I was just curious which route was best:

1. High School to NBA
2. One and Done
3. 2+ years of college ball

Granted, the premier players, at least at the age of 18, in these classes will almost certainly opt for one of the first 2 options; but if the 2+ years of college end up succeeding at a similar rate, I would have to conclude that more years of college basketball actually DOES better prepare players for an NBA career.

Draft Pick Performance from 1995-2007

1. Shareef Abdur-Rahim#
2. Chauncey Billups
3. Vince Carter
4. Kevin Garnett*
5. Antawn Jamison
6. Stephon Marbury#
7. Paul Pierce

1. Ron Mercer

1. Robert Traylor

1. Derek Hood
2. Randell Jackson
3. Jelani McCoy
4. God Shammgod
5. Wayne Turner
6. Ryan Robertson

Never Made NBA
1. Louis Bullock
2. Kris Clack
3. Luther Clay
4. Taymon Domzalski
5. B.J. McKie
6. Sam Okey
7. Albert White

1. Kobe Bryant*
2. Mike Bibby
3. Richard Hamilton
4. Jermaine O’Neal*

1. Stephen Jackson
2. Tim Thomas#

1. Jason Collier

1. Corey Benjamin
2. Loren Woods
3. Mateen Cleaves

Never Made NBA
1. Glendon Alexander
2. Jerald Brown
3. Ed Cota
4. Willie Dersch
5. Lester Earl
6. Vassil Evtimov
7. Ronnie Fields
8. Charles Hathaway
9. Shaheen Holloway
10. Nate James
11. Michael Robinson
12. Winfred Walton


1. Ron Artest
2. Elton Brand
3. Baron Davis
4. Tracy McGrady*

1. Shane Battier
2. Brendan Haywood
3. Larry Hughes#
4. Lamar Odom

1. Jason Collins
2. Melvin Ely
3. Marcus Fizer
4. Dion Glover
5. Jarron CollinsFringe
1. Britton Johnson
2. Khalid El-Amin
3. Ryan Humphrey

Never Made NBA
1. Chris Burgess
2. Eric Chenowith
3. Kenny Gregory
4. Marcus Griffin
5. Tony Harris
6. Mark Karcher
7. Anthony Perry
8. Luke Recker


1. Rashard Lewis*

1. Al Harrington*
2. Quinton Richardson
3. Tayshaun Prince
4. Mike Miller
5. Corey Maggette#
6. Richard Jefferson

1. Dan Gadzuric
2. Stromile Swift
3. Joel Pryzbilla
4. Keyon Dooling

1. Korleone Young*
2. Vincent Yarbrough
3. Frank Williams
4. Erick Barkley

Never Made NBA
1. Ronald Curry
2. JaRon Rush
3. Jason Capel
4. Dane Fife
5. Kevin Lyde
6. Ray Young
7. Cory Hightower
8. Ted Dupay
9. Kris Lang
10. Danny Miller
11. Jeff Boschee


1. Carlos Boozer

1. Jay Williams
2. Jason Richardson
3. Nick Collison
4. Mike Dunleavy

1. Keith Bogans
2. Jonathan Bender*
3. Jason Kapono
4. Damien Wilkins
5. DerMarr Johnson#
6. Brian Cook
7. Casey Jacobsen

1. Donnell Harvey#
2. Joe Forte
3. Leon Smith*
4. Kenny Satterfield

Never Made NBA
1. Marvin Stone
2. LaVell Blanchard
3. Brett Nelson
4. Jason Parker
5. Casey Sanders
6. Jason Gardner
7. Majestic Mapp

1. Zach Randolph#
2. Gerald Wallace#

1. Darius Miles*
2. Chris Duhon
3. DeShawn Stevenson*
4. Luke Ridnour

1. Eddie Griffin#
2. Jared Jeffries

1. Omar Cook#
2. Andre Brown
3. Alton Ford#
4. Andre Barrett

Never Made NBA
1. Marcus Taylor
2. Mario Austin
3. Taliek Brown
4. Jerome Harper
5. Darius Rice
6. Abdou Diame
7. Imari Sawyer
8. Cedrick Banks
9. Rolando Howell
10. Travon Bryant
11. Garner Meads
12. Scott Hazelton
13. Scooter Sherrill
14. Brian Boddicker
15. Neil Fingelton

1. David Lee
2. Tyson Chandler*

1. Eddy Curry*
2. Mo Williams
3. T.J. Ford

1. Dajuan Wagner#
2. Kwame Brown*
3. DaSagna Diop*
4. Josh Childress

1. Julius Hodge
2. David Harrison
3. Jawad Williams
4. Aaron Miles
5. Cedric Bozeman
6. Wayne Simien
7. James White
8. Daniel Ewing

Never Made NBA
1. Kelvin Torbert
2. Ousmane Cisse*
3. Rick Rickert
4. Carlos Hurt
5. Jonathan Hargett
6. Rashaad Carruth
7. Anthony Richardson
8. Chris Thomas

1. Amare Stoudamire*
2. Carmelo Anthony#
3. Chris Bosh#

1. Raymond Felton

1. Rashad McCants
2. Shelden Williams
3. J.J. Redick
4. Antoine Wright

1. Paul Davis
2. Sean May
3. Shavlik Randolph
4. Dee Brown
5. Bracey Wright
6. Anthony Roberson
7. Hassan Adams

Never Made NBA
1. Jason Fraser
2. DeAngelo Collins*
3. Evan Burns#
4. Daniel Horton
5. Chris Rodgers
6. Sean Dockery
7. Brad Buckman
8. Elijah Ingram
9. Travis Garrison
10. Michael Thompson
11. Eric Williams
12. Torin Francis

1. LeBron James*
2. Luol Deng#
3. Chris Paul

1. Kendrick Perkins*
2. Kris Humphries#
3. Travis Outlaw*
4. Charlie Villanueva
5. Trevor Ariza#
6. Aaron Brooks

1. Shannon Brown
2. Leon Powe
3. Brandon Bass
4. Linas Kleiza

1. Von Wafer
2. J.R. Giddens
3. Ndudi Ebi
4. James Lang*
5. Mustafa Shakur
6. Jackie Butler*

Never Made NBA
1. Brian Butch
2. David Padgett
3. Olu Famutimi
4. Mike Jones
5. Drew Lavender
6. Brandon Cotton
7. Ivan Harris

1. Dwight Howard*
2. Josh Smith*
3. Rudy Gay
4. LaMarcus Aldridge
5. Rajon Rondo#

1. Al Jefferson*
2. Marvin Williams#
3. J.R. Smith
4. Corey Brewer
5. Arron Afflalo

1. Shaun Livingston*
2. Sebastian Telfair*
3. Glen Davis
4. D.J. White
5. Daniel Gibson
6. Jordan Farmar

1. Robert Swift*
2. Randolph Morris#
3. Malik Hairston
4. Joe Crawford
5. Darius Washington
6. DeMarcus Nelson

Never Made NBA
1. Juan Palacios
2. Jawann McClellan
3. Mike Williams

1. Monta Ellis*
2. Andrew Bynum*Starter
1. Louis Williams*
2. Mario Chalmers
3. Andray Blatche*

1. Josh McRoberts
2. Martell Webster*
3. Tyler Hansbrough
4. C.J. Miles*
5. Amir Johnson*
6. Gerald Green*

1. Julian Wright
2. Danny Green
3. Jon Brockman

Never Made NBA
1. Keith Brumbaugh
2. Richard Hendrix
3. Tasmin Mitchell
4. Greg Paulus
5. Brandon Costner
6. Byron Eaton
7. Micah Downs
8. Eric Devendorf
9. Korvotney Barber
10. Bobby Frasor
11. Luke Zeller
12. Eric Boateng


1. Kevin Durant#Starter
1. Greg Oden#
2. Spencer Hawes
3. Ty Lawson
4. Thaddeus Young#
5. Brook Lopez
6. Gerald Henderson
7. Mike Conley#
8. D.J. Augustin

1. Brandan Wright#
2. Chase Budinger
3. Wayne Ellington
4. Darrell Arthur
5. Jarvaris Crittenden#
6. Daequan Cook#
7. Robin Lopez

1. Damion James
2. Vernon Macklin
3. Derrick Caracter
4. Earl Clark
5. Sherron Collins
6. Lance Thomas

Never Made NBA
1. Stanley Robinson
2. Jon Scheyer
3. Scottie Reynolds
4. James Keefe
5. Tweety Carter


1. Kevin Love#
2. Derrick Rose#
3. Blake Griffin
4. James HardenStarter
1. O.J. Mayo#
2. Eric Gordon#
3. Michael Beasley#
4. DeAndre Jordan#

1. Jerryd Bayless#
2. J.J. Hickson#
3. Patrick Patterson
4. Kosta Koufos#
5. Anthony Randolph#
6. Jonny Flynn
7. James Anderson

1. Donte Greene#
2. Nolan Smith
3. Cole Aldrich
4. Chris Wright
5. Gani Lawal

Never Made NBA
1. Kyle Singler
2. Nick Calathes
3. Austin Freeman
4. Taylor King
5. Corey Stokes
6. Jai Lucas


*Entered draft after high school
#Entered draft after freshman year

Of the top-ranked players in each high school graduating class from 1995-2007:
• 12% went on to become All-Star players
• 28% became solid starters
• 45% became solid NBA contributors
• 64% played at least 1 NBA game

Of the 208 of these players who made the NBA, 35 entered the draft out of high school, 39 entered the draft after their freshman season, and the other 134 played 2+ years of college basketball. Here’s how these groups broke down:

Players who entered the draft straight out of high school from 1995-2005:
• 34% went on to become All-Star players
• 60% became solid starters
• 86% became solid NBA contributors

Players who entered the draft after their freshman year from 1995-2007:
• 28% went on to become All-Star players
• 62% became solid starters
• 87% became solid NBA contributors

Players who played 2+ years of college basketball, and were ranked in the top 22-27 of their class their senior year of high school, and played at least 1 NBA game from 1995-2007:
• 12% went on to become All-Star players
• 35% became solid starters
• 65% became solid NBA contributors

A few conclusions:
1. The flaming out of players who entered the NBA straight out of high school appears to have been overblown pretty significantly. While some of these players may very well have become better players and been in a better position to succeed if they attended at least one year of college, this is impossible to determine. The numbers seem to indicate that these players and their “One and Done” brethren succeed at almost identical rates.

2. The “One and Done” era (2006-Present) only has 2 seasons of truly useable data, seeing the jury is still very much out on members of the class of 2008 and 2009; even the 2006 and 2007 players can drastically alter their NBA careers over the next few years. The only meaningful statistic I could pull, and it’s an awfully small sample size, is that 42% of the top high school players in the high school entry era (1995-2005) became solid NBA contributors, while that number for 2006-07 is 58%. I’m not sure this indicates that players are entering the NBA better prepared to succeed, but if that number over a 5-6 year span stayed around that 58%, it COULD indicate that players are better prepared.

3. The starter and All-Star numbers convincingly show that these young players who enter the draft are very much worth the risk. Players who stay in college 2+ years are WAY less likely to become All-Stars or starters. Seeing this is exactly what NBA GMs seek in the draft, it goes as no surprise that teams will occasionally reach and/or take a huge chance on a very inexperienced player early in the draft.

4. The fact that 36% of VERY highly regarded high school players never play a SINGLE GAME in the NBA certainly does hammer home the value of having a backup plan when pursuing an NBA career. I have to imagine that all of those players, when fielding hundreds of recruiting calls for 2-3 years, never dreamed that they would never play a single game for an NBA team.

5.  I also understand that focusing on ONLY the highest rated players leaving high school may work against the 2-4 year college players a bit statistically, as the players who improve significantly over that time are simply not measured in this exercise.  However, I don’t think that the success stories, when combined with all the additional fringe players that would also be accounted for, would make a major statistical difference.

As much as I like seeing highly-regarded high school players test themselves against top-flight college competition before jumping to the NBA, the numbers seem to prove that this is simply not necessary. It also makes a mockery of higher education when students with NO plans of pursuing a degree associate themselves with a college for one season simply to be in compliance with an NBA policy. Going overseas like Brandon Jennings or Jeremy Tyler almost seems like the more honest approach. Next time the NBA and David Stern tweak their draft eligibility practices, it seems to me that revisiting allowing high school graduates to make themselves eligible may be worth revisiting. My bold prediction is that an obvious NBA-ready talent (such as LeBron James) will bring this issue back to the forefront. The top-ranked high school players since the policy change (Greg Oden, O.J. Mayo, Brandon Jennings, Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis) did not flash the ability to dominate the NBA straight out of high school in the fashion that LeBron did. I will also say that for anybody but exceptional talents (LeBron, Garnett, Dwight Howard, etc.) with excellent maturity and work ethic, playing at least 1 year of college ball may still be the way to go. However, in the near future, the NBA should once again leave this decision to the player’s and their families and trust that their organization’s are intelligent enough to identify which players are worth the risk.

Related posts:

  1. Will A Miami Heat Championship Ruin David Stern’s NBA?
  2. The Role of the Enforcer in David Stern’s “G” Rated NBA Playoffs
  3. Why Isn’t Kemba Walker Getting More NBA Draft Love?
  4. 2011 NBA Draft Questions
  5. Brown Mamba’s 2011 NBA Draft Winners and Losers


2 Responses to “David Stern is Wrong Again: Why High School Players Belong in the NBA Draft”

  1. Wheres allen iverson, ray allen and nash in the 96 draft. .are these the years they were drafted of the year the played in the mcdonalds game?

    Posted by freddie food | March 13, 2012, 7:58 am
  2. Ok I get it… I read the list first instead of reading the article…you know how people love lists…good read

    Posted by freddie food | March 13, 2012, 8:01 am

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