Which College Has Produced the Best NBA Talent Over the Last Decade?
Kentucky. Kansas. Duke. Syracuse. UConn.
What do these blue bloods of college basketball have in common?
Well, aside from lording over the "amateur" hoops landscape, they have all made a habit of stocking and re-stocking the professional ranks by graduating their best players into the NBA draft.
That trend figures to continue on Thursday, particularly for UK, which will likely see as many as six of its own checking in among the lucky 60 who will walk away from Newark as the league's newest employees.
But where do those schools rank among the most prolific hoop-grooming institutions over the last decade? To find out, I pored through the honor rolls of the top basketball colleges (thank you Basketball Reference) and put together a list of each school's draftees from the past 10 years. I then assigned point values to a slew of individual accomplishments and tallied them up, as follows:
One point for each player drafted
One point for each player drafted in the lottery
One point for each NBA season in which a player has played
Two points for each All-Rookie team selection
Five points for each Rookie of the Year
Three points for each All-Defensive team selection
Four points for each All-Star team selection
Four points for each time a player leads the league in points, rebounds or assists
Five points for each All-NBA team selection
Five points for each secondary award (i.e. Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, etc.)
10 points for each Most Valuable Player award
It's not a perfect system, to be sure, but it does favor quality over quantity. After all, the aim is to determine which school turns out the best NBA talent, not the most.
Here, then, are the top 10 "NBA factories" in the country, according to my admittedly imperfect point system, with each school's best, most forgettable, most surprising and most disappointing players listed.
Before we get to the top 10 (or, as it turned out, the top 11), let's give a quick shout-out to the schools that just missed the list.
Florida (73 Points)
Best Player: Al Horford (third pick in the 2007 draft, two-time All-Star)
Most Forgettable Player: Christian Drejer (second-round pick in 2004, never played in the NBA)
Most Surprising Player: David Lee (30th pick in 2005 draft, one-time All-Star)
Most Disappointing Player: Corey Brewer (seventh pick in the 2007 draft, no individual accolades)
Arizona (69 Points)
Best Player: Andre Iguodala (ninth pick in 2004 draft, one-time All-Star and one-time All-Defensive selection)
Most Forgettable Player: Hassan Adams (second-round pick in 2006 draft, spent two seasons in the NBA)
Most Surprising Player: Chase Budinger (second-round pick in 2009 draft, has averaged 9.4 points per game in three NBA seasons)
Most Disappointing Player: Jordan Hill (eighth pick in 2009 draft, has started 19 games in four seasons)
Washington (65 Points)
Best Player: Brandon Roy (sixth pick in 2006 draft, three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA performer and Rookie of the Year)
Most Forgettable Player: Bobby Jones (second-round pick in the 2006 draft, played for six teams in two NBA seasons)
Most Surprising Player: Isaiah Thomas (last pick in the 2011 draft, was selected to the All-Rookie second team)
Most Disappointing Player: Spencer Hawes (10th pick in the 2007 draft, no individual accolades)
Illinois (65 Points)
Best Player: Deron Williams (third pick in the 2005 draft, three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA performer)
Most Forgettable Player: James Augustine (second-round pick in the 2006 draft, appeared in 27 games across two NBA seasons)
Most Surprising Player: Brian Cook (24th pick in the 2003 draft, has spent nine seasons in the NBA)
Most Disappointing Player: Frank Williams (25th pick in the 2002 draft, started three games in three NBA seasons)
North Carolina (62 Points)
Best Player: Ty Lawson (18th pick in the 2009 draft, starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets)
Most Forgettable Player: David Noel (second-round pick in the 2006 draft, spent one season in the NBA)
Most Surprising Player: Danny Green (second-round pick in 2009 draft, starting guard for the San Antonio Spurs)
Most Disappointing Player: Marvin Williams (or Raymond Felton...or Sean May...or Rashad McCants). Take your pick.
T-10. Memphis and Georgia Tech (78 Points)
Eight players drafted (three in the lottery), two Rookies of the Year, two All-Rookie selections, one MVP, one All-NBA selection, three All-Star appearances.
Memphis finds itself on the edge of the top-10 cliff, thanks in large part to the exploits of Derrick Rose. He is the only player drafted out of college since 2002 to have been named the league MVP. Throw in his Rookie of the Year award, his All-NBA and All-Rookie selections, his three All-Star appearances, his four NBA seasons and, of course, the fact that he was drafted first overall in the 2008 NBA draft, and Rose accounts for 30 points.
As in, nearly 40 percent of all points accumulated by former Tigers.
Clearly, he is the best player to come out of the program in the last 10 years.
Memphis would have more notches in its tally if not for Tyreke Evans' failure to follow up his spectacular rookie season with anything All-Star-worthy.
Still, 'Reke is far from the most disappointing Tiger. That dubious honor belongs to Dajuan Wagner, who was the sixth overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002 and was out of the NBA entirely by 2007.
Memphis hasn't had many, if any, positive surprises come through the NBA, though Shawne Williams, the 17th pick in the 2006 draft, has been a double-figure scorer in three of his five pro campaigns. As for the title of most forgettable, Robert Dozier takes the cake, seeing as how he never showed up to the NBA to have a slice.
Seven players drafted (three in the lottery), four All-Rookie selections, one All-NBA selection, seven All-Star appearances.
Like Memphis, Georgia Tech is largely predicated on the success of one superstar, though Chris Bosh's role in the Ramblin' Wreck's point total is even more overstated. The Boshtrich picked up 46 points for his Yellow Jackets, 28 of which came from his seven All-Star appearances alone.
Quality hasn't been a concern for Tech, not with the likes of Iman Shumpert, Derrick Favors and Thaddeus Young having stopped over in Atlanta before moving on to the NBA.
Jarrett Jack is the biggest surprise of all, though. The 22nd pick in the 2005 draft has fashioned a productive seven-year career as a versatile point guard, and doesn't seem likely to drop out of the league any time soon.
Javaris Crittenton, the 19th pick in the 2007 draft, would be the most forgettable GT alum, but his role in the Gilbert Arenas gun scandal and subsequent murder charge have assured that he is the most disappointing Jacket of the last decade. As such, the label of "most forgettable" will instead be applied to Gani Lawal, who is already "Gani" from the league after coming in as a second-round pick in 2010.
9. Kansas (86 Points)
Fifteen players drafted (nine in the lottery), three All-Rookie selections, one All-Defensive selection.
Kansas' draft contingent has been long on quantity and short on quality since 2002, which just happened to be Roy Williams' last year in Lawrence. Not one Jayhawk drafted in that time period has played in the All-Star Game, much less been chosen for an All-NBA team.
Kirk Hinrich is the most decorated of his KU brethren, with All-Rookie and All-Defensive selections to his name since coming into the NBA as the seventh pick in the 2003 draft.
Mario Chalmers isn't the only Jayhawk to win a ring with the Miami Heat (Wayne Simien did in 2006), though the fact that he's managed to stick as a starter after arriving as a second-rounder in 2008 makes him positively surprising.
On the flip side, Cole Aldrich already looks like a complete bust after entering the league as the 11th pick in the 2010 draft.
8. Syracuse (89 Points)
Seven players drafted (three in the lottery), three All-Rookie selections, five All-NBA selections, five All-Star appearances.
Jim Boeheim has turned out his fair share of solid pros during his 36 seasons as the head coach at Syracuse, none more spectacular than Carmelo Anthony. 'Melo led the Orange to their first NCAA tournament title before playing in five All-Star Games and cracking five All-NBA teams as a member of the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks.
Anthony arguably deserved to be the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year, as well—after leading the Nuggets to their first playoff appearance in eight seasons—but was ultimately superseded by LeBron James.
'Cuse hasn't turned out many surprises, though it is somewhat surprising that Hakim Warrick, 'Melo's college teammate, has been a solid role player in the seven years he has spent in the NBA.
It may be too soon to call Jonny Flynn (the sixth pick in 2009) and Wesley Johnson (the fourth pick in 2010) "busts," though Flynn has played for three teams in three seasons and Johnson, a supposed shooter, has yet to hit the broadside of a barn in Minnesota.
I'll give you a nickel if you can recall who Demetris Nichols is and when he shuffled into and out of the league.
7. Kentucky (106 Points)
Thirteen players drafted (four in the lottery), four All-Rookie selections, eight All-Defensive selections, one All-NBA selection, three All-Star appearances.
Kentucky figures to find itself much closer to the top of this list in just a few years, especially once Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the rest of the 2012 champions establish themselves as pros.
For now, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Brandon Knight represent a solid foundation, though none of those three belongs in the conversation as the best Wildcat just yet—that is, unless something should impede Rajon Rondo's superstar-caliber career.
Rondo, the 21st pick in the 2006 draft, was almost an afterthought on the 2008 Boston Celtics squad that won the NBA title, but has since emerged as the most important player amongst the league's most storied franchise.
Playing in three All-Star Games and being named an All-NBA defender will do that for a fellow's standing in the world of basketball.
Rondo might well be considered the most surprising Wildcat for emerging as a perennial All-Star after stepping into the NBA as a late first-rounder, but in the interest of parity, I'll instead bestow that honor upon Tayshaun Prince.
The lanky UK alum was the Pistons' choice with the 23rd pick in the 2002 draft and played an integral part on the team that brought the title back to Detroit in 2004. Since then, Prince has been the king of defense at The Palace, sneaking his way onto four consecutive All-Defensive teams between 2004 and 2008.
Daniel Orton checks in as the biggest disappointment in more ways than one. The 6'10" behemoth left Lexington after one season to become a first-round backup to Dwight Howard's backup with the Orlando Magic.
This would also make him the most forgettable 'Cat of the last decade if not for Joe Crawford's failure to stick in the league beyond his rookie season—much less without being mistaken for a bald official with a quick whistle.
6. Marquette (107 Points)
Five players drafted (one in the lottery), one All-Rookie selection, three All-Defensive selections, seven All-NBA selections, eight All-Star appearances.
Was Dwyane Wade lucky to have spent his formative collegiate years at Marquette or were the Golden Eagles fortunate to have had a future NBA superstar on their hands?
Either way, Wade has since come away as the most decorated collegian to hit the professional ranks in the last decade. Eight trips to the All-Star Game, seven All-NBA and three All-Defensive selections along with two titles stand as a collective testament to the wisdom of the Miami Heat's front office in taking Wade with the fifth pick in the oft-celebrated 2003 draft.
Marquette can also take credit for producing Wesley Matthews, one of the better undrafted pros in recent memory. Matthews parlayed a solid rookie season with the Utah Jazz into a five-year, $34 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, for whom he's started at shooting guard since the retirement of Brandon Roy.
Steve Novak, a second-round pick out of Marquette in 2006, shocked the basketball world with his three-point marksmanship as a member of the New York Knicks this past season. On the other end of the spectrum, Lazar Hayward has been little more than a garbage man since arriving as the 30th pick in the 2010 draft, with a stint in the D-League in between.
And, frankly, anyone who remembers Travis Diener for anything other than his days as Wade's teammate under Tom Crean, has to be a diehard NBA fanatic.
T4. Wake Forest (108 Points)
Six players drafted (two in the lottery), two All-Rookie selections, four All-Defensive selections, four All-NBA selections, six All-Star appearances, two assist titles.
As far as decorated collegians are concerned, Chris Paul isn't far behind D-Wade, at least in terms of purely individual accolades. He has established himself as the best point guard on the planet in the seven seasons since the New Orleans Hornets made him the fourth pick in the 2005 draft. Never was that clearer than during the 2011-'12 campaign when he elevated the Los Angeles Clippers from league laughingstock to a second-round playoff team.
Josh Howard ranks as the most surprising Demon Deacon of the last decade. Howard made the All-Rookie second team in 2004 and played his way into the 2007 All-Star Game after the Dallas Mavericks scooped him up with the 29th pick in the 2003 draft. A devastating knee injury has since put a damper on Howard's career, but only after six straight seasons in which he averaged double-figures in scoring.
James Johnson looks like the biggest bust to come out of Winston-Salem since 2002, though it may be too soon to give up on a kid who was the 16th pick in the draft just three years ago. As for the most forgettable, Darius Songaila managed to stick in the league for eight seasons, though he was never a household name by any stretch of the imagination.
T4. Connecticut (108 Points)
Thirteen players drafted (eight in the lottery), five All-Rookie teams, one Rookie of the Year, one Sixth Man of the Year, five All-Star appearances.
Picking out the best Connecticut alum of the last 10 years is a tricky endeavor. Rudy Gay is probably the most relevant, and Emeka Okafor was named Rookie of the Year in 2005, ahead of Dwight Howard.
But Caron Butler stands out as Jim Calhoun's most accomplished product of the last decade. He is the only newly minted Husky to play in the All-Star Game in that span and was among the NBA's most underrated players during his time with the Washington Wizards.
Truth be told, finding a positive surprise among UConn's recent draftees is the tallest task of all, what with the long list of busts who have been prepped in Storrs. To call Hasheem Thabeet the most disappointing Husky is somewhat disingenuous, since anyone with half a mind for basketball could have predicted he would be nothing more than a giant stiff in the pros. But the fact that he was the second pick in the 2009 draft—ahead of James Harden, Ricky Rubio and Tyreke Evans—is more than enough to earn him that dubious distinction.
While we're at it, let's take a moment to acknowledge Denham Brown and Stanley Robinson, both of whom were second-round picks (in 2006 and 2010, respectively), but neither of whom managed to play a single minute in the NBA.
3. Duke (120 Points)
Fourteen players drafted (seven in the lottery), four All-Rookie selections, one Rookie of the Year, one All-NBA selections, three All-Star appearances.
Mike Krzyzewski may not tutor many NBA stars, but he does turn out consummate pros capable of hanging onto roster spots. Of the 12 Blue Devils who have set foot in the NBA since 2002, 11 are still playing.
The lone exception?
Jay Williams, who the Chicago Bulls brought on with the second pick in the 2002 draft before he ruined his career in a devastating motorcycle accident in 2003. Though a tragic injury derailed his pro career, it would be fair to call him a massive disappointment.
To Coach K's credit, the tide may be turning as far as Duke's star power is concerned now that Kyrie Irving has come into the fold. The reigning Rookie of the Year has "perennial All-Star" and "franchise cornerstone" written all over him following a season in which he went from No. 1 pick to LeBron James' "replacement" with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Speaking of former Cavs, Carlos Boozer is easily the biggest surprise to emerge from Durham. Not even the stigma of being a second-rounder or the embarrassment of having terrible "hair" (not to mention a last name fit for a frat boy) could keep Booz from becoming a two-time All-Star and an All-NBA performer at power forward.
No such luck for Daniel Ewing during his two-season stint in the NBA.
2. Texas (130 Points)
Fourteen players drafted (five in the lottery), five All-Rookie selections, one Rookie of the Year, four All-NBA selections, four All-Star appearances, three scoring titles.
Rare is the program that's produced more than one franchise-caliber star since 2002, as Texas has. LaMarcus Aldridge looked to be the best Longhorn in NBA history until Kevin Durant came along in 2007 as the No. 2 pick of the then-Seattle SuperSonics.
But while Aldridge's talents have largely gone to waste amidst unfortunate circumstances in Portland, the Durantula's talents have been made to shine in Oklahoma City, where he has done just about everything in the last three years—lead the league in scoring, play in the All-Star Game, crack the All-NBA roster, propel his team to the NBA Finals—other than win the MVP and hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Both of which he may well do within the next few years.
None of that should come as any surprise, though. The real shocker, rather, has been the emergence of Avery Bradley as a starting-caliber shooting guard with the Boston Celtics. Bradley's one season at UT was wholly unremarkable, as was his rookie campaign after arriving in Beantown as the No. 19 pick in the 2010 draft. But an eye-opening, late-season stint in place of a hobbled Ray Allen served to solidify Bradley's status as a potentially elite perimeter defender in the NBA.
D.J. Augustin stands out as one of the bigger pro disappointments of the Rick Barnes era, though it's tough for a kid to not fall short of expectations when he plays for the Charlotte Bobcats.
And before Texas became relevant for something other than football, there was Chris Owens, who played exactly one game with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2002-'03 season.
1. UCLA (133 Points)
Fifteen players drafted (two in the lottery), three All-Rookie selections, three All-NBA selections, four All-Star appearances, one rebounding title.
Even the most storied of college basketball programs can't easily recover from losing two perennial All-Stars to the NBA.
Just ask Ben Howland, whose UCLA Bruins went to three straight Final Fours but failed to replicate anything close to that level of success ever since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love were taken with the fourth and fifth picks, respectively, in the 2008 NBA draft. Westbrook is arguably the most explosive player on the planet whose name isn't Blake Griffin, while Love has established himself as the best power forward in the game today.
Both have played in the last two All-Star Games, and neither has shown any signs of stopping. Either one would be a worthy choice as UCLA's top pro of the last decade.
Choosing the biggest surprise is an even more difficult endeavor. Howland has made a habit of grooming late first- and early second-rounders who later blossom into starters and rotation players, from Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar and Darren Collison.
No Howland product, though, has outplayed his college reputation and his draft position as much as Jrue Holiday has. The 17th pick in the 2009 draft has shown flashes of stardom during his three seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, even elevating his game as his team pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in a run through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
On the whole, just about every Bruin-gone-pro of the last 10 years has lived up to expectations at the very least, though Tyler Honeycutt, once touted as a potential lottery pick, found himself shuttling between the NBA and the D-League during his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings.
Then again, at least he's still within shouting distance of the NBA. The same can't be said for Dijon Thompson, who lasted all of 16 games in the NBA before crossing the pond to bounce around the Euroleague.