NBA Draft: Top 10 One-and-Done Draft Picks in the NBA
Did the one-and-done rule improve today’s NBA? Or is the league still facing similar problems from when high school players could declare for the draft?
Debate was rekindled after Tracy McGrady commented last weekend that college players should have to wait two years before becoming eligible for the draft, noting, “the talent in this league is pretty down.”
With that in mind, we rank the players whose decision to leave after one year proved the most successful. Because it is a ranking based on the earliest a player can enter the league, the only players considered are ones since the one-and-done rule’s inception in 2005 (Sorry, Melo).
For this list, we examined each player’s performance to date. And while some players mentioned here made their presence felt immediately (Kevin Durant), many have not had enough seasons for us to develop a substantial, facts-based analysis (Anthony Davis). Therefore, player potential and draft-day expectations must be considered as well.
Is T-Mac right? Here are 10 reasons he isn’t.
Honorable Mention: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Drummond underperformed at UConn amidst lofty expectations and got off to a slow start in Detroit. However, a late string of strong performances as a starter exposed fans to his vast, untapped potential. As a result, he deserves an honorable mention.
His run was highlighted with a career-high 29-point performance against Cleveland, where he showed off his strength, offensive rebounding skills and understanding of the pick-and-roll. Combine that with his above-average defensive ability and power forward Greg Monroe, and you have one of the best up-and-coming frontcourts in the conference.
His offensive game is still very raw, but with the right tutelage and lots of patience from the Pistons, he can be the best center in the league. Right now, though, it’s too hard to tell, leaving him just outside the top 10.
10: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
When Stephenson declared for the draft, many questioned his decision. Immaturity issues hurt his draft stock and after a good-but-not-great freshman year, he fell out of the first round to Indiana with the 40th selection.
For two seasons he struggled to get on the court, playing behind Paul George and Danny Granger. He got on the floor a total of 54 games, averaging less than 10 minutes per contest. Many began pegging him as a bust.
Then Granger went down with his knee injury. Now the Pacers look brilliant.
Stephenson, silently working on his game, took advantage of the opportunity, becoming a starter and never letting go of his spot. Improving as the season went on, he burst onto the scene in the 2013 playoffs, becoming a rebounding machine for a guard (7.6 a game) and a serious matchup problem with his size and strength.
What’s scary is he has plenty of room to improve. As long as he stays focused this offseason, Stephenson can expect a big jump in his numbers next year. His future is bright.
A wise one-and-done decision, indeed.
9: Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers
Bledsoe was a high-risk, high-reward pick coming out of Kentucky. Many didn’t know how he would fare running the point due to his time spent at the 2 in the shadow of John Wall.
Just watch this. Bledsoe does everything.
He can drive. He can shoot. He can dunk. He can pass, defend and has great body control.
Though undersized, the savvy point guard’s rare talent and athleticism more than make up for his 6’1” frame. If not for the logjam at the point the Clippers had prior to the 2012-13 season, he would be a household name.
His decision-making needs improvement as he still gets tunnel vision for stretches in games. He can also stand to improve his mid-range game. But that’s just nit picking.
Once he gets a starting role, wherever it may be, he’s an all-star. Simple as that.
8: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers
Imagine Dwayne Wade’s game. Take some athleticism, add some passing. Garnish with outside shooting.
Having played his first All-Star Game this year, Jrue Holiday is that right now. And he’s just 23.
For the casual basketball fan, Holiday’s decision to go pro was puzzling. His stat line was nowhere near what UCLA fans were expecting (8.5 points, 3.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds) and many thought he wasn’t ready yet.
Those who follow Bruins basketball know that former coach Ben Howland’s system didn’t allow guards to post gaudy statistics. Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison didn’t wow Westwood with their numbers, either.
Holiday is the latest example, and he could be the best pure point guard to come out of UCLA since Baron Davis. Now fans wish he came to the NBA sooner.
7: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
One of the most versatile offensive post players in the game, Love had plenty of critics despite being selected fifth overall. The knock on him was a lack of conditioning and mobility, preventing him to excel in a league with quicker and faster power forwards.
So, Love got to work. Fat turned to muscle. Suddenly, a man mainly known for hitting full-court shots was doing this. It’s not elite athleticism, but it allowed Love to expand his game on both ends of the court and become arguably the top power forward in the league.
Oh, he also won a three-point contest along the way.
Love could be even higher on this list, but is still limited defensively and needs a better shooting percentage. All eyes in Minnesota will be on him next year.
6: John Wall, Washington Wizards
If Love could be higher, John Wall should be higher.
There was no question he’d bolt Kentucky after one year. He was too good for the college game even before he set foot in Lexington.
On paper, he can supplant both Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook as the most electrifying floor general today. But Wall has yet to put it all together.
His perimeter shooting (26.7% last season) is not good. He needs to cut down the turnovers (3.2 per game in 2013). And his decision-making must improve.
Will it happen? Probably. But probably won’t cut it this high in our rankings. His nonstop motor could hinder his ability to secure the ball, and that prevents him from climbing higher here.
I don’t want to make it seem like Wall is not what he is. He’s awesome. This is just what he needs to do to get a better ranking and fulfill expectations. If anything, it’s a testament to how good this kid can be.
5: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
A 6’10”, 210-pound antelope of an athlete with rare defensive awareness and offensive repertoire? Sounds like a rookie-year Kevin Garnett.
Surprise! It’s also Anthony Davis.
Like KG early on, Davis needs to get bigger and stronger. Unlike KG, Davis has the potential---if everything goes right—to be better than the future hall of famer.
He’s has a better handle on the ball and shows flashes of great ball distribution. That’s the benefit of playing as a guard your whole life, then growing eight (!) inches just before your senior year.
If he can shake off his MCL injury and stay healthy, Davis could have no weaknesses in as soon as a few seasons. That’s scarier than a…unibrow.
4: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
How do you gauge Cousins? Do you look at the numbers and shudder at how good he can be under the right management? Or are you a firm believer that his maturity problems and lack of focus will never fade, forever holding him back?
It’s the former. Whether Sacramento’s new ownership gets it done or someone else, Cousins will eventually land in the right place. He’s too good for teams to give up on.
And when he does find that place…oh my.
There are several other “oh mys” on YouTube you can feel free to check out.
In a time where there aren’t many truly dominating centers, Cousins has the chance to set a precedent for a new breed of big-man. His combination of size, mobility and talent is unheard of.
3: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
What makes Kyrie Irving special?
Lots of things. His shooting, passing, handles, athleticism and IQ are all to die for. But he has a special something very few point guards, let alone players in general, have in them.
Take a look at this article by Yahoo! Sports writer Adam Redling. Notice a trend?
Buzzer-beater. 11 points in the final 2:31. 13 in the final 2:52. If Chris Paul is the best point guard in clutch situations, Irving is second. No contest. And there aren’t many players outside the PG position who get it done as well as him, either.
Players can simulate clutch moments all they want in practice, but it’s never the real thing. Kyrie has it down. That’s what gives him the third spot in our rankings.
2: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Rose was about to be ranked third because of his knee. With an ESPN report out of Chicago yesterday claiming he feels 100%, the superstar regains his number two spot and prevents any Bulls fans reading this from throwing their computer out the window.
If anyone wins an MVP award playing alongside LeBron, Durant, and Kobe, you better believe they’re more than elite. And if he is indeed mentally and physically up to speed, he can expect to add some more trophies over the course of his career.
1: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
There really has never been a player like Kevin Durant.
He can’t be stopped one-on-one. Way too tall for guards, way too mobile for bigs. It’s impossible.
He’s Dirk Nowitzki with Tracy McGrady athleticism. All you can hope is that he has an off night.
Too bad he doesn’t have many.
Barring a career cut short by injuries, he is assured to be the NBA’s all-time scoring leader or at least in the top three. How could he not be first on the list?