Many players have made the jump from high school straight to the NBA but few of them have made a lasting impact on the league. The NBA recently implemented a rule requiring that players must be a least one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft.
This cut down on the large amount of players that were deemed “project players” or players with “potential” that had thrown away their college eligibility for a chance to be the next prep star to make the leap to the pros.
That being said, I’m going to elaborate on the top five players who made a successful jump from prom night to draft night.
Amare Stoudemire, ’04-05
Amare came into the league as a raw, athletic freak with superstar potential. I chose his ’04-05 season because of his huge output not only in the regular season but he also scored 30 ppg on his in the playoffs during a trip to the conference finals.
He will play in our center spot as he has done for much of his career and with this front line I don’t see many problems for him. I actually think that this should be the season that is used but I’ll let it pan out and we’ll see how he does. This was a tough decision and I considered Dwight Howard here but Stoudemire has a more polished game on the offensive end.
Shawn Kemp, ‘95-96
Let’s not forget the first player to really make the jump straight to the pros. The “Reign Man” paved the way for players to make the jump and he was one of the most dominant to do so. In the ’95-96 season he posted career highs in points (19.6 ppg), rebounds (11.4 rpg), and field goal percentage (56%).
His athleticism took the league by storm and he and Gary Payton formed one of the most popular 1-2 punches in the league. Unfortunately, Kemp’s career was tarnished and cut short by some personal problems but he spent a decade as one of the best power forwards in the game.
Kevin Garnett, ’03-04
Here’s a no-brainer for this team. Garnett was the next poster child after Kemp for the prep-to-pros phenomenon. In the ’03-04 season he was a complete monster, scoring 24.2 per game, grabbing 13.8 rpg, all while dishing out five apg and swatting 2.2 shots per outing.
He’ll be playing at the small forward position in this lineup and it rounds out a front court that will be throwing vicious, athletic dunks on the opposition all night long. Also, the leadership presence that Garnett brings to the court is immeasurable.
LeBron James, ’07-08
James is another easy pick for this squad. In the ’07-08 season he put up a stat line of 30 ppg, 7.9 rpg, and 7.2 apg while he carries the Cavs on his back, eager for a return to the NBA finals. James may have been the most NBA ready out of any of these players in their first season and that’s surprising considering the amount of hype behind him as a prep star.
He will be our guard in our lineup for what could possibly be the best backcourt in NBA history. LeBron is a beast to handle and at the two spot there won’t be a single player that can take this guy on.
Kobe Bryant, ’07-08
Of course Kobe is going to be on this team and here he will be our point guard based on last season’s output. Kobe finally gave up on being a one-man show in L.A. and figured out how to get his teammates involved more.
It’s this Kobe we want on our team, the one that can make other players perform at a higher level. With Kobe more focused on being a facilitator and playing defense, he is a perfect fit to play the point in this scenario.
This team would be unstoppable on the court with their combination of strength, power, and athleticism. The team would be a highlight reel in action and nobody could match up pound for pound with this squad. And I know that a lot of you are sleeping on my pick of Shawn Kemp but if you were old enough to witness how he dominated the league and changed the power forward position than you should understand.
Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington, Josh Smith, Tyson Chandler