We live in a society that encourages and promotes capitalistic liberalism, where everybody has the freedom and opportunity to make as much money as they can, however, they can. Under this system, it is difficult to tell an individual that they are not permitted to, essentially apply for a job based on their age. This, however, is exactly what David Stern decided to do as commissioner of the NBA. He did this in order to save NBA general managers from themselves, to prevent them from making mistakes by selecting 18 year-olds who the GMs were unable to scout and evaluate properly themselves. Having to be at least one year removed from high school is an archaic legislation, disguised under the premise of helping young adults and college basketball. When in actuality, the forcing of young men to attend university and occupy a scholarship with zero intention of ever completing a degree, has done nothing to improve the lives as people or improve their skills as players. The two benefactors have been NCAA coaches and NBA GMs, two groups of privileged individuals who need little additional help in succeeding.
With the 2018 NBA draft just recently being completed and signs of the ‘one and done’ rule possibly going to the waste side in the near future, this list will explore the 44 individuals who made the life-changing decision to forgo the university experience and opt into the NBA lifestyle. The failures and successes will be explored and ranked for you to weigh the pros and cons of teenagers joining the NBA.
44 Ousmane Cisse
In his senior year Cisse averaged; 29 points, 16 rebounds and 12 blocked shots, while playing for St. Jude High School. Off these high school stats, Kiki Vandeweghe decided to use the Denver Nuggets’ 46th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft to select the 6’9” power forward. Although everybody behind Cisse made little contribution to their team, Cisse never played for the Nuggets, he played one preseason game with the Magic and lasted a few days with the Raptors. The only thing noteworthy to North American basketball fans is that he played for the Harlem Globetrotters.
43 Ndudi Ebi
Going into the 2003 NBA draft the scouting report on the 6’9” swingman according to NBA.com’s prospect profile was; “Has a smooth outside shooting stroke, but can take the ball to the basket as well.”
Ebi would get 19 games to demonstrate that signature shot and hit 50% of them.
In the 2004-05 season, he only played 2 games and averaged 13 points. Against the San Antonio Spurs he made 8 of 14 shots, perhaps Garnett and Sprewell thought that was too many touches, for that was his last game in the NBA.
42 James Lang
NBA teams love taking a chance on a near 7 footer, especially late in the draft where the risk of missing out on a better player is limited. At 6’10” James Lang was a risk the Charlotte Hornets were willing to take at pick 48 in the 2003 NBA Draft. The report on Lang included “Has NBA size to withstand the physical demands of playing in the low post.”
The Hornets would proceed to waive him, but, one can only assume that the 11 career points Lang tallied up over the 55 minutes in 11 games, where indeed in the low post.
41 Korleone Young
Suntino Korleone Young was 6’7” and 220 pounds coming off averaging 21 points and over 10 rebounds per game at Hargrave Military College. Rick Sund would use the Pistons 40th pick in the 1998 NBA Draft to select Young. Despite Brad Miller not being selected at all in 1998, this would not be the Pistons’ biggest draft mistake in history. In his 3 career games, he made 5 of 10 field goals and both his free throws accumulating 13 points in 15 career minutes played. Young is most famous for being the ‘poster boy’ for David Stern raising the NBA minimum draft age.
40 Leon Smith
Regardless how much talent the 6’10” student-athlete from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Chicago had, he was going to find it difficult in the NBA. Smith was drafted 29th by the San Antonio Spurs in 1998, then traded that night to the Dallas Mavericks.
He would never play a game for the Mavericks or a game period, during the 1999-00 season.
Smith would end up totaling 104 minutes played scoring 33 points and grabbing 33 rebounds in his career.
39 Satnam Singh
Since being selected 52nd overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015, the only NBA experience Satnam Singh Bhamara has is from playing in the 2015 and 2017 Summer Leagues with the Mavericks. He spent the 2015-16 season in the D-League and averaged under 2 points and 2 rebounds per game.
When asked about The first Indian born player drafted to the NBA, Mark Cuban replied in 2015, "He's a project, but he has a lot of upside."
In 2018 The LNM Institute of Information Technology located in Jaipur, India was benefiting from the 7’2” 22-years-old’s upside.
38 DeSagana Diop
A twelve-year career in the best basketball league in the world after being drafted directly from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia is impressive. After being awarded USA Today Virginia Player of the Year in 2001 the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted the 7 foot Diop with the 8th selection, before; Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas.
The Senegal born Diop would play in 601 career games and averaged 2 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes per game. Diop has provided a decent sample size to be warranted as one of the least successful high school draftees.
37 Ricky Sanchez
Come along on the Ricky Sanchez ride for a moment. In the 2005 NBA Draft the Portland Trail Blazers drafted the 6’11” Puerto Rican with the 35th pick overall, then the Trail Blazers traded him and Linas Kleiza for the Nuggets #22 pick Jarrett Jack.
His rights were then included in three deals between 2007 and 2012, his rights passed through Philadelphia, Memphis and then Miami where he was eventually waived.
Sanchez never played in the NBA, but while his rights were being passed around, he averaged double digits in Europe.
36 Robert Swift
The 7 foot Swift left Garces High School and jumped right into the NBA in 2004. It initially looked like it was working out, the Seattle SuperSonics selected him 12th overall. Swift, however, only managed to play 97 career games while averaging 4 points and 4 rebounds before being released by the Oklahoma City Thunder three days before Christmas in 2009.
In 2013 he was forced to leave his foreclosed home which was littered with bullet holes, garbage bags and approximately a 100 empty pizza boxes, which is a total greater than the amount of games he played.
35 Jonathan Bender
The 6’11” small forward from Picayune Memorial High School in Mississippi scored 31 points in the Mcdonald's High School All American game, breaking Michael Jordan’s 18 year old record, just 2 days before declaring for the NBA Draft. The Indiana Pacers selected 'J.B.' with the 5th pick, he would go on to play 8 seasons.
His career high in points and rebounds came in the 2001-02 season at 7 and 3 respectively.
At age 25 he would suffer a knee injury that would cause him to miss three seasons until he played 25 games with the Knicks in his final season.
34 Thon Maker
Having only completed two NBA seasons and officially being listed as 21 years of age, coming to a conclusive answer to where the 7’1” center from Athlete Institute Academy will be placed in history among the high school draftees is difficult. Despite his games started declining in his second season, his minutes per game increased from 10 to 17 minutes which has raised his career scoring average to 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. As he continues to develop alongside the young Milwaukee Bucks, expect Maker to be higher on this list by the time his career is complete.
33 Bill Willoughby
The Atlanta Hawks drafted William Wesley Willoughby with the 19th selection in the 1975 NBA draft. Over his 8 year career, Willoughby has accumulated 2930 total points, which is eleven thousand short of the player who was drafted right after him. The 6’8” forward was drafted out of Dwight Morrow High School in New Jersey, with a career average of 17.7 minutes played with 6 different teams, he is most remembered for blocking a Kareem Abdul Jabbar skyhook into the crowd during a 1981 playoff game. With a career that ended before his 27th birthday, it is difficult to have many memorable moments.
32 DeShawn Stevenson
Coming out of Washington Union High School, DeShawn Stevenson had a stellar senior season when he averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. This production was enough for the Utah Jazz to use their 23rd selection on him in the 2000 NBA Draft.
The 6’5” shooting guard would not come close to replicating any statistics near those in the NBA.
After completing 13 seasons the career averages rest at 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1.5 assists over 824 games for the 2000 California Gatorade Player of the Year.
31 Kendrick Perkins
LeBron James was selected 27 spots before Perkins and has scored 27,000 more points. This is where the comparison should stop between the two high school draftees from the 2003 NBA Draft. ‘Perk’ had the best season of his career in 2009-10 with the Boston Celtics when the 6’10" power forward averaged 10 points and almost 8 rebounds per game. Known for being an enforcer out on the floor, his career averages for points and rebounds are under 6 respectively, to go along with a 60% free throw percentage his 0-14 from three point land in his career is a fun tidbit at best.
30 Amir Johnson
Having played 13 seasons with 4 teams and at age 31, Amir Johnson has provided a good sample size to contribute to the legacy of high school draftees. Prior to being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 2005 with the 56th overall selection, the Pistons regarded the 6’10” forward as having the “feet of a small forward, he was so nimble.” Those nimble feet would get him into just 11 NBA games in his first two seasons.
The graduate from Westchester HIgh School in California would have his best season with the Toronto Raptors where he averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds per game.
29 Kwame Brown
You can easily find individuals who like to discuss basketball that will state that Kwame Brown is the biggest draft bust in NBA history. Whether this stems from the hype that surrounded him or because these individuals dislike players being drafted straight out of high school, it is not such a clear cut case concerning Brown.
During his best season, the 6’11” power forward from Glynn Academy in Georgia, averaged 10 points and over 7 rebounds per game.
He currently is 16,000 career points behind Pau Gasol, but the Clippers passed on Gasol too and the Hawks traded him on draft night.
28 Martell Webster
In 2005 Martell Webster averaged over 19 points in the McDonald’s All-American, Jordan Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit games. Webster parlayed that success into being the 6th overall selection in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He would parlay that selection into over $45 million before retiring after a few surgeries. Martell would play for only 2 teams over his 10 seasons, 4 of which, he would play in less than 50 games. ‘The Definition’ would end his career averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds per game, placing slightly ahead of Kwame Brown.
27 Travis Outlaw
After a 2003 season at Starkville High School in Mississippi that saw him be named the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year, Travis Outlaw declared for the 2003 NBA Draft. The 13th ranked high schooler would be selected 23rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, and at age 19, play just 8 games in his rookie season. His best two seasons came back-to-back when he managed to average 13 points and over 4 rebounds per game. His career totals are less impressive at 8 points and 3 rebounds, but he did contribute 28 minutes a game during the 2008-09 playoffs.
26 Dorell Wright
On June 24th of 2004, the Miami Heat made Dorell Wright the 19th selection in the NBA Draft. During his 2004-05 season with South Kent Prep. he averaged 29 points and 11 rebounds. His 6’7”, 19-year-old body would not transcend so easily in the NBA.
In his first 5 seasons, he played over 44 games just once, it would not be until the 2010-11 season after signing with the Golden State Warriors that Wright would have a breakout season.
While starting all 82 games, the 6’9” small forward would average 16 points and 5 rebounds
25 Sebastian Telfair
In 2004 Sebastian Telfair was the New York Gatorade Player of the Year, in the same year he had 2 points and 11 assists in 20 minutes during the McDonald’s All American game. Telfair had originally committed to Louisville University after hs senior year at Lincoln High School in New York, where he averaged 33 points and 9 assists during his senior year. The 6 foot point guard would declare for the draft and be selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 13th pick. ‘Bassy’ would play 10 seasons with 8 different teams while averaging 21 minutes, 7 points and 3.5 assists.
24 Shaun Livingston
During his senior year at Peoria Central High School in Illinois, Livingston a 6’7” swing guard averaged 18 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds per game. He would be named Mr. Illinois Basketball 2004, but struggle in 15 minutes of playing time in the McDonald's All American game tallying just 1 point and 3 assists. Originally slated to attend Duke, ‘S.Dot’ declared for NBA Draft and was selected 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2004. Despite suffering a knee injury in the 2006-07 his career averages currently sit at 6 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists.
23 C.J. Miles
The 2017-18 season was Calvin Miles Jr.’s 13th in the NBA since being drafted 34th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. During his 785 games, he has made 1,172 shots beyond the arc.
As the 2005 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, he scored 16 points in the Jordan Classic at the end of his senior year at Skyline High School in Dallas where he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
The past six seasons, C.J has surpassed his career average in points of 9.8 while averaging 2 rebounds and 1 assist.
22 Andray Blatche
The 6’11” center from South Kent Prep High School in Connecticut averaged 26 points, 16 rebounds, 6 blocks and 5 assists for a season. As a senior, he played at Henninger High School where he averaged 26 points, 18 rebounds and 8 blocks. He would go on to be the 2005 Jordan Classic MVP with 26 points and 16 rebounds. The Washington Wizards would select the 19 year Blatche with the 49th selection in 2005. Over his 564 career games, ‘Bulletproof’ would average 10 points, 5 rebounds and under 1 block per game with Washington and Brooklyn.
21 Tyson Chandler
Having just completed his 17th season with his sixth team, Chandler’s career averages are 8 points and 9 rebounds. His best season was 2007-08 when he averaged nearly 12 points and 12 rebounds per game.
The Los Angeles Clippers drafted Chandler with the 2nd overall pick in 2001, after the 7’1” center led Dominguez High School in Compton to a state championship.
During the season Chandler averaged 26 points,16 rebounds and 7 blocks. Upon drafting him, the Clippers traded him along with Brian Skinner to the Bulls for their 1999 first selection overall Elton Brand.
20 Gerald Green
In 2005 Gerald Green averaged 33 points,18 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks for Gulf Shores Academy High School in Texas. Green also hit 6 of 9 three pointers and scored 24 points in the McDonald’s All American game. This success led the 6’7” swingman to forgo attending Oklahoma State University and declare for the NBA Draft. Green, who will be entering his 12th NBA season was selected 18th overall by the Boston Celtics. Green’s best years came after returning from two years of pro basketball in Russia, to currently average almost 10 points per game for his career.
19 Darius Miles
In his final year at East St.Louis High School 'D-Miles' averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks per game. This sample size was enough for the 6’9” power forward to declare for the 2000 NBA Draft. The Los Angeles Clippers would select Miles 3rd overall and he would then proceed to play seven season with a total of 11,730 minutes played, which is 14th most for a career from that draft class, despite missing two seasons with a knee injury. Upon his retirement following the 2008-09 season, Mr. Illinois Basketball 2000 averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds.
18 Eddy Curry
In his final year at Thornwood High School in Illinois, the 6’11” Curry averaged 22 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. ‘Baby Shaq’ was named Mr.Illinois Basketball and McDonald's All Star game MVP in 2001.
He committed to going to DePaul but chose the NBA Draft instead and the Bulls selected him 4th overall.
The scouting report on Curry was “Has not always been in the best of shape one has to wonder if he has the drive.” Curry had some degree of success in Chicago, but his best season was with the Knicks when he averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds.
17 J.R. Smith
Running out the clock while you are losing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals aside, J.R Smith has had a pretty decent career since declaring for the 2004 NBA Draft. The 2004 McDonald’s All American Game MVP averaged 24 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in his last season for St.Benedict’s High School in New Jersey. ‘J.R Swish’ would be selected with the 18th pick by the New Orleans Hornets in 2004. During his 14 seasons he has averaged 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, his 12,057 career points is 7th among the 2004 draft class.
16 Reggie Harding
Reggie Harding was drafted by the Detroit Pistons twice, in back to back years. In 1962, the 7 foot center was selected 29th overall and in 1963 he was pick 48. The first player to go straight to the NBA from high school. Over the 230 games played, Harding would average just under 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. With a 41% field goal percentage, Harding did not attempt one three-point shot in his entire career. Personal and legal problems plagued Harding throughout his career preventing him from ever reaching his potential.
15 Andrew Bynum
The Los Angeles Lakers made Andrew Bynum the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. In his 7 seasons in L.A, he averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds, a little lower than the 22/17 he was averaging for St.Joseph’s High School in New Jersey.
Aside from forcing him to miss the entire 2012-13 season, injuries caused Bynum’s two highest games played totals to be 82 and 65.
His 4,822 career points places him 24th in his draft class. His 12 point, 7 rebound average while being hampered by injuries, has him higher on this list.
14 Al Harrington
1998 was a tremendous year for Al Harrington. He won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Gatorade Player of the Year and scored 26 points in the Nike Hoops Summit, which was a consequence of averaging 22 points and 16 rebounds for St. Patrick’s High School. The versatile 6’9” frontcourt player would be selected #25 by the Indiana Pacers. ‘Baby Al’ would play 16 seasons, his best season would be 2008-09 when he averaged 20 points and 6 rebounds playing for the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks.
13 Josh Smith
“J-Smoove” began his NBA career at the age of 19 when the Atlanta Hawks selected him 17th overall in the 2004 draft. The 2005 Slam Dunk champion spent his senior year playing at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia where he averaged 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. The 6’9” forward scored 27 points in the Nike Hoops Summit.
Now in his 13th season, Smith’s best was 2011-12 with the Hawks where he averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds.
His career averages of 14 points and 7 rebounds have been declining during the last few years, but should not diminish his accomplishments.
12 Darryl Dawkins
1975 was the year that ‘Dr. Dunk’ was drafted 5th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, the 6’11” 19 year old would not make much of a contribution until his third season. With George McGinnis and Doug Collins averaging over 20 points each, ‘Sir Slam’ would manage to get under 200 field goals attempted in his first two seasons. The 1983-84 season with the New Jersey Nets would prove to be his best when he averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds. Attempting to play through a back injury hurt his career averages of 12 points and 6 rebounds per game.
11 Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson is another Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year award winner who decided to forgo the college experience and head straight to the NBA.
The 6’10” power forward made the decision after averaging 33 points, 15 rebounds and 3 assists in his senior year at Prentiss High School in Mississippi.
The Boston Celtics would select ‘Big Classic’ with the 13th pick in 2004. Jefferson would play 3 seasons for the Celtics averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds. His career stats have improved, standing at 16 points at 8 rebounds over 14 seasons.
10 Jermaine O’Neal
The Portland Trail Blazers selected the future 6 time All-Star with the 17th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. During his senior year at Eau Claire High School in South Carolina, 'J.O' averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks in his senior year. O’Neal ended his career at age 35 and an average of 13 points and 7 rebounds. His best season he averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds with the Indiana Pacers. His 13,093 career points places him 9th in his draft class and solidifies O’Neal as a high school draftee who had success in the NBA.
9 Rashard Lewis
The two-time NBA All-Star was drafted with the 32nd pick by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1998. The 6’10" forward declared himself as an early entrant after a senior season at Alief Elsik High School in Texas where he averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 4 steals per game. ‘Sweet Lew’ began his 16-year career averaging just 7 minutes a game at age 19. The 2013-14 season would be his last as he retired as a member of the Miami Heat with career averages of 15 points and 5 rebounds.
8 Lou Williams
The 2005 Naismith Player of the Year averaged 27 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds per game during his final year at South Gwinnett High School in Georgia. That was 10 years before he would win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award while playing in Toronto and averaging 15 points and 2 assists in 25 minutes per game.
‘Sweet Lou’ has only started 109 games out of the 861 he has played.
The 2017-18 campaign was his 13th season and he averaged 22 points and 5 assists, impressive numbers for a 45th overall selection.
7 Monta Ellis
There was nothing Monta Ellis could not do during the 2004-05 season while playing for Lanier High School in Mississippi. Not only was he 2005 Mississippi Mr. Basketball but Mr. Basketball USA as well. These kinds of accolades are bestowed upon players who average 38 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4.5 steals per game. These gaudy high school stats would inspire the ‘Mississippi Bullet’ to declare for the 2005 NBA Draft. The Golden State Warriors would select Ellis with the 40th pick overall. Ellis’ best season was his 5th when he averaged 25 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds.
6 Amar’e Stoudemire
The Phoenix Suns drafted the 6’10" Stoudemire 9th overall in 2002. His averages at Cypress Creek High School in Florida of 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists would earn him the title of 2002 Mr. Basketball Florida, and the Jordan Classic MVP by scoring 23 points and collecting 17 rebounds in the game. Stoudemire would de-commit to Memphis University, that decision would lead him to win the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year. ‘S.T.A.T’ played 14 seasons in the NBA and averaged over 20 points in half of them on his way to becoming a 6-time All-Star.
5 Tracy McGrady
The Toronto Raptors drafted the 1997 USA Today’s High School Player of the Year with the 9th overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. During his 15 year career, ‘T-Mac’ would become a 7-time All-Star as well as a 2-time scoring champion.
McGrady used to success coming out of Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina, during his senior season he averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals per game.
The 6’8” shooting guard’s best season was his 6th when he averaged 32 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists.
4 Dwight Howard
If a team is willing to put up with him, Howard needs just 1 point to reach 18,000 for his career, something that has seemed a sure thing since his senior year at Southwest Christian Academy in Georgia. The future 8-time All-Star would average 26 points, 18 rebounds, 8 blocks and 3 assists, earning him a Player of the Year award from 5 different organizations as well as his performance at the McDonald's All American game and the Jordan Classic earned him MVP honors. Currently, the 14-year vet averages 17 points and 13 rebounds per game for his career.
3 Kevin Garnett
Going through all Kevin Garnett’s NBA awards and accomplishments would be a futile practice for the purposes of this list. In 1997 the Minnesota Timberwolves selected the ‘Big Ticket’, easily the best player in the draft class, with the 5th pick overall.
Garnett had just come off averaging 25 points, 18 rebounds, 6.5 blocks, 6.5 assists and 4.5 steals for Farragut Career Academy in Chicago.
Garnett would become a full-time starter by his second season and retired after 21 seasons with career averages of 18 points and 10 rebounds.
2 Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bean Bryant averaged 31 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for Lower Merion in Pennsylvania, then the Naismith/Gatorade/USA Today Player of the Year winner would declare himself eligible for the 1996 NBA Draft and that he would only sign with Los Angeles Lakers. The Hornets would draft him at 13, then trade him to the Lakers. The 18-time All-Star only averaged 15 minutes during his first season and did not become a regular starter until his 3rd. His numbers would pick, up as he would retire averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
1 LeBron James
King James is the best player to come out of the stacked 2003 NBA Draft, he is the best player to ever forgo college and enter the NBA and he is arguably the best player to play in the NBA. After playing for Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron where he averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the first overall selection. Currently 33 years of age and in his 15th season with a career stat line of 27 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, in 2018-19 he will be looking to win more rings.