Players leaving college early for the NBA is nothing new, and there is a long history of players leaving college to go dominate the game at its highest level. Players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal all either left college early, or skipped right past college hoops altogether. While there may be some great success stories, there are an even greater number of kids who have cost themselves their dreams and many millions of dollars by entering the NBA too soon. Only a certain group of players are mature enough for the NBA lifestyle and the level of play demanded at that level. More and more pundits and former players are starting to advocate for players to stay in school longer due to the amount of failures we've seen due to immaturity.
The NBA has already banned players from entering the league straight out of high school, and there have been discussions to further limit players draft eligibility until the age of 20. The rule has caused some players to find loopholes in the rules, as players can simply play a year of pro ball in Europe after high school, then become eligible for the draft. But they're not doing what the rule was meant to do and that is for these young men to mature in school. As we peel back the 15 NBA players that should have staying in school longer you should start to understand why this isn't such a bad idea.
15 Anthony Randolph
Randolph seemed to be a very promising young prospect coming out of LSU. Once he was assured to be a first round pick he signed with an agent and took his talents to the NBA. The Warriors snagged him with the 14th pick in the 2008 draft which turned out to be a mistake. Randolph was projected to be in the mold of a Rudy Gay type, however, that comparison turned out to be highly questionable, and needless to say, Randolph was never able to meet those expectations. Most agree that another year at LSU would have helped Randolph fine tune some of his skills, and perhaps lived up to some of the lofty expectations put on him.
After a very lackluster rookie year, Randolph seemed to be improving in his sophomore season. However, in 2010 he was traded to the Knicks, a change that may have messed with his growth, as his production, and scoring went down upon his arrival in the Big Apple. Before being relegated to the Euro-league Randolph also played with the Timberwolves and the Nuggets.
14 Jerryd Bayless
Jerryd Bayless played at the University of Arizona in Tucson for one season before entering the NBA draft. He led the Wildcats in scoring, averaging nearly 20 points per game. That is impressive regardless, but as a freshman it is even more remarkable. After a less than ideal showing in the NCAA tournament, Bayless opted to enter the draft and forgo his remaining three years of eligibility.
He was drafted 11th overall by the Pacers but never played for them. The Pacers traded Jerryd on draft day to the Trail Blazers. Unlike many players on this list, Bayless has not been forced to play overseas, but he has spent his career as a journeyman and at best, a role player. Had he opted for another year or two of tutelage under the great Lute Olsen, perhaps Jerryd could have been a lot more than just a role player.
13 Alton Ford
Some players' choice to leave college for the NBA makes sense, they are clearly talented enough, or they had a great college season, other times it doesn't make as much sense. Exhibit A, Alton Ford. We're talking about a player who ranked third in both points per game and rebounds per game on a college team that lost 20 games. That would be the equivalent of Eastern Washington's Shane Hoffman declaring for this year's draft. What's that? You've never heard of Shane Hoffman? Exactly.
Ford somehow got drafted late in the second round of one of the worst draft classes of all time, but he never came close to succeeding in the NBA. He played 53 lackluster games as a rookie and barely even got off the bench over the next two seasons before going to play overseas.
12 Jamal Sampson
To be fair to Jamal Sampson, he probably spent much of his youth hearing about how great of a basketball player his cousin Ralph was, and just wanted to get to the NBA so he could get out of cousin Ralph's shadow. Well sadly for Jamal that never happened. There were actually reports that Jamal wanted to enter the NBA straight out of high school, but his mother put her foot down and made him attend one year of college. As impatient as he was it still makes no sense that he bolted for the NBA after one season at Cal-Berkley, especially after finishing seventh on the team in scoring.
Sampson was a good rebounder and shot-blocker, but he never learned how to be a real threat in the post on offense. He had the height and look of a good player, but the fundamentals just never came.He played for five different teams over the course of five NBA seasons before taking his talents abroad and playing overseas.
11 B. J. Mullens
Mullens was one of the top recruits of the 2008 class, and he made it very clear that he had no real interest in going to college at all. He admitted if it five years earlier, he likely would have gone straight from high school to the pros. In his lone season with the Ohio State Buckeyes, he only averaged 20.3 minutes per game and was only able to produce 8.1 points per game in those twenty plus minutes.
That didn't stop Mullens from declaring for the 2009 draft, however. Oklahoma City took him near the end of the first round and let him play a whopping 139 minutes during his first two seasons in the NBA. Sure, he got paid over $1 million per year to sit on the bench and do nothing for two years, but he likely would have played his way into a much more substantial contract had he instead spent those two years at Ohio State.
10 Daniel Orton
After a 35-3 season, Kentucky had four freshmen taken in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft: John Wall (No. 1), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5), Eric Bledsoe (No. 18) and Daniel Orton (No. 29). Would you like to take a guess on which one should have stayed an extra year with coach Cal?
How Orton was worthy of a first-round selection after scoring a grand total of 129 points in college is still an NBA unsolved mystery. He was a highly rated recruit, sure, but he never really showed any of that promise. After chances with Orlando, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City Orton was forced to go overseas if he wanted to continue his professional basketball career. Orton is a textbook example of why players should stay in school for at least two full seasons.
9 Omar Cook
One of the elder statesmen on our list, Cook was a highly ranked college player at the beginning of the century. Cook actually had the second-highest assists per game average in the country during the 2000-01 season. Despite putting up great numbers for a point guard, he was a disappointment in the most important statistic: Wins. St. John's had been a successful program during the late 90s and early 2000s. Over a 10 year span, the only season they failed to win at least 20 games was the season Cook was there leading the team. Perhaps being unable to produce wins would be a good indicator one should stay in school an extra year.
After being the first pick of the second round in 2001 Cook was able to compile a staggering 22 NBA games in his short career, zero times did he appear in a starting role. After giving up on an NBA comeback in 2005 Cook has spent the last 12 years playing professionally overseas.
8 Donnell Harvey
Like many of the players on this list, Donnell Harvey began his college career as one of the most highly touted players in the country. As a matter of fact, he's one of the few players on the list who was named the Prep Player of the Year. By winning the award in 1999, he joined the likes of Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd on a list that would eventually also include LeBron James, not bad company as an 18-year-old. However, once he arrived in Florida Harvey barely averaged 20 minutes per game, and he wasn't even a starter when the Gators made their run to the national championship game in 2000.
Apparently Harvey thought that was enough for him to go pro. He caught on for a little bit during the 2002-03 season, starting 27 games for the Nuggets. But the bulk of his professional career has been spent bouncing around the international circuit.
7 Donte Greene
On one hand, Donte Greene put up better numbers in college than almost any other player on the list. He led the Syracuse Orange in both scoring and blocked shots, and hit an incredible, 90 three-pointers as a 6'11" freshman. On the other hand, he still needed to grown. Greene was a liability on defense in college, and at the next level he was unable to get playing time because of his sorry defense. Another issue for Greene, which is common for many college kids, was his shot selection, it seemed as if he believe if he could see the rim then it was a good time to shoot.
Greene did start 50 games for the Sacramento Kings during the 2009-10 season, but the Kings also went 25-57 that season. It actually made sense for the Kings to start Greene. It served two purposes; one being to see if he could develop as a player; he other, to ensure more losses for the team, which in turn gave the Kings a better chance at the next year's first overall draft pick.
6 Josh Selby
Josh Selby was one of the top overall recruits in the 2010 incoming freshman class, but he was ineligible to play for the first month of the season because of a relationship with some NBA agents. Selby also missed several games during his freshman year because of an ankle injury. Needless to say, his college career didn't get off on the right foot. After watching Kyrie Irving suffer injuries during his freshman year, but still garner high draft stock, Shelby assumed he could expect similar treatment, so he entered his name into draft after his rocky freshman year at Kansas.
After being a late second round pick, Selby lasted 38 games spanning two seasons before the NBA interests dried up. Selby has been playing overseas since 2013, and has done rather well for himself. Perhaps there is hope for one more crack at an NBA roster for Josh, but no question he would have had a much better shot at the league had he stayed an extra year or two with Kansas.
5 Marquis Teague
Unfortunately for Marquis, he isn’t having as good of a career as his All-Star brother Jeff. In 2010 Teague was a highly-recruited high school senior with many options of where he could play his college ball. He shunned many interested schools in favor of Kentucky, a school known for producing NBA players after only one season.Teague averaged 10 points per game in his freshman year, and the Wildcats won the NCAA title led by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilcrest.
Teague was selected in the first round by the Chicago Bulls, 29th overall. Teague was clearly not ready for the speed and strength of the NBA. After struggling through a season and a half with the Bulls, Teague was traded to Brooklyn where he would finish the season. Since then he has spent three years bouncing between the D-League and overseas professional leagues.
4 Javaris Crittenton
If you know anything about Javaris Crittenton then you know he had some mental problems. Those problems should have been spotted early on. Crittenton arrived at Georia Tech right after they had their worst season in nearly a quarter century. As a freshman Javaris led the team in points, assists, and steals, while leading them to a 20-win season. The decision to leave school after this pretty good season was just the first in a string of highly questionable decisions he made as a young adult.
After entering the draft he was taken in the first round by the Lakers. However, the most noteworthy thing he ever did in the NBA was pull a gun on Gilbert Arenas in the Wizards' locker room. Crittenton had not played a single minute that season, and after that incident with Arenas he was immediately cut from the team. Since the gun incident, he has been indicted for murder and arrested in a massive drug sting. Another couple years in school may not have changed his legal woes, but it may have led to a career in which he started more than a grand total of 10 games in the NBA.
3 Austin Rivers
Austin Rivers has found a way to get playing time on a decent team. He is not a starter by any means, but he is getting time on an NBA court. The funny thing about that, however, is that it took his dad to make a trade for him, and give him playing time in order for it to finally happen. Rivers played at Duke for one season, a season in which he performed well while being healthy. In his freshman season he averaged nearly 16 points per game. After his his freshman year he declared for the draft and got drafted by the Hornets/Pelicans.
New Orleans also had the first pick in the draft that year, and they were lucky enough to get Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, Rivers and Davis never were able to gel together the way New Orleans fans had hoped. With yet another first round playoff exit this season, it is believed that the Clippers are going to blow things up and start from scratch. That could leave Austin looking for work elsewhere come next season. If he had stayed an extra two or three years with the great Coach K, Rivers would likely be a starting point guard in the league with a healthy contract in his back pocket.
2 Michael Beasley
Beasley was a standout since his AAU days where he played along side NBA MVPs Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. As a kid Beasley went to six different high schools, one of them being famed basketball powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy. As a senior he averaged 28 points and 16 rebounds a game at Oak Hill. When he got to Kansas State, he was already on the map of most NBA scouts. During his one season at K-State he was a beast, battling Derrick Rose for the College Player of the Year Award. It is hard to blame Beasley for leaving, but in hindsight his mind and body both needed time to mature.
He was drafted 2nd overall by the Heat and many expected him to pair with Dwyane Wade to become an elite 1-2 punch. Once his NBA career began, it was clear he had too many off court issues to stay focused to his craft. Another year in college would have done wonders for Beasley, but somewhat lucky for him he was able to spent a season playing in China which served as an extra year of college for him. He matured while over there and has been able to make a comeback to the NBA, even getting some valuable minutes in the playoff over the past few years.
1 Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett has a strong argument for being the worst number one overall pick in NBA history. The 2013 draft has proven to be one of the weaker drafts in recent memory, however the Cavaliers had other options at the number spot, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert. As a freshman at UNLV, Bennett scored 16 points per game and pulled down 8 rebounds at the power forward spot. Going into the draft there was no consensus #1 overall pick which led to the Cavs taking a bit of a flyer on a freshman from UNLV.
Had Bennett stayed in Vegas for a few more years the entire NBA would look different. Bennett, being the incredible bust he turned out to be, enabled the Cavaliers to get another #1 pick which they ended up packaging with Bennett in a trade that landed the Kevin Love. Love arrived in Cleveland and the rest as they say... is history. As for Anthony Bennett, he played in 25 games with the Nets last season and finished the year averaging 5.3 points, and 3.1 rebounds.
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