Examining the results of college basketball's One-And-Done Era
The reaction to UCLA freshman Zach LaVine declaring for the NBA draft was predictable. LaVine played a reserve role in his only season as a Bruin, averaging 9.4 points and totaling just 11 points combined over his final five games.
Many analysts suggested LaVine needed another year in college, even though he is projected as a late first-round pick in several mock drafts, including DraftExpress.com. One columnist went so far as to use LaVine's decision as an entry point into a screed against the NBA's 19-year-old age minimum, which stipulates that players be one year removed from the graduation of their high school class before declaring for the draft.
While some believe the current age minimum -- negotiated into the 2005 collective bargaining agreement -- is unfair because it effectively forces players who may be ready for the NBA to spend a year in college, others advocate for a system in which players must be 20 years old before entering the league. Adam Silver is part of that latter camp, as the NBA commissioner has said he is committed to pursuing an increase in the age minimum.
Making the change before 2017, when the NBAPA and NBA can opt out of the current CBA, would require the NBAPA's approval, so there could be a few more years of players leaving college after just one season. Silver's apparent intention to make the change, however, means the one-and-done trend as we now know it could be nearing extinction.
With talk of a potential change in the NBA's age minimum and a group of freshmen in the 2014 NBA draft class billed as one of the best in years, we decided to take a look at how one-and-done players have fared since the NBA's 19-year-old age minimum was implemented in 2005.
Here's a breakdown of the last eight draft classes and the one-and-done players who were selected. We've broken down the players into four entirely subjective categories -- stars, rotation players, bit contributors and flops -- that are certain to generate debate. We acknowledge it is too early to pass judgment on some of these players, but we did our best to sort them using the body of evidence we have.
Rotation players: Ben McLemore
Bit contributors: Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, Steven Adams, Archie Goodwin
Flops: Grant Jerrett, Ricky Ledo
N/A: Nerlens Noel
Less than one full season into the careers of the 2013 draftees, it's looking like this could go down as one of the most lackluster draft classes of the past decade. Of the one-and-done crop, only McLemore has distinguished himself as an immediate rotation player. The most promising of the bit contributors is Adams, who should help the Thunder in the playoffs. Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick, has been a massive disappointment. Perhaps Noel, the shot-blocking big man drafted sixth overall by New Orleans and traded to Philadelphia, will stake a hold in the Sixers' rotation next season. Still, if other players don't make similar leaps, this group won't be regarded favorably.
The 2012 one-and-done group is highlighted by two big men who have already blossomed into bona fide stars. Davis is tremendously skilled and only getting better, while Drummond -- when not accepting broken most valuable player trophies -- spends most of his time dunking on defenders or gobbling up rebounds. Beal has attained star status with his dazzling offensive play and Kidd-Gilchrist is making sizable contributions to a playoff team.
Dogged by suggestions that he's angling to leave Cleveland, Irving didn't progress this season the way many expected he would. That doesn't change the fact he's far and away the class of this one-and-done group (and a beverage commercial icon to boot). Both Harris and Kanter are still trying to establish themselves as foundational pieces of long-term rebuilding projects -- Harris in Orlando and Kanter in Utah -- and Knight, after a change of scenery, has made big strides in 2013-14. One interesting aspect of this group, at least at this point, is that only one player, Joseph, is on a team that will make the playoffs. The rest will probably have to endure multiple years of rebuilding before playing meaningful basketball in April.
Stars: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Lance Stephenson
Rotation players: Avery Bradley, Derrick Favors, Xavier Henry
Bit contributors: None
Flops: Keith "Tiny" Gallon, Daniel Orton, Hassan Whiteside
College basketball fans remember Wall and Cousins as the two centerpieces of the Calipari-coached Kentucky team that should have won a national championship (that team, which also featured Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller and Bledsoe, was ousted by West Virginia in the Elite Eight). Their skills have translated well to the NBA, as Wall is one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference and Cousins, when he keeps his emotions in check, is one of the most polished post scorers in the league. Bledsoe and Stephenson, two of the NBA's most improved players this season, have helped their teams make playoff pushes.
There's a relatively small group of one-and-done players in the 2009 draft class. Had this analysis been conducted last year, DeRozan probably wouldn't have been deemed a star. His emergence this season -- and the effect it's had on a Raptors team in line to earn home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series -- has been fun to watch. Evans and Holiday both started their careers on different teams -- Holiday on Philadelphia and Evans on Sacramento -- before being traded to New Orleans prior to this season. Mullens has bounced around to four different teams (Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia). Holiday and Evans could add some cachet to this group if they can hoist New Orleans into playoff contention in the coming years.
Stars: Derrick Rose, Kevin Love
Rotation players: Jerryd Bayless, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, J.J. Hickson, DeAndre Jordan, O.J. Mayo
Bit contributors: Kosta Koufos, Anthony Randolph, Bill Walker, Donte Greene
It's one of the questions you always hear asked in the lead-up to the draft: Are there any franchise players available? Love and Rose certainly qualify. But this one-and-done group also includes a number of high-end rotation players. Jordan has thrived under the tutelage of Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, and Gordon, when healthy, is a skilled perimeter scorer. Beasley seems to have moved past the off-court issues that plagued him over the past few years and should help fortify the Heat's frontcourt in the playoffs.
The highlight of this one-and-done group needs no introduction. Durant is scoring in huge bunches, breaking records set by the greatest player of all time and looks primed to claim his first MVP award this season. Conley earned the star label this season by increasing his scoring average and usage rate and taking better care of the ball. Young is one of the more skilled and versatile big men in the league and would certainly receive more praise for his game, were he on a better team. The biggest disappointment of this group, without question, is Oden. While his size has been a valuable asset to the Heat, Oden, the top-ranked player in his recruiting class and a dominant player at Ohio State, was once considered the next great big man. He will instead be remembered as another example of Portland's cursed draft fortune.
This was the first draft after the age minimum went into effect. That meant the nation's best high school seniors -- including Durant, Conley and Oden -- were not eligible to enter the league.
In the eight-year sample, there were 60 players who spent one season in college before leaving for the draft. Only seven of them were deemed flops and nearly half of them qualified as "rotation players." One may take exception to how certain players were categorized; when subjective categories are used, debate is unavoidable.
What seems obvious, though, is that only a small fraction of the one-and-done players in this sample completely flamed out in the NBA. Only a handful turned into stars -- and even a smaller number into true superstars -- but on average, a majority of them managed to play significant roles in the league for at least a few years.
We'll see what the future holds for LaVine and this year's one-and-done batch.