Sunday, August 21, 2011

Preps 2 Pros: All-Time Top 10 Players to Enter NBA Str8 from High School

Kobe Bryant: NBA
Kobe Bryant: High School

Written by: Prospect-Central

It is the middle of August, eleven years pass the millennium and I can't remember a time when there has been as much young high school basketball talent as there is now.  Some of these talented young prospects are on the cusp of entering their collegiate careers while others are continuing their early years of high school dominance.  Only a few years ago we would be talking about some of these high school players as potential candidates for up and coming NBA drafts.  Due to the NBA's policy of having to be one year removed from high school before being draft eligible, the times of "Preps to Pros" days are currently on hiatus. While some elite high school seniors, i.e. Andre Drummond & Steven Adams might still be eligible to be drafted out of high school due to the fact they will be 19 at the time of next years draft, this is not the norm and it is unlikely that they will even enter next years draft (Adams anyways).  So as of right now, we only have the current crop of "Preps to Pros" as well as the past players that made the incredulous leap directly from high school to the professional rankings.  Some of the players on this list are far from done with their NBA careers and subsequently could wind up higher (on future rankings such as this) than where they are currently slotted at.  For the careers of these "Preps to Pros" players and the future potential of some of of right now August 21, 2011; this is how I feel they should be ranked.

ESPN Article (6/26/12) "Roots of NBA's One-and-Done Rule"
ESPN Article (6/27/12) "Future of NBA's One-and-Done Rule"

(1) KOBE BRYANT sg / 6'6'' 205 / Philadelphia, PA
Career Stats:  25.3 ppg  5.3 rpg  4.7 apg  1.5 spg
I don't think it's much of a surprise that Kobe Bryant is atop this list.  He is a Olympic Champion, 5 time NBA Champion, 2 time Finals MVP, 1 time NBA MVP, 13 time All-Star, 4 time All-Star MVP, 9 time All-NBA first team, 9 time All-Defensive first team, 2 time NBA scoring champ, 1 time NBA Slam Dunk champion....and...ummm....oh ya......he dropped 81 points in a game!!!  Lets not forget, he also has a legitimate chance of becoming the NBA's all-time leading scorer when his career is finally finished.  Not a bad day at the office considering he doesn't have a college Since Kobe was able to jump directly from high school to the NBA, he obviously had a stellar high school career as well.  During his senior year, Kobe was named USA Today and Parade Magazines National High School Player of the Year as well as helping his high school team to a class AAAA Pennsylvania state title.  Kobe has battled back from rape allegations in 2003 to once again be one of the NBA's most popular players.  At 32 years of age (turns 33 August 23), Kobe Bryant may not be the player he once was, but he is still easily one of the best players in the NBA and should continue his dominance for at least a couple more years.

(2) LeBRON JAMES sf / 6'8'' 250 / Akron, OH
Career Stats: 27.7 ppg  7.1 rpg  7.0 apg  1.7 spg
Love him or hate him (and it seems like more people hate him these days), there is no denying that LeBron James is one of the best to ever put on an NBA uniform.  Even though he is only 26 years old and has yet to win the "BIG ONE", I would find it hard to imagine if he is not considered one of the top 50 NBA players of all time.  In only 8 short years in the NBA, LeBron James has put together a basketball resume that is literally fit for a "KING" (minus the jewelry).  I will not go into detail about LeBron's high school career, but it was one of the most dominating, hyped and sensationalized that I ever remember.  As far as his NBA career is concerned, it has been filled with big-time accolades to say the least.  Along with being the #1 draft pick in the 2003 NBA draft, LeBron James is an Olympic Champion, 2 time NBA MVP, 7 time NBA All-Star, 2 time NBA All-Star MVP, 5 time All-NBA first team, 3 time All-Defensive first team, 1 time NBA scoring champion, 2003 NBA rookie of the year and he is the youngest player in NBA history to reach 17,000 points (17,362 to be precise).  Wait a second....did I just say he is only 26 years old...WOW.  To put it bluntly, his numbers are INSANE, and combined with the fact he has so many good years ahead of him, it's almost unfathomable on what he might be able to accomplish statistically.  Baring any severe injuries or any other unforeseen circumstances, he has a decent chance (needs those RINGS...plural) to be one of the best, if not the second best (MJ #1 forever in my to ever play in the NBA.

(3) MOSES MALONE pf/c / 6'10'' 230 / Petersburg, VA
Career Stats: 20.3 ppg  12.3 rpg  1.3 apg  1.3 bpg
It's only fitting that the oldest player on this list has a computer generated  While Technology may be able to alter Moses Malone's image, nothing can change the fact that he was a dominating force in the NBA throughout the mid 1970's and almost all of the 1980's.  For anyone reading this who happens to be born in the 1990's or later, I know it's hard to imagine basketball existing before the "Michael Jordan" era, but it did, and Moses Malone played an integral part in it.  Even though Moses was technically drafted by the ABA out of high school and not the NBA, I am making an exception because he still did not play any collegiate basketball.  Moses Malone is another player on this list with tremendous accolades and honors.  Not only is he currently in the NBA's top 10 All-Time for points and rebounds (7 and 5 respectively) he can also call himself an NBA champion because of his Philadelphia 76ers tittle in 1983.  Along with winning the Larry O'brien trophy, Moses was a 3 time NBA MVP, 1 time NBA Finals MVP, 12 time NBA All-Star, 4 time All-NBA first team, 1 time All-Defensive first team, 4 time NBA rebounding champion and last but not least a 1 time ABA All-Star selection.  If you didn't truly understand Moses Malone's greatness before reading this, you may have a better understanding about his overall game and see that he is deserving of the #3 spot on this "preps to pros" list.

(4) KEVIN GARNETT pf / 6'11' 250 / Mauldin, SC
Career Stats: 19.5 ppg  10.7 rpg  4.1 apg  1.5 bpg  1.3 spg
Perhaps no other player on this list has been more instrumental in starting the trend of high school ballers making the leap to the pros as Kevin Garnett was.  Since Garnett turned out to be a future Hall of Famer and was selected 5th in the 1995 NBA draft...behind the likes of #1 pick Joe general managers were willing to gamble on unknown commodities for a solid decade after that debacle of a selection. Anyone who follows NBA basketball is well aware that for every "Kevin Garnett" (there weren't many) that was stumbled upon in subsequent drafts, 15 "Leon Smith's"(who???) were drafted as well.  The discrepancy between studs and duds was simply too high and too costly for an organization that the NBA ultimately incorporated the "one and done" rule before the 2006 NBA draft.  It's sad to think that because KG was too good a basketball player, he probably cost allot of NBA GM's their jobs, since they were more willing to gamble on unproven high school player's that turned out to be busts far more often than stars.  Oh well, you know what they say, "Mess with the get the HORNS!!!"  Anyways, KG is on this list for a reason, here it is in a nutshell: NBA Champion 2008, 1 time NBA MVP, 1 time Defensive Player of the Year, 14 time NBA All-Star, 1 time All-Star MVP, 4 time All-NBA first team, 9 time All-Defensive first team and a 4 time NBA rebounding champion.  Geeeez....I think I just got carpal-tunnel  With all these awards, it's obvious to see why KG is considered one of the best power forwards to ever play the game of basketball. 

(5) DWIGHT HOWARD c / 6'11'' 265 / Atlanta, GA
Career Stats: 18.2 ppg  12.9 rpg  2.2 bpg  1.5 apg  1.0 spg
As of right now, Dwight Howard is the last true SUPERSTAR to come to the NBA directly out of high school.  I remember leading up to the 2004 NBA draft, there was a slight debate amongst draft analyst as to who the Orlando Magic should select with their #1 draft pick; Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor.  Needless to say, the Magic made the right choice, even though Okafor did win Rookie of the Year.  While Dwight Howard may have had a relatively slow start offensively in his career (13 & 15 ppg first two seasons ) defensively he was a BEAST from day one.  These past few seasons however, his offensive game has caught up to his defensive supremacy.  He is now a dominating force on both sides of the ball, and at only 25 years of age, he is one of those players that is ACTUALLY worth any amount of $$$$ he gets paid.  Dwight Howard has more than earned his pay check thus far in his career.  Despite only being in the league for seven years, it feels like he has been a tremendous force for much longer.  Some of his achievements at the tender age of 25 are: Olympic Champion, 3 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 5 time NBA All-Star, 4 time All-NBA first team, 3 time All NBA-Defensive team and he is nicknamed "superman" because of his slam dunk  Since Howard is a free agent after the 2011-12 NBA season (if there even is a season...DON'T get me started) he might hightail it to a new destination.  One thing is clear, whether he stays in Orlando or not, he is the "back-bone" of any franchise and should be a dominating force in the NBA for roughly another decade.

(6) AMARE STOUDEMIRE pf / 6'10'' 240 / Lake Wales, FL
Career Stats: 21.9 ppg  8.8 rpg  1.5 apg  1.5 bpg  
Drafted ninth in 2002.....really???  Come on NBA gm's, you got to step your games up!!!  I may not be a general manger of a NBA team, but if I had access to Amare's high school highlight tape that I posted below, I am pretty sure I would have at least drafted him ahead of...umm....Nikoloz Tskitishvili.  Good lord Amare was underrated!!!  I know its always easy to be a "Monday morning quarterback", but he basically had the same body in high school that he has now and his skill set for an 18 year old at the time was through the roof.  I know his competition in high school was sub-par, but if you watch his high school highlights, you can easily see how his game would translate quite favorably in the NBA. Stoudemire was the definition of a "Man-Child" pure and simple. has been nine years since the draft of 2002 and judging by Amare's bank account ($82,441,324 with roughly another 84 million guaranteed in the next four years) it appears he truly has earned his nickname of "STAT". Stoudemire still has many productive years ahead of him and if he could help bring a championship to New York, he might be able to cement his name into legend status.  As of right now, he is one of the best players in the NBA.  Amare Stoudemire is a 6 time NBA All-Star, 1 time All-NBA first team selection and was named Rookie of the Year in 2002.  Look for Stoudemire to continue his dominance of NBA big men and add to his already impressive resume.

(7)TRACY McGRADY sg/sf / 6'8'' 225 / Bartow, FL
Career Stats: 20.4 ppg  5.8 rpg  4.6 apg  1.3 spg 
I remember I watched Tracy McGrady score 62 points in an NBA game once.  And then, as if he was a magician performing a MAGIC TRICK, his game disappeared. Obviously injuries played a key role in McGrady's demise, but for a good 7 years, he was one of the best players in the NBA.  Say what you want about Isaiah Thomas's ability to run an NBA franchise, but the fact he saw the potential in the then 18 year old McGrady, that 8 other NBA teams passed on in 1997, has to be his greatest achievement as an NBA executive.  I personally loved McGrady's game when he was healthy and to this day I still rock a pair of "T-Mac's" every now and  McGrady has earned a number of accolades in his 13 year NBA career.  He is a 7 time NBA All-Star, 2 time All-NBA first team, 2 time NBA scoring champ and 2001 NBA Most Improved Player.  McGrady is 32 years old and it seems he might be at the tail end of his career.  That being said, I still believe he could be a valuable asset to many NBA teams off the bench.  Even if McGrady retired tomorrow and never played another NBA game, he is still one of the best "prep to pros" players to ever come through the professional rankings.

(8) SHAWN KEMP pf / 6'10'' 230 / Elkhart, IN
Career Stats: 14.6 ppg  8.4 rpg  1.6 apg  1.2 bpg  1.1 spg
I know...I know...I know....Shawn Kemp not only went to one college, he was technically enrolled in two During Kemp's senior year of high school, he signed a national letter-of-intent to play basketball at the University of Kentucky.  However, he left the team before playing a single game in November of 1988 due to some controversy over 2 stolen gold chains, otherwise known as "bling-bling"  Kemp then transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. After one semester at TVCC, where again he did not play one game, 19 year-old Shawn Kemp declared himself eligible for the 1989 NBA draft, where he was ultimately selected 17th overall by the Seattle Supersonics.  Since Shawn Kemp was a human highlight reel waiting to happen and he never played a single game in his one semester of junior college, he makes the cut on this "preps to pros" team.  During the mid to late 90's, Kemp (along with Gary Payton) made the Seattle Supersonics one of the elite teams in the NBA. If it wasn't for the Chicago Bulls and the great Michael Jordan, Shawn Kemp might have been an NBA champion in 1996.  Shawn Kemp was a 6 time NBA All-Star, 3 time NBA All-Second team and he won a gold medal in the 1994 FIBA World Championships.  While Shawn Kemp had a solid 13 year NBA career, scoring more than 15,000 points and grabbing almost 9,000 rebounds, I feel he didn't truly reach his full potential.  Alcohol and weight issues ultimately ended Kemp's career in 2003.  I personally remember Kemp for serving up one of the best "facials" of all time (in my opinion).  To this day, I am sure Alton Lister has nightmares about the REIGNMAN every time he goes to bed!!!      

(9) JERMAINE O'NEAL pf/c / 6'11' 255 / Columbia, SC
Career Stats: 14.0 ppg  7.4 rpg  1.5 apg  1.9 bpg  
People who are only familiar with the Jermaine O'neal of today, might be shocked to know that for a span of about 6 years in the early 2000's, O'neal was considered one of the best power forwards in the game.  The first 4 years of O'neals career was spent rotting on the Portland Trailblazers bench and it looked as if he was another "preps to pros" BUST.  When Jermaine was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2000 however, everything changed.  He fell into his own and began to play like an NBA star.  He put up some big numbers offensively and became one of the best shot blockers in the league.  While everything was smooth sailing for O'neal throughout most of his Pacer's career, injuries caught up to the big man around 2007 and he has not looked the same since.  Even though Jermaine O'neal is clearly not as dominant a player as he once was, his overall body of work in his 14 year NBA career, has warranted him spot on this "preps to pros" team. Besides leading his Pacer teams to six NBA playoff appearances, including an Eastern Conference Finals in the 2003-04 season, Jermaine has some individual accomplishments to boast about as well.  He is a 6 time NBA All-Star, 1 time All-NBA second team, 2 time All-NBA third team, 2002 NBA Most Improved Player and he has earned more than 160 million dollars in his career.  That's allot of dough!!!  Jermaine O'neal might not be a future Hall-of-Famer, but he has had a very solid NBA career and deserves to be on this "preps to pros" list.

(10) MONTA ELLIS sg / 6'3'' 185 / Jackson, MS
Career Stats: 19.4 ppg  4.2 apg  3.7 rpg  1.7 spg
There are so many players that could be selected as the 10th best preps to pro player of all time that I needed to create an Honorable Mention section consisting of another ten names.  Some players that I seriously considered for this spot were Rashard Lewis, Tyson Chandler and Josh Smith to name a few.  All these players are worthy of this selection, but I went with the player that not only has put up good statistics throughout his short 6 year NBA career, but is on the verge of being a bonified NBA star as well (IMO).  You might disagree with my selection of Monta Ellis as the 10th best "preps to pros" player and I can totally find that justifiable.  What you can't disagree with however, is the fact that Monta Ellis is a scoring machine right now and is one of the more exciting players to watch play ball in the NBA.  Because Ellis is capable of playing the point, but is really an undersized shooting guard, he often gets allot of criticism from people who really follow the Golden State Warriors.  While some of his criticism might be accurate, allot of it seems a little unfair. Monta Ellis is an extremely talented basketball player, and at only 25 years old, has many potential all-star years ahead of him.  He has already scored over 7,000 points, was named NBA's Most Improved Player in 2007 and help lead Golden State to one of the greatest upsets in NBA playoff history, when the 8th seeded Warriors beat the #1 seed Dallas Mavericks in 2007.  Monta Ellis has all the talent in the world needed to elevate his game to the next level.  It will be interesting to see if he can fulfill his enormous amount of potential and finally enter superstar status.

TEN HONORABLE MENTIONS * No specific order

TYSON CHANDLER c / 7'1'' 235 / Hanford, CA
Career Stats: 8.3 ppg  8.8 rpg  1.3 bpg  1 NBA Championship

RASHARD LEWIS pf / 6'10'' 230 / Pineville, LA
Career Stats: 16.3 ppg  5.6 rpg  1.8 apg  1.1 spg

JOSH SMITH pf / 6'9'' 240 / College Park, GA
Career Stats: 14.6 ppg  7.7 rpg  3.0 apg  2.2 bpg  1.3 spg

ANDREW BYNUM c / 7'0'' 285 / Plainsboro, NJ
Career Stats: 10.5 ppg  7.1 rpg  1.1 apg   1.5 bpg   2 NBA Championships

BRANDON JENNINGS pg / 6'1'' 170 / Compton, CA * 1 year overseas before NBA 
Career Stats: 15.8 ppg  5.3 apg  3.6 rpg  1.4 spg

J.R. SMITH sg / 6'6'' 220 / Freehold, NJ
Career Stats: 12.5 ppg  2.0 apg  2.8 rpg

AL HARRINGTON pf / 6'9'' 250 / Orange, NJ
Career Stats: 13.8 ppg  5.7 rpg  1.7 apg

DeSHAWN STEVENSON sg / 6'5'' 220 / Fresno, CA
Career Stats: 7.7 ppg  1.8 apg  2.2 rpg  1 NBA Championship

AL JEFFERSON pf/c / 6'10'' 270 / Monticello, MS
Career Stats: 15.9 ppg  8.8 rpg  1.3 apg  1.3 bpg

KENDRICK PERKINS c / 6'10'' 280 / Nederland, TX
Career Stats: 6.4 ppg  6.1 rpg  1.0 apg  1.4 bpg  1 NBA Championship

DARRYL DAWKINS c / 6'11'' 250 / Orlando, FL
Career Stats: 12.0 ppg  6.1 rpg  1.3 apg  1.4 bpg

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