The one-and-done rule has become a popular subject of discussion in NCAA and NBA circles. For those unaware of the rule, it was instituted by NBA commissioner David Stern as a way to curtail high schoolers from going straight into the NBA. It required the 17 or 18-year-old to play at least one year of either college ball or international ball — as in the case of Brandon Jennings.
University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has had quite a few players leave his team after only one season, has been irked to the point of hating the rule. It’s tough to blame him, or any other coach at the NCAA level for that matter.
While it is a useful tool in making sure that 17 and 18-year-olds can hone their craft at a higher level before jumping into the NBA, it’s become an extremely unfair practice to the coaches of these schools that have to go out and find new high school stars after every draft.
Calipari, for example, has already had 11 players depart from his elite program after only a year’s play.
As a result, it’s left NCAA coaches to constantly recruit, create new gameplans, adjust to a new crop of players, and find and convince the next big star to play for their squad.
However, there are benefits to the one-and-done rule; namely for the players. While there are some with obvious talent that should warrant them a trip from high school straight to the NBA, it’s also allowed other players, such as the 15 on this list, to improve their game before making the jump to the big leagues.
For every Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, there’s a Sebastian Telfair or Dorell Wright that proves how the one-and-rule could have possibly made something more out of their careers. That one year is a necessity to some. For others it’s superfluous and simply a short road block to a prosperous NBA career.
Whether or not these 15 players actually benefitted from this rule is something that they would have to personally answer. For now, we’ll just take a look at the 15 best NBA players who spent one year at college and made the smooth transition to the big leagues.
*** *** ***
15. JOHN WALL
John Wall will need to hone his jumper if he wants to live up to that lucrative deal he signed with the Washington Wizards over the summer, but one can’t deny the money matches the potential. Following a memorable year at Kentucky where he and several future NBA stars won the national championship, Wall took his chances in the NBA and was selected first in the 2010 Draft by the team that just went all-in on his talent.
Speed kills, and no player knows that better than Wall. He’s arguably the fastest player in the NBA and its showcased when he’s handling coast-to-coast and turning an inbound pass off a score into a layup in five seconds flat.
Following an injury-plagued first half of the 2012-13 season, Wall made up for half a season’s worth of scoring with performances such as the 47-point drubbing he delivered to Memphis, as well as a 37-point output against Indiana only a week later. He finished the season averaging a career-high 18.5 points, albeit in only 49 games.
14. MIKE CONLEY JR.
Mike Conley, Jr. only needed one impressive season at Ohio State, where he helped lead the team to a national championship appearance, to declare for the draft and become a lottery pick. Conley was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the fourth pick of the 2007 Draft following his lone year with the Buckeyes, also complete with a previous nod as a McDonald’s All-American, and was a starter by his sixth game in the Association. The up-and-down rookie season would be followed up with another tumultuous season where he actually split time with Kyle Lowry as the starting point guard.
It was in his third season, however, where Conley finally came out of his shell. Shots started to fall; he became a better facilitator and also became a stronger defender. In fact, Conley has become one of the league’s strongest defenders at his position, recently earning a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team.
He was the steals leader in the 2012-13 season, finishing with 174. He also set a career-high for points per game with 14.6, while also shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. He is a 38 percent shooter from deep for his career.
Conley continues to integrate himself into a larger role in the offense and attempted to do so throughout Memphis’ postseason run. Despite low shooting percentages, Conley put up a respectable 17 points per while aiding the team in a run to their first conference finals in franchise history.
13. SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM
Somebody bring basketball back to Vancouver so we can see Shareef Abdur-Rahim before his sudden fall from grace.
Abdur-Rahim spent the first five years of his career with the Grizzlies after being drafted third once he finished a single year at the University of California. He impressed in his rookie season with averages of 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds, good enough to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting and giving the young Vancouver franchise a player to possibly build around.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the team success never came and they never won more than 23 games in six years in Vancouver. Shareef was able to at least put some fans in the seats, pouring in solid point outputs and crashing the boards well for a 6-9 forward, averaging as much as 10 boards in 2000. Shareef even earned a gold medal with Team USA in Sydney in the summer of 2000.
Abdur-Rahim averaged as much as 23 points with the Grizzlies, but the team ultimately made the right decision when he was traded to Atlanta for Pau Gasol. From there, Shareef would make his only All-Star Game in his first season with the Hawks.
That All-Star Game must have been the climax of his career because the rest of his NBA tenure is mainly a lot of falling action. He only spent another season-and-a-half with Atlanta before bouncing around from Portland to Sacramento and then retiring at the age of 31.
12. GERALD WALLACE
Similar to the early careers of Jermaine O’Neal and Chauncey Billups, Gerald Wallace also struggled to earn minutes and a consistent role early on in his career. In three seasons with the Sacramento Kings, following a year at Alabama and being picked 25th in the 2001 Draft, Wallace failed to average more than 12 minutes of action per game.
Wallace would enter the expansion draft in 2004 and his career would suddenly take flight as he’d become a primary player on the brand-new Charlotte Bobcats franchise. Within two seasons of joining the franchise, Wallace had already become the league-leader in steals (averaging 2.5 per in 2006) to go along with 15 points on 54 percent shooting.
The Kings, who had Wallace buried on a bench, could only kick themselves after seeing what type of player “Crash” truly was. He’s an athletic freak that can leap over buildings in a single bound, can defend twos and threes with ease and score around the rim, something the Kings wish they could have had the past few years.
Wallace would become the first, and only, All-Star in Bobcats history in 2010 when he was on his way to averaging an impressive 18.2 points and 10 rebounds, while also converting a career-high 37 percent of his three-pointers. He earned All-Defensive First Team honors the same year.
Since being traded from Charlotte, Wallace has faced turmoil adjusting to his new teams. He only spent a season with Portland, struggled to find a role and his confidence on the Brooklyn Nets, and is now going to be featured on a Boston Celtics team that will be on par with the Bobcat teams he played with throughout the second half of the 2000s.
11. JRUE HOLIDAY
Following a freshman season at UCLA where he only averaged 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and shot 30 percent from deep, Jrue Holiday nevertheless decided to enter the NBA Draft despite the meager numbers he put up in his only year at the NCAA level. The 2008 McDonalds All-American risked a lot by declaring early following an up-and-down year with the Bruins.
Holiday, a 6-3 guard with surprising athleticism and a solid jumper that extends out beyond the perimeter, didn’t even make the All-Rookie team in his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers. Three years later, though, and he’s already an All-Star.
What happened? Well, Holiday made the proverbial jump from his freshman to sophomore years in the NBA. His minutes increased and he responded with strong averages of 14 points and 6.5 assists.
Holiday, most recently, put up career numbers across the board, including a career-high in points (17 ppg), assists (eight) and steals (1.6). He is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans and will be starting alongside a fun young core that includes two fellow one-and-done players, who were just left off this list, in Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon.
10. JAMAL CRAWFORD
Jamal Crawford is the epitome of the player you don’t want to see making shots if you’re the opposition. There is no defense that can stop the former Michigan Wolverines star from taking-and-making looks that have no right going in.
Crawford has never been an All-Star, yet he has three 50-point games with three different teams. He’s not a great player, he’s just a player that you should be extremely weary and terrified of if he starts to make shots.
Despite having one of the sickest crossovers in the NBA, Crawford does not attack the rim and shies away from contact, instead choosing to take most of his shots off-the-dribble.
His 50-point games came as a member of the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Bernard King and Moses Malone have performed the same feat. Not bad company.
Crawford was drafted eighth by the Bulls in the 2000 Draft and spent four seasons with the franchise before departing in a trade to the Knicks. With New York, Crawford would drop a career-high 52 points in a win over Miami, average a career-high 20.6 points in 2008, and make as many as 2.6 threes per on 36 percent shooting in 2004.
Since departing from New York, Crawford has bounced around from team-to-team, including a short stint with the Atlanta Hawks where he came off the bench and took home Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2010. It was a career season for Crawford as he averaged 18 points and converted over two threes per contest at a 38 percent clip.
JCrossover now comes off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers, where he recently averaged 16.5 points and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc.
9. LUOL DENG
Luol Deng is from a town in what is now South Sudan called Wow. I should stop right here because the rest of his accomplishments won’t compare to the aforementioned fact. But we’ll try because Luol has had himself a solid career since leaving Duke after one year and getting himself drafted seventh in the 2004 Draft by his current team, the Chicago Bulls.
Results were immediate as Deng made the All-Rookie First Team after averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.
He’s made a name for himself as a solid defender and a knock-down midrange threat. He’s an excellent locker room presence with plenty of intangibles on both sides of the court and can seemingly play to an extent that almost should be considered inhumane.
Deng has led the in NBA in minutes per the past two seasons and has averaged 39 minutes of playing time the past three years. Although his averages have remained relatively consistent over the past eight seasons, Deng’s presence on the floor has been a positive for every Bulls’ team since ’04, including the recent Chicago teams that have seriously contended.
He has represented Chicago in the past two All-Star Games and earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team in 2012.
8. ZACH RANDOLPH
It feels as if the Memphis Grizzlies were made for Zach Randolph. It’s grind-out, earning-points-the-hard-way, intimidating basketball and it’s right in Randolph’s wheelhouse.
Before Randolph even joined the Grizzlies, however, he had seen plenty of individual success with Portland, New York and the L.A. Clippers. The Michigan State graduate that decided to enter the draft despite averages of only 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds was always a stat-filler in two columns: points and rebounds.
For his career, Randolph is averaging over nine boards per, but that number is weighed down by his first two seasons where he was in a reserve role. Per 36 minutes, he is grabbing nearly 11 boards over his career and his total rebounding percentage has only climbed since joining the Grizzlies.
In the four seasons Randolph has been with Memphis, they have made the postseason three times. This was a franchise that had only made the playoffs three times in the previous 15 years. Randolph, along with Marc Gasol, has turned Memphis from a lottery franchise to a legitimate contender.
Since leaving behind a poor reputation in Portland and the constant criticism of New York media, Randolph has been right at home playing for a franchise with a feverish fanbase, an offense focused on interior looks and plenty of rebounds to grab thanks to the defensive capabilities of his team’s backcourt.
7. KYRIE IRVING
He’s only played two years of NBA basketball and in those two years he missed 38 out of 148 games, yet it’s undeniable just how talented of a player Kyrie Irving is at the age of 20. Irving is as close to a player straight out of high school as we’ve seen since the one-and-done rule was implemented. He played only 11 games in his only season at Duke, but the talent was obvious and the potential was conspicuous.
The Cleveland Cavaliers thought so, too; thus why they selected Irving with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. Their gamble–they were selecting someone who was injured in his one season at the NCAA level–has paid off so far with Irving taking home Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 40 percent from three.
Irving isn’t the next LeBron, but he has the potential to make the Cavaliers a franchise that can consistently contend as James had them throughout his tenure. Kyrie is leading one of the most promising young cores in the NBA with four starters selected in the top five of the past three drafts.
The supporting cast is there, Kyrie just needs to remain healthy and continue improving on a game that merited him an All-Star appearance last year as a 20-year-old. He can already knock down jumpers off-the-dribble and free himself up from defenders with a lethal crossover.
6. STEPHON MARBURY
The last few years of his career were upsetting at times, and it ends up leading to forgetting just how prolific a player Stephon Marbury was in the best days of his career.
Marbury was selected fourth out of Georgia Tech by the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for the rights to Ray Allen. He would play alongside another young star in Kevin Garnett and the two would finally bring relevancy to the franchise that missed the playoffs the first seven years of its existence. He made the All-Rookie First Team after dropping 15.8 points and 7.8 assists per game.
The relationship with Garnett and the Wolves only lasted for two-and-a-half years, however, as Marbury would demand a trade in order to be near his hometown in Brooklyn. Since forming a possible contender with Garnett wasn’t in the cards, Marbury would end up in New Jersey and flourish with a heavier role in the offense.
In his All-Star 2000-01 season, Marbury averaged a career-high 23.9 points and had a PER of 22.7.
While he was never much of a three-point threat, Stephon was able to get it done with a strong midrange game and an ability to penetrate and finish with strength. On top of being a scorer, Marbury was a strong facilitator that dropped eight dimes per seven times in his 12-year-career.
Since 2010, Stephon has been playing in China and has made quite the second career out of it. Not only does he have a statue in his honor, he’s also a four-time CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) All-Star, was the 2010 All-Star Game MVP and a CBA champion with the Beijing Ducks.
5. KEVIN LOVE
It took two years for Kevin Love to average a double-double. It took him three years to lead the league in rebounding. It took him four years to nearly lead the league in scoring.
I know it’s way up there near Canada, but start paying attention to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kevin Love, who is putting up rebounding outputs that haven’t been seen since the days of Dennis Rodman. Namely, a 31-rebound effort in a win over the New York Knicks where he also dropped 31 points and became the first player in 28 years to have a 30-30 game. The last player to do it? Somebody by the name of Moses ‘Fo Fo Fo’ Malone.
The 31-31 game came in a season where Love usurped Dwight Howard‘s crown for rebounds per game, ending the season averaging a staggering 15.2 boards and grabbing 23.6 percent of all available rebounds.
Love would average a career-high 26 points a year later when he further integrated the three-point shot into his repertoire. Not only did he shoot 37 percent on five three-point attempts that season, but he won the Three-Point Shootout as well.
4. CHRIS BOSH
For the starting center of the two-time defending champions, Chris Bosh has endured more criticism than any player on the Miami Heat outside of LeBron James. The game that critics define as “soft” or “passive” has actually been the reason why the former Georgia Tech star has become such an imperative part of the Heat’s pace-and-space offensive system.
If Bosh were a traditional power forward or center, he’d clog up the lane and limit the drives of the Heat’s high-volume scoring superstars. Bosh, being a shooter, which he did better than just about any other player in the league last year, opens up the lane for James and Dwyane Wade, while also keeping the PFs and Cs of the opposition out of the paint.
Although his points and rebounds per took a steep decline in 2013, he shot a career-high field-goal percentage in the regular season (54 percent) and converted 41 percent of his threes in the postseason.
While his 2013 postseason run at times was forgettable, his offensive rebound leading to a Ray Allen three and back-to-back blocks on the final two San Antonio possessions of Game 6 were key to preserving a second consecutive championship for Miami.
Before joining the Heat, Bosh was the primary player in Toronto for seven years. He averaged as much as 24 points, grabbed as much as 11 boards per, averaged a double-double on three occasions and averaged at least 22 points in five consecutive seasons. He led Toronto to tie a franchise-record 47 wins in 2007, while also leading them out of a four-year postseason drought.
3. DERRICK ROSE
Let Derrick Rose take as much time off as he wants if it means he returns to the form he had throughout the 2010-11 campaign.
Few players have had as polarizing a career as Rose has already had in a five-year career that’s consisted of four seasons where he actually played. The former Memphis star sat out the entirety of the 2012-13 season to recover from a torn ACL he suffered in Chicago’s first-round series in 2012. Are we really in the right here to say when an elite player should or shouldn’t come back from a devastating, career-jarring injury? Didn’t think so.
Before his injury, as well as the slew of ailments he dealt with throughout the 2011-12 season, Rose was one of the league’s best players and he earned heavy honors when he became the NBA’s youngest ever MVP in 2011 as a 22-year-old. By the time most traditional players were finalizing their four-year college careers, Derrick Rose was already the league MVP and only in his third year. Talk about raising the bar high.
Rose made quite the jump from his rookie to sophomore season to his third season. He averaged 25 points on 45 percent shooting, shot a career-high 33 percent from three, grabbed a career-high four rebounds, dished out a career-high 7.7 assists and shot a career-high 86 percent from the foul line.
Akin to the freak athletic point guards that have been pouring out of the NCAA ranks, Rose’s athleticism is a sight to behold. He’s been known to scrape his knuckles on the ceilings of arenas and could give Usain Bolt a run for his money even while he’s dribbling.
Goran Dragic knows the might and power of Rose. He, and probably a majority of the NBA, can only hold out hope that Derrick stays on the bench.
2. CARMELO ANTHONY
Carmelo Anthony left Syracuse University on top of the amateur basketball world. Following a season where he averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony led the Orange to the six victories needed for a national championship, capped off by a three-point win over Kansas where he dropped 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He was naturally selected as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Rather than being the big fish in the little pond, Anthony took his talents to the NBA and was selected third by the Denver Nuggets in the historic 2003 Draft that also featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh going in the top five.
As a 19-year-old rookie with Denver, Anthony dropped 21 points to go along with six boards per, enough to earn a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. His influence was immediately felt as the Nuggets 17-65 record from the previous year became an afterthought with the team finishing 43-39 in ‘Melo’s rookie season. The 2003-04 campaign was the first winning season for the Nuggets since 1994. Bob Dole had yet to run for president the last time Denver had a winning record. Team success suddenly became the norm for a Denver team that had missed seven consecutive postseasons before Anthony’s arrival.
Three years later he’d drop a career-high, as a 22-years-old, 28.9 points. He’d go on to lead the Nuggets to tie the then-franchise record, not including the ABA, for wins with 54 and would also take the franchise to their first conference finals appearance in 24 years in 2009.
Anthony has since left the Nuggets for the New York Knicks and he brought his scoring touch with him. He just led the league in scoring for the first time in his career, led by a 50-point effort in a late-season win over Miami.
His offensive repertoire is on par with the greats of the perimeter. He recently showcased his incredible shot-making skills in the 2012 Olympics; his quick first-step and pull-up jumper off the dribble is nearly unstoppable and his footwork in the post has left even the league’s best defenders nailed to the floor. ‘Melo has made two All-NBA Second Teams and most recently finished third in MVP voting.
1. KEVIN DURANT
Only the best players in the history of the game have had as much success early in their careers as Kevin Durant has already experienced.
Following one season at Texas where he averaged 26 points and 11 boards, and shot 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc, Durant was able to transition his ability to score from all areas of the court to the NBA with startlingly efficiency.
Durant averaged 20 points in his first season and has only seen his scoring averages rise since. He became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history when he averaged 30.1 points as a 21-year-old, then became the youngest back-to-back scoring champion, averaging 27.7 points the very next year. Can you guess what happened the year after? Yeah, Durant became the youngest player in NBA history to win back-to-back-to-back scoring titles after averaging 28 points.
If not for Carmelo Anthony going on a scoring rampage in the last month of the 2012-13 season, Durant would have won his fourth scoring title by the time he was 24 years old.
At 6-10, Durant can use his length to finish around the rim. His athleticism can still catch you by surprise, his ballhandling has only improved like his defense, he can shoot with ease from as far out as 30 feet, has been runner-up to league MVP twice, was the 2012 All-Star Game MVP and has been on four All-NBA First Teams.
The scariest part? He hasn’t even turned 25 yet. He still has a prime to play through.
What do you think?
Follow John on Twitter at @JohnFtheheatgod.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.