The NBA Draft is less than two weeks away. The Duke Blue Devils have a chance to have three players drafted, a freshman – Jabari Parker, a sophomore – Rodney Hood, and a senior – Andre Dawkins.
The players who seem the last several years to generate all the hype are freshmen because of the one-and-done rule. But does being a one-and-done translate into NBA success? Is it really better to go back to school and declare after gaining more experience? We looked at the last decade of drafts to find out.
For our definition of NBA success we looked at a few different factors – how many All-Stars (and number of times being named an All-Star) there have been for each class, number of MVPs, All-NBA teams, Rookie of the Years, Championships won, are they still in the NBA, and to many the most important category – money earned.
Here is what we found out…
Since 2004 there have been 74 freshmen to declare early for the NBA Draft. Of those 74, 64 (86.5%) have been drafted. Of those 64, 54 (84%) are still in the league today. A freshmen has been the #1 pick six times. They have had eight All-Stars who have combined for a total of 18 All-Star game appearances. They have had three players named to All-NBA teams a total of six times. The freshmen class has had two league MVPs – Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, as well as four Rookie of the Years. While the freshmen class has given us some of the biggest names currently in the NBA – Durant, Rose, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis – they have only combined to win two NBA Championships. Trevor Ariza won the Championship in 2009 with the Los Angeles Lakers and Cory Joseph with the 2014 San Antonio Spurs. From 2004 through the end of the 2013-14 season, the freshmen class has combined to earn nearly $1.1 billion in salary or $17,255,153.24 per player.
Most notable freshmen since 2004: Luol Deng, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis
How does this compare to the other classes? Glad you asked.
There have been 113 sophomores to declare early. Of those 79 (70%) have been selected. From those 79, 60 (73%) are still in the league. Only twice has a sophomore been selected the #1 pick – Andrew Bogut in 2006 and Blake Griffin in 2009. Like the freshmen class, they have had eight All-Stars, though they have combined for a total of 25 All-Star game appearances. They have had eight players named to All-NBA teams a total of 20 times. They have yet to have anyone win the league NBA, but have had three win Rookie of the Year. Unlike the freshmen class, they have combined to win six NBA Championships – Rajon Rondo with the Celtics in 2008, Jordan Farmar in 2009 and 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers, and most recently Kawhii Leonard, Austin Daye, and Patty Mills with the 2014 San Antonio Spurs. From 2004 through the end of the 2013-14 season, the sophomore class has combined to earn nearly $1.2 billion in salary, however, that is only $15,205,816.76 per player.
Most notable sophomores since 2004: Andre Iguodala, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard
There have been 201 juniors to declare early. Of those 116 (58%) have been selected. From those 116, 71 (61%) are still in the league. Since 2004 there has not been a junior selected #1 in the NBA Draft. In fact, you have to go back 20 years to the 1994 NBA Draft to find the last junior selected #1 – Glenn Robinson by the Milwaukee Bucks. They have had four players named to All-NBA teams a total of six times. The junior class has only had six NBA All-Stars, combining for 10 appearances. They have not yet had an MVP, and the only Rookie of the Year was Emeka Okafor in 2005. They have, however, combined to win 11 NBA Championships. From 2004 through the end of the 2013-14 season, the junior class has combined to earn over $1.4 billion in salary, however, that is only $12,127,211.40 per player.
Most notable juniors since 2004: Deron Williams, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Stephen Curry
Seniors do not declare for the NBA Draft, but there have been 196 selected in the last 10 years. Of those 196, only 77 (39%) remain in the league. There has not been a senior selected #1 since Tim Duncan in 1997. In fact, the highest a senior has been drafted since 2004 was Shelden Williams at #5 by the Atlanta Hawks in 2006. Of the 196 seniors selected, 138 (70%) have been selected in the second round of the draft. They have had three players named to All-NBA teams a total of four times. They have also had six NBA All-Stars combining for 10 appearances. They have not yet had an MVP, and the only Rookie of the Year was Damian Lilliard in 2012. The senior class has also combined to win 11 NBA Championships. From 2004 through the end of the 2013-14 season, the senior class has combined to earn over $1 billion in salary, however, that is only $5,416,852.49 per player.
Most notable seniors since 2004: Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson, David Lee, Danny Granger, J.J. Redick, Brandon Roy, Roy Hibbert, Norris Cole, Damian Lillard
So what do the numbers tell us? If you’re a freshmen, you’re more than likely to remain in the league more so than the other classes, especially seniors. Seniors, are more likely to be selected in the second round when contracts are not guaranteed and don’t have as many years on them as first round picks. Seniors are on a shorter leash because of that. They are also in most cases, already four years (or an entire first round rookie contract) older and seen to not have as much room for improvement. They are drafted to fill a niche or in hopes there’s a diamond in the rough.
In the end, if you are a even a borderline first round rated prospect, it is, in most cases, better for your NBA future to leave after your freshmen or sophomore year in college. The chances for longterm success diminish each year you wait to enter the NBA Draft. Even if you are traded during or don’t have your rookie contract extended, teams are more willing to take a chance they can still help you reach your potential than they would a junior or senior.