Five years ago this week, the NBA staged its final draft that included players who had just graduated high school. Nine high schoolers were drafted, ranging from Martell Webster (sixth overall) to Amir Johnson (56th overall). Seven still are in the league, none of them just hanging on.
In 2004, eight players were drafted out of high school, including Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and J.R. Smith. Seven of the eight remain in the NBA. In 2003, five high schoolers were drafted, including LeBron James and Kendrick Perkins. The latter was one of four NBA Finals starters who jumped straight to the league from high school. Uh, tell me again why players have to wait a year out of high school to play in the NBA? The truth is, college players are a lot bigger risk than high schoolers, socially and athletically. The NBA does a much better job than do the colleges in developing ballplayers and maybe citizens. The NBA has drafted 43 players straight out of high school. Seven were or are bonafide superstars: LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady and, if you count the 1974 ABA Draft, Moses Malone. Ten others were/are impact players. Andrew Bynum, Webster, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Perkins, Tyson Chandler, Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal. Eleven more were/are solid players who either start or as valuable as starters. The Travis Outlaw, J.R. Smith, Darryl Dawkins crowd. Seven more high schoolers were/are journeymen who carved out a decent career. The Dorell Wright, DeSagana Diop, Jonathan Bender class of player. That's 35 out of 43 high schoolers drafted that were legit, ready-to-make-a-career-of-it NBA players. Only eight busts can be found among the high schoolers drafted; only two never played in the NBA. Why is the NBA closing the door on high school entries? I don't see a rash of knuckleheads on this high school list. Sure, J.R. Smith and Stephen Jackson have been attitude problems. But so have dozens of players who made collegiate pit stops. Jamaal Tinsley went to Iowa State; you can't get more collegiate than Iowa State. Is the NBA trying to help college basketball? It's doing a bad job of it. College hoops seem more polluted than ever, with the likes of O.J.