The Unaccompanied Minors of the NBA

They may not have made the jump straight from high school, whether by choice or imposition, but there are a litany of one-and-done players that have blossomed into bona fide stars as professional ballers as well.

Carmelo Anthony:
The most accomplished of these players in my opinion, is three-time All-Star, Carmelo Anthony, to whom the age requirement did not apply, but nonetheless, he opted for the NBA following his freshman season at Syracuse, during which he won a national title under coach Jim Boeheim.  He’s developed into one of the elite superstar players in the league and is perhaps one piece away from truly contending for an NBA championship. I’d even go so far as to say that he’s right up there with Kobe Bryant as the best pure scorer in the game, perhaps even better. Bryant’s game is without question, far more complete, but Melo just seems to have an unreal God-given knack for scoring the ball in the hoop.

Kevin Durant:
Right on Melo’s heels, there is obviously the 2009-2010 scoring champion and All-Star, Kevin Durant, who showcased his exceptional talent and work ethic night in and night out this past season. I have no doubt in my mind that in two more years at most, he will be contending for the title of “best player in the league”. As we saw during this past season, KD finished second in the MVP race against LeBron James after an incredible year in which he scored at least 25 points in 29 straight games and led his team to a 50-32 record, a vast improvement from 23-59 in 2009. While he struggled statistically in his first ever postseason appearance going against Ron Artest, he proved that the stage is not too big for him and that he will be heard from for years to come.

Derrick Rose:
NBA All-Star, Derrick Rose, is without an ounce of doubt, a big game performer and one of the top talents in the game. In the 2007 NCAA Final Four, he single-handedly picked apart the UCLA Bruins to the tune of 25 points and 9 rebounds. Then, in his first ever NBA playoffs as a rookie last season, Derrick dropped 36 points with 11 assists and led the Chicago Bulls to a shocking Game 1 victory over the defending champion Boston Celtics. He also earned his first All-Star selection this past season in his sophomore year as a pro. Rose is not mentioned in the same breath as a Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash or Chris Paul as of yet, but at a mere 21 years old, he still has a chance to surpass all of those players and stand tall as the best point guard in the NBA.

Honorable Mention:
We also cannot fail to highlight big names such as O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley, Brandon Jennings (overseas), Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday, Jerryd Bayless and Demar Derozan. Most of these one-and-done players have made instant impacts on their respective teams, contributing significant minutes during their very young careers.

With these one-year wonder players, we can only wonder what the true difference would have been if they had been able to dive right into the league from high school. John Wall recently stated, “I needed the maturity to go to college. The one year of experience, listening to the coaches and playing in the Elite Eight helped” (ESPN). He also commented on how, had he not attended UK even for the one year that he did, there is no way he would have been prepared for the mental rigors of playing in the NBA.

I would never question the sincerity of such comments because Wall did even finish his last semester with a strong 3.5 GPA, which shows how seriously he took his one year of college life, but I do wonder if he truly believes that he was not ready for the league. How did Durant and Rose feel? Are they able to contribute so quickly because of the singular runs they had in the NCAA or are they just that good anyways? It’s incredibly difficult to discern.

Before we all get too excited however, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the absolute busts who decided to take their “talent” straight into the NBA.

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