In a little over a month, a new crop of young athletes will realize their dreams at the NBA Draft. For the players fortunate enough to hear their names called, draft night will serve as a milestone in their basketball journey. Another milestone that many of these young men have in common is one that occurred years earlier, when they were recognized by the myriad high school scouting services as the cream of the crop.
Sites like Rivals.com begin to identify potential future superstars as early as their 10th grade year in high school, giving them exposure to college coaching staffs, NBA scouts and basketball junkies everywhere. With this exposure comes heightened expectations of collegiate dominance and NBA superstardom. But trying to identify the best talent in the country that far in advance, and predicting how that talent will translate to higher level success, can be a fickle enterprise.
With that in mind, let’s look at the past 10 number one ranked players by Rivals and how their hoops journeys played out.
2007 No. 1 Ranked Player: Michael Beasley
Collegiate Stats: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Collegiate Honors: Consensus All-American, Big 12 Player of the Year
NBA Stats: (2008-present) 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists
NBA Honors: 2008-09 All-Rookie Team
In Beasley’s one season at Kansas State, he certainly lived up to his billing as the top high school player in the nation. Beasley terrorized the Big 12, leading the league in scoring and rebounding. His 12.4 rebounds also led the nation, while his 26.2 points were good for third in the country. He led the Wildcats to a first round upset of USC in the NCAA Tournament before Wisconsin ended his brief college career. In today’s basketball landscape, it is to be expected that the top high school talent will be simply making a pit stop at their respective school, and Beasley was no different. But his impact was high.
Beasley’s stellar freshman season earned him the honor of being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat. As a rookie he put up 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds en route to making the All-Rookie team. After posting similar numbers in his second season, he was traded to Minnesota as the Heat attempted to free cap space to lure LeBron James from Cleveland. In his first season with the T-Wolves, he enjoyed his best year as a pro. He scored 19.2 points while grabbing 5.6 rebounds and dishing out 2.2 assists. Following that season, Beasley saw a decline in his numbers. The decline, combined with continued off-court issues, led to stints overseas between bouncing around the NBA.
Final Verdict: Meh. The Rivals rankings are meant more as a predictor of collegiate success than of professional, and what he accomplished at Kansas State is impressive. However, expectations come with high rankings and collegiate success, and Beasley hasn’t met the mark in the NBA. A nine-year NBA career with respectable stats is nothing to scoff at, but Beasley never materialized into a consistent impact player at the professional level.
2008 No. 1 Ranked Player: B.J. Mullens
Collegiate Stats: 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds
Collegiate Honors: None
NBA Stats: (2009-14) 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds
NBA Honors: None
Mullens went to Ohio State with high expectations as an impact seven-footer. He joined a talented Buckeye roster with Evan Turner and William Buford. But disappointment would come to define his time at Ohio State. The Buckeyes suffered a first round NCAA Tournament loss to Siena, and Mullens declared for the draft after his freshman season despite ranking just 5th on his team in scoring and 4th in rebounding.
The Dallas Mavericks selected Mullens with the 24th overall pick. He was traded to Oklahoma City, where he struggled to find playing time, averaging just over five minutes a game with the Thunder. A trade to the former Charlottte Bobcats (now Hornets) seemed to provide new life to Mullens. In two seasons in Charlotte, he averaged 9.9 points and 5.7 rebounds, but it didn’t last. After two more NBA stops, Mullens found himself out of the NBA. Nothing was ever easy for B.J. Mullens and his basketball path proved to be the same.
Final Verdict: Bust
2009 No. 1 Ranked Player: John Wall
Collegiate Stats: 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists
Collegiate Honors: Consensus All-American, SEC Player of the Year
NBA Stats: (2010-present) 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 10.7 assists
NBA Honors: 4x All-Star, 2010-11 All-Rookie, 2014-15 All-Defense
Wall headed to Kentucky as part of a star-studded recruiting class that included Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The freshmen joined Patrick Patterson to form a formidable force. John Wall proceeded to lead that team in scoring and assists, while leading them to the Elite Eight.
The Washington Wizards selected Wall with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Wall hit the ground running, putting up 16.4 points and 8.3 assists as a rookie, and he hasn’t looked back. In 2016-17, Wall posted his best season yet with 23.1 points, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds and two steals per game. It is the third straight season in which he has averaged a double-double. Wall has been a terror in this season’s playoffs, averaging 29 points and 11 assists while shooting 49.7% from the field through nine games against Atlanta and Boston. He has been stellar in his seven-year career and appears to still be improving.
Final Verdict: Star
2010 No. 1 Ranked Player: Josh Selby
Collegiate Stats: 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Collegiate Honors: None
NBA Stats: (2011-13) 2.2 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists
NBA Honors: None
Selby came to Kansas as one of the most sought after basketball players in the country and left as the poster boy for everything that is wrong with the one-and-done rule. After a disappointing season where seemingly nothing went right, from injuries to NCAA bureaucracy, Selby did what anyone in his position would have done. He got the hell out of there.
Unfortunately, the damage had been done. Instead of being taken in the lottery, where he likely would have gone without a layover in Lawrence, he fell all the way to 49th. The fall cost him not only a lot of money, but an opportunity to have a team truly invest in him in a way that would afford him the opportunity to prove himself. Instead, he quickly found himself out of the league and playing overseas. Now, he is attempting to write one of the more remarkable redemption stories in recent memory.
Final Verdict: Bust, at least in terms of collegiate and NBA production. But he’s just 26, seems to be thriving in his current situation, and just maybe the Josh Selby story isn’t complete just yet.
2011 No. 1 Ranked Player: Austin Rivers
Collegiate Stats: 15.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists
Collegiate Honors: None
NBA Stats: (2012-present) 8.4 points, two rebounds, 2.1 assists
NBA Honors: None
Rivers made an immediate impact at Duke. As a freshman, he led the Blue Devils in scoring and helped propel them to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But that Duke team will always be remembered for being upset by 15-seed Lehigh in the opening round of the tournament, and just like that, Rivers was off to the NBA.
He was selected 10th overall by the then-New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans). After three relatively quiet seasons in New Orleans, he was traded to the Clippers. His first two years in L.A. mirrored his time in the Big Easy, averaging right around seven points, two rebounds and two steals. But this season saw a small uptick in Rivers’ production. He averaged double figures for the first time in his career with 12 points per game. He also set career highs with 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. His 44% from the field and 37% from three marked career bests as well. Rivers wasn’t lighting the world on fire, but he posted improvement across the board.
Final Verdict: Bust is a bit strong in describing Rivers. His production in college and so far in the NBA are below the levels expected from a player with No. 1 billing, but he had a solid season at Duke and is working on carving out a role for himself in the NBA. He hasn’t, however, shown anything to make one believe he has All-Star games in his future. We’ll go with solid role player.
2012 No. 1 Ranked Player: Shabazz Muhammad
Collegiate Stats: 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists
Collegiate Honors: None
NBA Stats: (2013-present) 9.7 points, three rebounds, 0.6 assists
NBA Honors: None
His time at UCLA was brief and unremarkable. He put up solid numbers and carried an underwhelming UCLA team to a 25-10 record and a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Muhammad led the team in scoring and finished tied for second in rebounding. But the Bruins were quickly dispatched by 11th-seeded Minnesota in a 20-point blowout, and Muhammad was off to the NBA.
Utah selected Muhammad 14th overall before trading him to the Timberwolves. He has managed to stick with Minnesota for each of his first four seasons, and while his numbers aren’t eye popping, it must be noted that he has struggled to carve out minutes on what has become a talented but unproven Wolves roster. Per 36 minutes Muhammad puts up a respectable 18.9 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Final Verdict: Incomplete. Just four seasons into his NBA career, he has managed to stick with one team, indicating the Wolves see value in him. If he can carve out a defined role in Minnesota's rotation or find a situation where he can approach his per 36 numbers, our view of Muhammad could be very different a few years down the road.
2013 No. 1 Ranked Player: Andrew Wiggins
Collegiate Stats: 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Collegiate Honors: Consensus All-American
NBA Stats: (2014-present) 20.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists
NBA Honors: 2014-15 Rookie of the Year, 2014-15 All-Rookie Team
Wiggins came to Kansas with a ton of hype. He was the first target in the Philadelphia 76ers’ all-time tank job, inspiring the #WinlessForWiggins slogan among Sixers fans. And over his one season at Kansas, Wiggins showed the world why he was the No. 1 player and why NBA teams were prepared to take drastic measures to gain his services. Joining a talented roster with players like Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, Landen Lucas, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, Wiggins led the team in scoring and was third in rebounding. The Jayhawks earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but suffered a disappointing defeat to 10th-seeded Stanford in the second round.
(Sidenote: Wiggins, Embiid, Lucas, Mason and Selden were all freshmen. Imagine if that class had stuck around for two or three seasons. While Kansas fans, and college hoops fans, are left to consider what could have been, Wiggins and Embiid headed to the NBA.)
Wiggins’ NBA journey got off to an interesting start. The Cavaliers’ remarkable lottery luck continued, as they moved up eight spots from their pre-lottery position to win the number one pick and the right to select Wiggins. As astonishing, and excruciating for Sixers fans, as the lottery result was, it was just the beginning of the drama surrounding the start of Wiggins’ NBA career. The Cavs promptly included Wiggins in a package to acquire Kevin Love, sending him to the Timberwolves.
With his destination finally set, Wiggins embarked on a career that is teeming with promise. After winning Rookie of the Year, he has improved in each of his three seasons in Minnesota. In 2016-17, he set a career high with 23.6 points per game while showing a marked improvement in his three-point shooting. Improved shooting from Wiggins is a scary prospect for the rest of the league, as he has already proven to be extremely effective as a slasher. His forays to the rim have helped him twice rank in the top 10 in the league in free throws and free throw attempts. And he has been impressively durable, missing just one game in his first three years. Wiggins appears to be on the way to living up to the hype and delivering an excellent NBA career.
Final Verdict: Potential Star. Wiggins has already produced three very solid NBA seasons. He'll be an All-Star.
2014 No. 1 Ranked Player: Jahlil Okafor
Collegiate Stats: 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Collegiate Honors: Consensus All-American, ACC Player of the Year, NCAA Champion
NBA Stats: (2015-present) 14.7 points, six rebounds, 1.2 assists
NBA Honors: 2015-16 All-Rookie Team
Jah’s one year at Duke was certainly befitting of the number one ranked player. Okafor led a talented Blue Devils team in scoring and rebounding. Duke went 35-4, and with Okafor leading the way, marched all the way to the national title. Having nothing left to accomplish, Okafor entered the NBA draft.
He was selected third overall by the Sixers. He enjoyed a solid rookie season, averaging 17.5 points and seven rebounds. A healthy Joel Embiid complicated Okafor’s second NBA season, as his role on the court as well as his place in the Sixers’ long term plans became clouded. Okafor saw a drop in minutes and began to accumulate DNPs as the Sixers tried to figure out how to handle their two post players. At times, he appeared disinterested in rebounding and at the defensive end, drawing the ire of Sixers fans. It’s hard to imagine a situation where Okafor remains with the Sixers, and that is probably best for both parties. Jahlil has demonstrated a polished offensive game and will certainly be a useful asset to an NBA team.
Final Verdict: Incomplete.
2015 No. 1 Ranked Player: Skal Labissiere
Collegiate Stats: 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds
Collegiate Honors: None
NBA Stats: (2016-present) 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds
NBA Honors: None
Labissiere got a bit lost in the shuffle on a Kentucky team with Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress and Tyler Ulis. He played just 15.8 minutes per game.
Justin Rowland, publisher of CatsIllustrated.com, gave some insight to Labissiere's time at Kentucky:
"From a consensus top player in his class to a player who barely contributed, and certainly not consistently, Labissiere was a huge head-scratcher for everyone who follows Kentucky. That's in part because John Calipari has has a pretty good track record of getting five-star production out of five-star freshmen and he didn't get anything close to that from Labissiere...In hindsight, and I think most people even realized this at the time, the biggest issue was confidence. Early in the season, he had some really nice moments and showed flashes of what we've seen during his rookie year. But when things started to go south his confidence really plummeted and it affected every part of his game. It's impressive to see how he's rebounded and taken to being a professional."
If you expand Labissiere's numbers to per 40 minutes, they look much better at 16.7 points and eight rebounds. Although his time at Kentucky didn't go as expected, Labissiere felt confident enough to enter the NBA Draft after just one season.
The Suns selected Skal 28th overall, but then traded him to the Kings. While splitting time between the NBA and the Developmental League, Labissiere showed flashes of why he was the No. 1 ranked player in his class. On March 15, he had a 32-point, 11-rebound effort in a win over the Suns. He also had a four-game stretch in April in which he averaged 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. After a slow start, Labissiere began to establish himself with increased playing time. With the help of the aforementioned performances, he averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds over the final two months of the season as he became a more consistent member of the Kings’ rotation. While Malcolm Brogdan, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid and Buddy Hield garnered much of the rookie attention in 2016-17, Labissiere could be one to keep an eye on going forward.
Final Verdict: Incomplete
2016 No. 1 Ranked Player: Josh Jackson
Collegiate Stats: 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, three assists
Collegiate Honors: None
Statistically, Jackson’s time at Kansas was solid. His season gets somewhat overlooked because of the interesting state of the college hoops landscape during his only collegiate season. He wasn’t the best player on his own team, thanks to the stellar performance of Frank Mason, who took home both the Naismith and Wooden Awards. Great seasons by a handful of other upperclassman like Dillon Brooks, Justin Jackson, Josh Hart and Nigel Williams-Goss further took attention from Jackson. As if that wasn’t enough, there was an incredible number of fellow freshmen performing at an absurd level: Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith, Jr., Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball.
While there was plenty of noise to compete with in the 2016-17 season, Jackson lived up to expectations. He was second on the team in scoring and rebounds and third in assists. And Jackson showed no signs of wilting under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in helping Kansas reach the Elite Eight, including double-doubles in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
In a 2016-17 season that saw plenty of great individual performances, Josh Jackson stands up with the best of them. Whichever team lands Jackson in June will be thrilled.
Final Verdict: Incomplete but can’t wait to see the rest of the show.
A couple of interesting takeaways:
Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky got 70% of these players.
UNC didn't land a single one.
Only one of the 10 won an NCAA title.
None of the ten have won an NBA title.
This is incredible, shows how things change from senior year in high school to hitting The Association. For the life of me, I still think Michael Beasley can do it. LOL..good stuff @silverfox8008:disqus.
Thanks man. For people who remember what Beasley was like at K-State there will always be that feeling of "I know this guy has the tools." He was an absolute beast. It's definitely interesting to see how things have shaken out for these guys. It demonstrates just how difficult it is to perform and lift your game as the level of competition increases and just how good the NBA really is. Getting anointed the top high school prospect clearly doesn't translate automatically to collegiate dominance and NBA stardom.
For anyone who is interested and has the time, I would encourage them to hit the Rivals link and look through some of the old rankings. From some of the names who just missed the top spot to seeing some intriguing names in unexpected spots, it's pretty interesting to look at.
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