The NBA has seen a lot of talent throughout the years. All prospects have been hits and misses all throughout the draft. High School Players are no exception to the phenomena. High School Players do start slow in their early NBA career at times, (e.g., T-Mac) but when they get 2 or 3 years of experience, they suddenly explode like a super nova. There are those that immediately make an impact (LeBron?) but there are those who started slowly and then suddenly gets thrust into the limelight of All-Star fame (Kobe?). There are those who are intriguing prospects but never made quite an impact that many people believe they should have (Kwame?). The number of high school players applying for the draft went up year after year. It all started with guys like Reggie Harding and Moses Malone. Then soon after, high school players double each year after drafts. This has caused a lot of concern knowing that the age limit was yet to be imposed into the NBA before. These players were not getting education at all. They preferred to go to the professional level just to earn money, money and more money. The 2005 NBA Draft class featured an array of potential coming from high school players, little did anyone know that that would be the last draft class in which Stern would allow high school players to be eligible. Starting with the 2006 NBA Draft, players of any nationality who complete athletic eligibility at a U.S. high school cannot declare themselves eligible for the draft unless they turn 19 no later than December 31 of the year of the draft and are at least one year removed from the graduation of their high school classes. International players, defined in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement as non-US nationals who did not complete athletic eligibility at a U.S. high school, must turn 19 (or older) in the calendar year of the draft, up from 18. Guys like Michael Beasley, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant had to wait one more year before they could ever be eligible for the draft. The advantage of this is that they could get at least one year of Education in college and learn from the coaches that they feel can teach and develop them well. This means that Andrew Bynum's NBA record as the youngest player to have ever played an NBA game will be safe for now. So without further delay, let us rank down the Top 10 Preps-To-Pros players that made the impact on the NBA scene:
10. Rashard Lewis (Alif Eilsik High School, Houston TX)
Rashard entered the 1998 NBA Draft with a promising career. At 6'10, 225 lbs, he has the shooting touch of a guard and a body of a power forward. Many experts believed that he can be an All-Star player in no time. Much to the disappointments of fans, he never got selected in the first round where he waited in the Green Room for most of the night. Even the Houston Rockets who had 3 first round picks never made any attempt to draft the hometown kid. This created a lot of frustration on the part of the fans and Rashard Lewis. As he sat there, he was the last player in the green room, he was finally called upon by the 32nd pick by the SuperSonics. Lewis wasted no time in trying to prove that he should have been selected in the first round. Though he started slow just like any high school player is expected to be, he quickly made an impact averaging 15-19 ppg with his seasons at Seattle. With his physique and sweet-shooting touch, he instantly made an impact for the Seattle Supersonics squad. After becoming a free agent, he signed a long-term contract with the Orlando Magic and has helped the franchise to its 2nd Finals appearance in franchise history.
9. Tracy McGrady (Mt. Zion Christian Academy, Durham NC)
T-Mac got drafted out of high school by the Toronto Raptors who held the 9th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Did you know that Jerry Krause, GM of the Bulls was ready to give up Scottie Pippen in exchange for the 4th pick held by the Vancouver Grizzlies at that time and attempted to use that pick in drafting T-Mac? Only that, Michael Jordan threatened to retire if the deal is pushed through that's why it didn't. And true enough, the Bulls won another title, it's last of the dynasty. Tracy McGrady started slow in his NBA career but did make a lot of highlights and fantastic plays which shows the world that he is the one to watch out for. His first two seasons were hardly memorable averaging less than 10 points per game. However, during his 3rd season, he backed up cousin Vince Carter and made an immediate impact averaging 15 ppg. He also finished 3rd in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest behind VC and Stevie Franchise. Then after deciding to be out on his own, he signed a deal with the Orlando Magic where he was considered as the focal point of the team's offense. T-Mac would light on the scoreboard night in and night out averaging an amazing 26 ppg. He went on to win the 2001 Most Improved Player award. He had games where he torched the Washington Wizards for 50 and 62 points respectively, easily earning the Scoring Leader for the 2002-2003 season. But after years of disappointment, failing to make it out of the First round of the playoffs more than twice, he decided to transfer and so he did by going to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. In Houston, he was still a popular player. He had a solid run during his first 2 years with yao Ming and the Rockets. The most memorable T-Mac game was probably the one against the Spurs wherein the Rockets were about to lose that game and Marv Albert already declaring a victory for the Spurs with less than a minute remaining, T-Mac scored the last 13 points in 35 seconds including a triple that gave them the lead as they beat the stunned Spurs, 81-80. It was a memorable finish for anyone who seen it live. But recently, T-Mac has been hampered by injuries and it became clear that his career is dwindling down as he aged. Nevertheless, he is still one of the best prep players in the NBA.
8. Jermaine O'Neal (Eau Claire High School, Columbia SC)
JO used to hold the record as the youngest player to have played in an NBA game. It was a safe record for the last 8 years until it was broken by a certain player named Andrew Bynum. Jermaine O'Neal was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers early in his career but his playing time was somewhat invisible as he was surrounded with other veteran casts that includes, Arvydas Sabonis, Cliff Robinson and Rasheed Wallace. Moreover, he took those years with the team as a learning experience despite of all the garbage minutes that has been given to him there. He barely made an impact with the already strong Portland team yet he continued to be patient. After years of disappointment, he wanted to get traded and got his wish. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers where the franchise was left with a lot of conflicts during his arrival. Larry Bird stepped down as a coach and guys like Mark Jackson and Rik Smits left the team. It was a major change of face for the Pacers team but Jermaine was up for the challenge. After averaging less than 5 ppg in Portland, he made noise by suddenly increasing his stats at Indiana by averaging 13 ppg only to increase it more to 19 ppg and soon, the fans from Portland suddenly realized that he is a kid not worth laughing at anymore. He became a perennial All-Star and was a reliable big man who can bring double-double every game. He even once had exploded to 55 points against the Bucks. Later years with the Pacers proved to be disheartening as injuries hit most of his career. He was later traded to the Toronto Raptors hoping to resurrect his career but to no avail. he was later traded to the Miami Heat where he became the starting Center.
7. Amar'e Stoudemire (Cypress Creek High School, Orlando FL)
When you noticed most high school players, no one really makes an impact early on his career. In 2002, that was about to change when a man named Amar'e Stoudemire entered the NBA scene drafted by Phoenix 9th overall. Guys like KG and Kobe never made much of an impact in their rookie years, but Amar'e became the pioneer of high school players making an immediate impact. In the draft class that featured an array of full potentials, he, of all people, became the Rookie of the Year, etching out guys like Yaon Ming and Jay Williams (who was a disappointment). He averaged 13 ppg and 9 rpg during his rookie season. His impact on the floor was noticed by some. The following season, he upped his numbers even more. Things were about to change when the Suns acquired free agent Steve Nash during the 2004-05 season thus making the Suns a favorite to win a title that year. Their run and gun offense allowed many points as possible that is why Amar'e averaged 26 ppg that season and was selected in the All_Star game. He became a perennial All-Star and was one of the bright stars in the NBA. Injuries hit him hard later in his career but he bounced back from it as he maintained his skill level and has become a mature player in the future. His impact with the Suns had the staff into thinking of an extension for him this summer.
6. Shawn Kemp (Concord High School, Elkhart IN)
The Reign Man is one of the most entertaining players in his generation. A man on a mission and at 6'10 and 250 lbs, he was a powerful force on a young Seattle Supersonic squad. Teaming up with Gary Payton was a blessing for Kemp as they razzle-dazzled fans with fantastic plays night in and night out. Those sick alley-hoop dunks where out of this world. The team reached success in the 1995-96 season where despite upsets during the previous 2 seasons were forgotten and Kemp and company got their first trip to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, their opponent were the mightier Chicago Bulls who just won 72 games that year and they never stood a chance. Kemp was spectacular in that series having games where he stumped 32 points in Game 1 and so on. His rivalry with Rodman was also memorable as it featured his strength and power against a rugged but tough competitor. Kemp also became a perennial All-Star even after he got traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nevermind that he faced weight and drug problems later on in his career. What really made Shawn Kemp was his on-court showmanship and his power. His dunks are not flashy but they have extreme power when he hammered it down. My memorable dunk of his career was that one where cradled the ball and stumped it on a Golden State Warrior defender looking for a charge and then pointed a finger at the guy. That was one of the most awesome dunks and showmanship I have ever seen in my life. Shawn Kemp will always be one of the best prep-to-pro players.
5. Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, Atlanta GA)
When Dwight Howard came in first at the scene of the 2004 NBA Draft, he was considered a top 3 pick. Yes, he was a project that wasn't going to produce right away that is why it wasn't so sure whether the Orlando Magic (who held the 1st pick) would select a risky prospect who could be well like Kwame Brown in the future. Emeka Okafor sure looked like the surefire prospect at that time since everyone knew what he can do. Dwight was a specimen. He was a 6'11 250 lbs beast in high school but many doubted he can make the same impact in the NBA. The draft happened and the fans/viewers were somewhat shocked when the Magic decided to test their fate on Dwight. I heard some boos and jeers on the crowd because they were preferring Emeka Okafor than the Man Child. Sure enough, Emeka standed out as the Rookie of the Year during the 2004-05 season with Dwight finishing 3rd in the votings but what made Dwight impressive was that he had skills solid enough to fight for the ROY award something that KG, Kobe and JO never had that chance of winning in their Rookie Year. Dwight posted impressive double-double numbers in his rookie year and is the youngest to do so. In the years that passed, Howard showed his other side of him. Being the fun-loving childish self, he won the admiration of people's hearts. He has vastly improved a lot during the upcoming years and won the rebounding title in no time. The improvement in his game was vastly due to Brian Hill's coaching who decided to put Dwight into a legit center instead of his natural PF position which paved wonders for the phenomenal player that he is. His constant push and diligence payed off as he became one of the most dominant players in this generation. The one thing that made me admire Dwight aside from all the skills that he had was his durability. In his first 4 seasons in the league, he played in all 82 games. This season he missed a couple of games due to a minor injury but it goes to show how strong and how much of a beast this man can really be. His double-double every game is something that amazes opponent every night 'cause he brings his A game all the time. One of the favorite moment that I had on Dwight was when he got criticized by Stan Van Gundy for not rebounding hard enough during the past 3 games. He responded after those comments by grabbing an astounding 24 rebounds the next game. That's what Dwight is made of. His performance at the 2008 Slam Dunk contest was byfar the best one in a long time. The Superman throwdown was the memorable spectacle on that evening. His shot-blocking and rebounding excellence earned him the 2009 NBA Defensive Player of the Year which he truly deserved and a trip to the NBA Finals.
4. Kevin Garnett (Farragut Career Academy, Chicago IL)
When KG's name was declared in the NBA Draft, few people had their sights on this tall and long young kid from Chicago. Of course the unorthodox style of taking projects like Garnett at that time was somewhat considered foolish that is why Joe Smith, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess all of whom were proven talents in college games where taken all ahead of Garnett. He was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves as they needed a prospect whom they may consider as the face of their franchise in years to come. True enough, with the tutelage of veteran forward Sam Mitchell, Kevin Garnett showed tons of potential on the court. He instantly became a player whom Minnesota can put in as the focal point of their direction. At 6'11 and 245 lbs, (actually, KG is 7'1 but he doesn't want to get acknowledged as a 7-footer), he instantly became one of the best and exciting power forwards in the league. His long arms and frame allow him to grab those easy boards, his jumpshot has improved and thus is a threat in the mid range. His long arms make it difficult for anyone to block his shot. Kevin Garnett is the real deal that is why the Wolves didn't hesitate to offer him a huge amount of money to keep him in a long-term commitment. He was surrounded with solid teammates, including Stephon Marbury (who was quite sane at that time) and Joe Smith. But the same results happen every season where they kept getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Despite being an All-Star in most of his career, the one thing he coveted was an NBA title. 2003-04 Season arrived with a mature and an ever more ready Garnett who was filled with solid casts which included Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell. Together they would wreak havoc on the NBA lore and obviously made some noise as the team to watch out for to win the championship. The Big Ticket earned his reward by winning the 2004 Most Valuable Player and most of all, got past out of the first round for the first time in his career. But the Wolves again would fall short in the playoffs as they get beaten up by the mighty LA Lakers in the Conference Finals. After much has been said, many felt that things would only get better for the Timberwolves and Garnett as they came so close to be in the Finals. However, none of that would ever happen as the Wolves, would suffer successive losing seasons with KG no longer having strong supporting casts. This brought disappointment from a guy who wants nothing but to win, win and win. Despite of that, he remained professional enough to hide all those frustrations and decided to help the Wolves lead back on track. Just then the Boston Celtics came in knocking on the door. Knowing this might be his last shot to win a title, KG jumped in on having to be with fellow All-Stars, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the team. He got traded to the Celtics after spending most of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 2007-08 season featured a lot of Boston Celtics. The franchise who was once the league's storied was a joke the previous year and with no luck in the lottery they made bold moves to acquire Allen and Garnett and formed a contender. True enough, the C's won 66 regular season games and had finally made clear that they are on a mission. Their defensive intensity which all started with KG had him earn the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn't as easy as many thought i would be but they would go on to survive in the playoffs and win their 17th title in history. Finally, Kevin Garnett has become a champion. His emotional moments was something that made it sweet for the fans of the Celtics and the Timberwolves alike. At 33, KG is no longer the young man he once was but as a leader and veteran, he is there guiding young players like Glen Davis to do their best night in and night out. The passion that makes Kevin Garnett is something that made him one of the best prep-to-pro players in history.
3. LeBron James (St. Vincent-St.Mary High School, Akron OH)
No high school player had received so much hype than the man they call LeBron. Ever since he started playing in high school, he has been regarded as a very high prospect in the NBA which was why when he decided to go straight to the NBA out of high school, it was no surprise. LeBron's strength and all around leadership helped the Irish gain a lot of public attention. His uncanny knack for the ball, the superb athleticism combined with the unselfishness ala Magic Johnson had him established as the future face of the NBA. When he entered the NBA Draft, I remembered watching him wear a pure white suit which indicated that he will be the "Savior" for the Cleveland Cavaliers(who owned the top pick in the very strong 2003 Draft). Despite rumors of the Cavs tanking their season to get the high school phenom, in the end, they are still getting LeBron James. A player that they hope could save their struggling franchise. LeBron's growth translated immediatley to the NBA averaging 20 ppg in his rookie season, he had set a lot of records most especially the youngest player records which he broke almost all. He won the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year edging out Carmelo Anthony. After a year of experience, he transformed from an all-around skilled point forward into a physical dominating force as he lifted and trained hard during the summer. LeBron was always percieved to win a title and though it hadn't happened yet, he showed a lot of promising skills that could very well lead to the Promised Land. After disappointing finishes in the first two seasons of his career, LeBron finally made the playoffs and delivered a fantastic debut for the matter. He garnered a triple double in Game 1 of the First round in the playoffs against the Washington Wizards, 32 pts, 11 rebs and 11 asts. He almost single almost led the Cavs into an upset against the Pistons that year. 2007 would feature a different season for LeBron. After having an amazing regular season, he would lead his Cavaliers to a surprising appearance in the NBA Finals as they stumped the Detroit Pistons including the Game 5 performance where he notched 48 points against them. They fell way short however to the stronger and experienced San Antonio Spurs in four games. Despite the painful end to a Cinderella season, it was a sign that indeed, LBJ has what it takes to win a championship in time. He just needs the right players to accompany him through. LeBron also proved that he can be a scoring threat by being leading the league in Scoring in the 2007-08 season. He has made the Cavs a threat all by himself. Despite a frustrating Game 7 loss to the mighty Celtics, LeBron finished on a high note pouring in 45 points in Game 7 against the C's, while Paul Pierce had 41 which was reminiscent of the Dominique and Larry Bird Duel in 1988. With a better cast this time around, the Cavaliers were unstoppable the following season, especially in their home court as they went 39-2. They finished with best league record and was a favorite to win the title. With LBJ winning the 2009 MVP, everyone was sure that they are on a road to celebration, sweeping the Pistons and Hawks in the first 2 rounds. But the last one proved to be tough as the Orlando Magic shocked the whole NBA by eliminating LBJ and the Cavs. It was a disappointing but a learning experience for LeBron as he did not even congratulate his buddy Dwight Howard. Despite the frustrations, LeBron still lives to fight another season and as long as he remains with the Cavaliers, he is going to continue to do so. At 25, he has so many years left in his career and we will see more slam dunks, buzzer beaters, flashy passes, chalk-dust throwing from the one they call The King.
Yo, I'll just edit this one next time... Still got class..
I know he has never made it past the first round and all, but I feel he is better than every other player listed their. It is hard to really argue in his favor, but I will anyway, the guy was a force and due to circumstance was never on a team with the chops to make it out of the first round. It is hard to blame it on him, he consistently played well, but due to injuries of crucial team mates and a lack of a supporting cast, not to mention the beastly teams he always seems to face, he just has not done it. I mean, KG had only done it once before he won the chip. Yes, post season success is a big factor in ranking the best to ever do it, but to rate Jermaine O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire ahead of T-Mac makes little sense to me. They both have made it to the conference finals, JO even got to the title, but you can argue that they did it as secondary players and both have well documented short comings equal to if not greater than Tracy McGrady. As far as Shawn Kemp goes, I feel Tracy was more dominant for a period than Shawn was at any period in his career. I also feel that Shawn will be overtaken by Jermaine O'Neal and Amare, if he already has not been. It is a good list and a good concept, but T-Mac would be ahead of those players in my opinion. Also, I would rate the next group as:
5. Dwight Howard (Who to me still has a ways to go, but could end up even higher)
4. LeBron James (At this stage of his career, although he will undoubtedly go down as the best and has had by far the most early success)
3. Kevin Garnett
2. Moses Malone
1. Kobe Bryant
Nice read. Regarding T-Mac, I heard about that Scottie Pippen story before. Why the heck would you trade the 2nd best player on a championship team? Anyway T-Mac messed up his own career. Had he stayed in Toronto, he and Vince would have been an explosive combo that would have been near impossible to guard. Imagine the possibilities.
And damn you David Stern! 2006 was the first year high school players couldn't enter the draft, so guys like Kevin Durant and Greg Oden weren't eligible to enter. And that was the year the Toronto Raptors had the first pick. Nothing against Bargnani I think he will be great. But Durant!!! Oden!! Sigh.
dude bargnani is better then oden..............
Oden is better A good team shouldn't have a center who gets less than 6 boards in 35 min a game like Bargnani
Oden will eventually get better ofensively and more disciplined defensively Bargnani is less likely to start to rebound
Oden averaged more than 1 more rbd pg than Bargnani in ten less minutes on a team that plays a slower pace and has more good rebounders
shawn kemp went to jr college first..not sure if he played or not but he went
wouldnt euros count?..if so then dirk and toney parker should be added..and Bargnani is better then oden right now
Also, the Raptors already had a good shooting big man in Chris Bosh, they need a true center more than Bargnani