Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made headlines this week by telling reporters what many people had already assumed: Freshman star Jahlil Okafor (a Preseason All-American before ever playing a college basketball game) won’t be at Duke for more than a year before jumping to the NBA. Okafor (pictured), the centerpiece of the Blue Devils’ top-rated recruiting class, will join a long line of standouts who played just a single college season to satisfy the NBA’s age rule, then turned pro at the first available opportunity.
The NBA’s so-called one-and-done rule was passed in 2005 (preventing high school stars from jumping straight to the association like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and many others had done in the past), and over the last decade, one-and-done players have turned out to be everything from busts to serviceable players to superstars.
While we don’t yet know which category Jahlil Okafor will fall into if he becomes a top pick in 2015, here is the group he’s hoping to join: We compiled a list of 10 of the best NBA players from the one-and-done era (2006-present) that only played college hoops for one year. It was tough to narrow our selections down to just 10 names, as solid players like Andre Drummond, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Thaddeus Young just missed the cut.
Here is our list of 10, presented in alphabetical order. (All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.) Who would you add?
Bradley Beal, a Florida product and the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, has a bright future in store with the Wizards. Beal averaged 13.9 points as a rookie and boosted that number to 17.1 in his second professional season, helping carry Washington to its first postseason trip since 2008.
Memphis star Mike Conley, the less-heralded high school and college teammate of 2007 No. 1 pick Greg Oden, has put together a nice NBA career for himself. The No. 4 overall pick and ex-Buckeye is averaging 13 points to go with five and a half assists since entering the league, and averaged 17 points a night last year.
Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento’s No. 5 overall pick in 2010, has become a full-fledged superstar over the last 12 months right before our eyes. Now in his fifth season, Cousins has put up 18 and 10 a night for the Kings, averaged 22 points last season, and was a key contributor to USA Basketball’s 2014 world championship team.
New Orleans center Anthony Davis put up unbelievable numbers in his second full season out of Kentucky, posting averages of 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks a game. Davis could single-handedly make the Pelicans a must-watch over the next few years, and seems like a perennial All-Star waiting to happen.
DeRozan (pictured), who played his college basketball at USC before going No. 9 overall to the Raptors in 2009, averaged a career best 22.7 points per game in 2013-2014. That was good enough to crack the list of the league’s top 10 scorers and serve notice not to take this north-of-the-border rising star lightly.
If we were ranking this list from 1 to 10, Kevin Durant would undoubtedly come out on top. The 2014 MVP (and greatest player on the planet not named LeBron James) has averaged 27 points and seven rebounds a game since the Thunder took the former Longhorn with the No. 2 overall pick in 2007.
Kyrie Irving (pictured) left Duke after an injury-plagued freshman season to become the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick in 2011. The reigning All-Star Game MVP and FIBA World Cup MVP is averaging 20.7 points and 5.8 assists as a professional, and his winning percentage is sure to go up now that LeBron’s on board in Cleveland.
Speaking of Cleveland, new Cavaliers forward and former UCLA Bruin Kevin Love is another bona-fide superstar to come out of the one-and-done era. Love averaged 19 points and 12 boards over six years with the Timberwolves after a 2008 draft-day trade sent the No. 5 pick’s rights from Memphis to Minnesota.
Memphis guard Derrick Rose was the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, joining the Chicago Bulls and immediately dominating at the next level of basketball just like he did the previous one. Rose averaged 20.9 points and 6.7 assists over his first three seasons en route to winning the 2011 MVP. Now, the question is: Can the post-knee-surgeries edition of this veteran guard ever match up to the numbers Rose put up at his peak?
Wall, a former teammate of Cousins at Kentucky and a current teammate of Beal in Washington, is averaging 21 points and 10 assists on the young 2014-2015 season. For his career, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick has scored 17.7 points and handed out 8.3 assists a night, pulling down over four rebounds a game for good measure.