Top Five Players Who Were One-and-Done in College
Gone are the years where collegiate basketball players dedicated four years to their school’s program. The narratives of being a young squad that will mature with time are no longer the staple. The common theme for many of these rising stars is to serve their one year in college. Hence why many of the NCAA powerhouses always hold the best-recruiting classes each year. These players know the Dukes and Kentuckys will allow them to showcase their skillset against better talent than what they did in their AAU days. Then, they declare for the NBA Draft to start their career as a professional basketball player. Thus, the one-and-done strategy has become the social norm for most NBA-caliber college players.
Many of today’s current stars did the so-called “one-and-done” year at their alma mater. Players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin amongst other seasoned veterans. Nonetheless, there are a handful of up-and-coming stars that made this leap, five of which are becoming the premier players in the game. Here’s a breakdown of the top five, “one-and-done,” players of the past five years.
The Top Current One-and-Done NBA Stars
Since this list is very subjective, there is some context of who is qualified to be a part of this list.
- The player must have played in at least one All-Star Game
- Drafted after the 2015 NBA Draft
- Must have played in at least one college game
- Was not a rookie during the 2020-21 season
5) Brandon Ingram and Bam Adebayo
Brandon Ingram and Bam Adebayo accompany the fifth spot on the list. Both products of NCAA basketball powerhouses Duke and Kentucky respectively.
Brandon Ingram led his Duke Blue Devils to a title in his first and only year at Duke. Showcasing a lengthy body type that had NBA general managers salivating. Ingram slowly transitioned into the NBA after being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers as he was tasked with trying to learn the NBA game while also learning to mesh with LeBron James. However, his talents were not realized down in Los Angeles, and he was shipped off to New Orleans for Anthony Davis where he blossomed into a rising star.
Bam Adebayo on the other hand, had a relatively quiet year at Kentucky. He was an athletic big that appeared to have the body type necessary to thrive at the next level. Pat Riley grew fond of the Kentucky product and selected Adebayo to be his future big for years to come.
Following a relatively average rookie year, Adebayo burst onto the scene in 2019. He played in his first All-Star game and helped lead the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals in Orlando.
4) Trae Young
Trae Young’s popularity was already on the rise before he even stepped foot onto Oklahoma’s campus as a student. With his BallisLife videos that absolutely embarrassed his high-school opponents, the national scene embraced Young’s rise to the NBA.
His time in Oklahoma ended with a bunch of success. He led the Sooners to an NCAA berth. Provided some insane scoring outputs that included the reincarnation of the 35+ foot dribble up three that Steph Curry and Damian Lillard had patented. He was a bonafide top-five pick and the Atlanta Hawks were able to walk away with him after a swap with Dallas for Luka Dončić.
Trae Young quickly lived up to the hype. He came in second to Dončić for Rookie of the Year and was selected an Eastern Conference All-Star starter his second year. Now, this one-and-done star is on the verge of leading his Hawks back to the postseason for the first time in over four years.
3) Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons played much of his youth basketball down in Australia. However, he made his way to the States for his high school and collegiate career. He was viewed as the next Magic Johnson and his style of play suited a 6’9′ point guard.
Simmons’ career at Louisiana State University did not amount to much. He did not lead the Tigers to an NCAA title nor did he put LSU basketball back on the map. However, he showcased his skill set enough to be another one-and-done player selected first overall in the NBA draft.
Simmons did not play his Rookie season but more than made up for it during his Sophomore season. He’s become one of the foundational pieces to a very strong and successful Philadelphia 76ers franchise that is ready to compete for a championship.
2) Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum played one year of collegiate basketball for the Duke Blue Devils. In the one year, he showcased the skillset that enticed the Boston Celtics to select him with their first pick in the 2017 draft.
Tatum might have the most natural skillset on this list. He does not appear to have a true weakness in his game. He is an incredible shooter that can range from the mid-range out to the three. Close to the basket, Tatum exhibits great touch around the rim so finishing with both hands, around shot blockers is easy. Finally, he is a capable defender and has the agility as well as the strength to guard one through four.
Overall, Tatum is going to be a perennial superstar for the foreseeable future. Whether he will be able to add an MVP or a Finals ring to his long list of basketball accolades will be something to watch over the next decade.
1) Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson burst onto the scene showcasing his high-flying dunks in high school. He had scouts salivating way before he put on his Duke Blue Devils uniform. From his BallisLife videos to random Instagram accounts sharing his earth-shattering dunks. Williamson went to college with more external pressure than any 18-year-old in recent memory.
Williamson’s college career did not result in an NCAA title, but it really pushed his skillset to the national media. He made sure the world knew that there was more to his game than just dunking. Williamson proved he was a franchise cornerstone that the New Orleans Pelicans were able to snag.
Williamson’s career is still just beginning, but he has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with. His ability to finish through contact, and play way above the rim makes him a matchup nightmare. He is going to be a double-double machine for the remainder of his career. If he is able to stay healthy and maintain his explosiveness, he will win a few MVPs before he hangs up the laces. Williamson definitely heads up the list of top one-and-done players currently in the NBA.
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