In 2005, as a part of the NBA collective bargaining agreement, a new rule was put in place requiring NBA draft entrants to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. The result of this change was the end of the preps-to-pros era and the beginning of the one-and-done era. Well, I've combed the internet and collected the data, and in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft I'll be taking a look at some of the more interesting findings and what they might mean. This is "Freshman Studies."
Four and Out
The 2006 NBA Draft class is widely regarded as one of the worst classes in recent history, but the fault isn't completely on the players. The 2006 NBA Draft had the unique misfortune of not having the year's top high school recruits available as preps-to-pros and not having the prior year's top recruits available as one-and-dones. Had the new age restrictions been imposed a year earlier the Raptors may have been considering Andrew Bynum, fresh off his freshman season at UConn with the number 1 pick. Had the age restrictions been imposed a year later Greg Oden and Kevin Durant figured to be in play at the top of the draft. Instead, Bynum went to the Lakers with the 10th pick in 2005, Oden and Durant were forced to spend a season in college, and the Raptors ended up with Andrea Bargnani.
Since the 2007 draft, when Oden and Durant ushered in the one-and-done era, 11 freshman classes have hit the college hardwood. Of the 44 players ranked as top 4* recruits in that time, 36 left college after their freshman season (9 out of 11 at each rank) and were drafted into the NBA.
Going a step further, two of eight players who don't fit my one-and-done criteria (went to college and were drafted) are Brandon Jennings and Cliff Alexander, each of whom more or less went one-and-done. Jennings had some, uh… academic irregularities… that prevented him from attending Arizona, but ultimately he was drafted in the 2009 NBA Draft after spending his would-be freshman season playing in Italy. Alexander played 28 games for Kansas before he was ultimately suspended while the NCAA investigated a loan taken out by his mother. Amidst the uncertainty of his college eligibility Alexander ultimately declared for the 2015 Draft but went undrafted.
So that leaves us with 6 top recruits since 2006 who made it to their sophomore year. At this point I'm sure you're wondering, who these scholar athletes are, so here you go: Harrison Barnes (Ranked 1 in the class of 2010), Samardo Samuel (2, 2008), Jared Sullinger (2, 2010), Isaiah Austin (3, 2012), Kyle Singler (4, 2007), and Caleb Tarczewski (4, 2012).
Looking forward to later this month, the 2016 recruits will not be bucking the trend as the top 4 recruits (Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Lonzo Ball) have all declared for the draft and are expected to be first round picks.
*ESPN 100 Rankings only go back to 2007 recruits (the 2008 draft class) so the 2006 recruit rankings are based on Rivals, Scout, and 247 sports. The consensus 1, 2, and 3 recruits all went one-and-done. Each of the three sites had a different player ranked 4th, and 2 of those 3 players went one-and-done as well.