Which College Hoops Programs Have Produced The Most Current NBA Talent? Here Are The Top 10

In a lot of ways, it is completely unnecessary and unfair to compare college basketball to the NBA. As similar as the two sports may be, there are enough differences between the two that you might as well compare apples to oranges.

For these reasons, it is far more common for a person to love college basketball and hate the NBA than it is for a person to love the NFL and hate college football.

For one thing, players in the NBA are so much bigger, stronger, and faster that it’s almost like comparing JV and Varsity. Additionally, the longer NBA 3-point line creates more space for the professionals and makes it much more difficult to guard individuals one on one. And the shot clocks are different, the jump ball rules are different, and even the traveling rules are different.

The most important difference, however, is that the college game is actually far more physical OFF the ball than the NBA game.

David Stern and the NBA higher ups want the their wonderful athletes to play fluidly and beautifully. Because of that, defenders aren’t allowed to simply grab or bump any offensive player that dares to run through the lane. Duke and Butler fans know very well that the college game is hugely different in this aspect.

Interestingly enough, this difference between college and NBA basketball may be one of the larger, less-recognized reasons that the 2004 USA Olympic Basketball team didn’t bring home the gold.

The international game is much more similar to college than it is the NBA, and you could tell that the NBA guys in 2004 simply weren’t used to being grabbed, bumped, scratched, and pulled at every single turn.

Insert Coach K into the equation a few years later, and all of the sudden, Kobe, Westbrook, and everyone else is hounding Spain all over the floor. Coach K’s aggressive and physical defensive style that he teaches at Duke was in a lot of ways directly responsible for the United States bringing home the gold.

All of these differences make the games hard to compare. When we do compare them, we end up treating people unfairly.

tyler-hansbroughWhen Tyler Hansbrough was manhandling the ACC, there was little that opposing fans could do to disparage him. That is, unless they started spouting off about how bad he would be as a pro. Of course, this became one of the biggest story lines of his senior year.

Rather than appreciate a guy who worked hard, maximized his talent, and scored at will in the college game, the media began to criticize his “short arms,” lack of athleticism, and inability to be as good at the next level.

Were they right? Of course they were. But why should that matter?

Tyler Hansbrough was about as dominant as you could possibly be at the college level. Why did it matter that he would likely be a perennial bench player at the next level?

Other players, like Paul George, simply aren’t made for the college game. As soon as the floor opened up and individual skills mattered more at the next level, George began to blossom – and will undoubtedly become a better pro than he ever was in college.

This naturally brings us to Rick Barnes – a coach who has gotten out of the Sweet Sixteen exactly twice while at Texas even though he has arguably had one of the greatest collections of talent anywhere.

This got me thinking: which coaches have gotten the LEAST out of their talent? Which schools really HAVE put out the best pros in the last fifteen or so years? Are the stereotypes still true?

The old adage is that Duke players are much better collegians, but UNC players become NBA stars. Of course when you compare Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter, and Rasheed Wallace to Christian Laettner, Danny Ferry, and other Duke busts, the stereotypes seem to be true. But after some deep research, the stereotypes for those schools seem to have been reversed as of late.

So, what school has put out the most talent? Let’s rank the schools from 10 to 1. Tomorrow, we will enjoy a March Madness-style tournament and see who would come out on top. (Update: Click here to see the final rosters and Jon’s bracket.)

Important note:  this is only for CURRENT players…I don’t care how good Vince Carter may have been once…how good is he now?

[Editor's note: In this post, Jon leaves out Wake Forest. Upon further reflection, he not only includes them, but has them all the way up at #4.]

#10 – Butler Bulldogs

Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack.

This may seem like shameless homerism, and it is. But trust me, there are really only nine legitimate teams…and every list has to feature ten items, right?

Plus, I’m pretty sure that Brad Stevens could figure out some way to keep any game close … even if he only had two players.

#9 – Ohio State

Starters:

  • Kosta Koufos
  • Jared Sullinger
  • Daequan C0ok
  • Evan Turner
  • Mike Conley

Bench:

  • Byron Mullins

This team is weak and lacks any true stars. However, it is still quite an accomplishment to have six legitimate players in the NBA at once.

If Greg Oden and Michael Redd could make it back from injury and actually be competent, this team might have a legitimate eight man rotation.

#8 – North Carolina

Starters:

  • Tyler Zeller
  • Tyler Hansbrough
  • Danny Green
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Ty Lawson

Bench:

  • Ed Davis
  • Rasheed Wallace
  • Jerry Stackhouse
  • Vince Carter
  • Marvin Williams
  • Raymond Felton
  • John Henson

You probably thought they would be much higher, didn’t you? Well, it’s definitely possible for them to move up, especially if Ed Davis, Harrison Barnes, and John Henson continue to show improvements and grow into the players they could possibly be. Barnes could even one day add some star power to the group that is deep but lacks any All-Star level talent.

As it is currently, however, Ty Lawson is the only guy on the entire team that scares you; and in the NBA, a team without a real star is a team without a real future.

#7 – Kansas

Starters:

  • Nick Collison
  • Thomas Robinson
  • Paul Pierce
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Mario Chalmers

Bench:

  • Darrell Arthur
  • Drew Gooden
  • Marcus Morris
  • Markieff Morris
  • Brandon Rush
  • Josh Selby

While Kansas is not quite as deep as UNC, they make up for it with legitimate size and star power.

Those who thought Paul Pierce was washed up last season have clearly been surprised by his All-Star level play this season. Chalmers and Hinrich are legitimate starters in the NBA, and Thomas Robinson adds HUGE upside at the 4.

Collison, Arthur, and Brandon Rush are all solid role players for their current teams and would do whatever it takes to make this Kansas team roll.

#6 – UCONN

Starters:

  • Andre Drummond
  • Emeka Okafor
  • Rudy Gay
  • Ray Allen
  • Kemba Walker

Bench:

  • Caron Butler
  • Ben Gordon
  • Rip Hamilton
  • Hasheem Thabeet
  • Jeremy Lamb

This team is nearly a mirror image of Kansas, with the sole exception that it’s star small forward, Rudy Gay, is at the peak of his powers rather than the tail end of his prime like Pierce.

Drummond and Okafor add legitimate size, even if they will never scare you from the free throw line. Allen will still space the floor better than anyone, and Walker would be a legitimate scorer if he ever had teammates.

Add Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, and Rip Hamilton off the bench, and this team would scare a lot of teams.

#5 – Duke

Starters:

  • Elton Brand
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Luol Deng
  • JJ Redick
  • Kyrie Irving

Bench:

  • Shane Battier
  • Chris Duhon
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Grant Hill
  • Austin Rivers
  • Kyle Singler

Gone are the days when Dukies didn’t make good pros.

Kyrie Irving is already a top ten or fifteen player in the league, and he is a better point guard than anyone not named Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook.

JJ Redick has quietly become a starting guard in Orlando that teams all over the NBA are trying to trade for as we speak. Deng is a fringe All Star, and while a front line of Boozer and Brand would be small and slightly washed up, they would both space the floor enough to make this team terrifying to defend.

Off the bench, this team has legitimate pieces that would fill in nicely. Battier and Hill are still defensive stoppers, Dunleavy is a fantastic shooter, and Henderson and Rivers would be instant offense off the bench.

The fact is, every single one of these players plays legitimate minutes on his current NBA team, and as much as you might hate Duke, this team would be solid from top to bottom.

#4 – Florida

Starters:

  • Joakim Noah
  • Al Horford
  • David Lee
  • Corey Brewer
  • Chandler Parsons

Bench:

  • Marreese Speights
  • Bradley Beal
  • Mike Miller
  • Udonis Haslem

Let’s just call this team “Big Man U” from now on.

Maybe this team wouldn’t make any sense on paper. Maybe this team wouldn’t be able to advance the ball past half court. Maybe this team would have more floor spacing problems than any team in basketball history.

But maybe, just maybe, this team would be unguardable. And my could they defend. What if the Gators could play zone? A back line of Noah, Horford, and Lee would be impenetrable while Brewer and Parsons would add a length up top that the Syracuse Orange would be jealous of.

On offense, Lee and Parsons are both much better shooters than people think, and there would be mismatches all over the place. Noah would be sprinting around setting screens, and other teams would be exhausted midway through the third quarter. If they absolutely NEEDED shooting, they could bring Beal and Miller off the bench to try and catch fire.

Even though they don’t make 100% sense on paper, this is the team that nobody wants to play come March.

#3 – UCLA

Starters:

  • Kevin Love
  • Matt Barnes
  • Aaron Afflalo
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Jrue Holiday

Bench:

  • Darren Collison
  • Luc Mbah a Moute
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Baron Davis

Maybe this team should be higher. Regardless, this team is stacked and terrifyingly athletic.

Westbrook is a top 5 player in the league, and Chris Paul remains the only PG you’d rather have than him.  ove is the league’s best rebounder when healthy, and he is also a prolific scorer.

While you weren’t looking, Jrue Holiday has developed into one of the best PGs in the league and could make a legitimate case of being the All Star starter for the Eastern conference. Afflalo and Barnes are plus defenders and would space the floor for Holiday and Westbrook.

Off the bench, this team just keeps coming at you with athleticism, defense, and aggression. Collison and Mbah a Moute are about as annoying as it gets on the defensive end. They would give opposing benches nightmares.

Really, this team only has one problem – it’s coached by Ben Howland.

#2 – Texas

kevin-durantStarters:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Kevin Durant
  • Avery Bradley
  • DJ Augustin

Bench:

  • Daniel Gibson
  • Maurice Evans
  • Jordan Hamilton
  • PJ Tucker
  • Dexter Pittman
  • Cory Joseph

This team is not as deep as Florida, Duke, or even UCLA. Fortunately for them, they have Kevin Durant – the second greatest player in the world and possibly one of the greatest scorers ever.

Even better, if you look at this team as a puzzle, it actually makes sense.

Aldridge gives them one of the top 5 post presences in the league down low. Thompson is a hustler who would rebound and set screen after screen for Durant. Bradley would make it his personal mission to shut down the other team’s best wing every single game, and he’s able to do so. Augustin, while not a scoring threat, would do a decent job of getting everyone involved.

The bench is loaded with role players that are willing to do whatever is asked of them. And oh yeah, they still have Kevin Durant. (But oh yeah…they still have Rick Barnes.)

#1 – Kentucky

Starters:

  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Anthony Davis
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • John Wall
  • Rajon Rondo

Bench:

  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Jodi Meeks
  • Chuck Hayes
  • Doron Lamb
  • Keith Bogans

This team would absolutely lead the league in bricked wide-open jump shots, technical fouls, aspirin taken by their coach during a game, and unintentional comedy.

However, when all that washed away, you would still have a terrifyingly athletic team with legitimate stars, size, and depth.

Cousins, for all of his cons, tries hard every night and is already a top five rebounder and post scorer. Davis is a star in the making, Kidd-Gilchrist is already a defensive stopper, and Wall is one of the five most athletic people in the league.

Rondo would run the show, and even though he would refuse to shoot late in games, it probably wouldn’t matter.

Eric Bledsoe is by far the best bench player in this tournament, and the Wildcats probably don’t have a single weakness other than outside shooting. It would definitely be possible for them to lose in March Madness – one poor shooting performance would definitely derail their hopes – but in a best of seven series, there is no doubt that they would eventually wear down their opponent and come away with the win.

So, who you vote as #1?

[Note: The poll includes Wake Forest, who Jon left out in this post, but discussed here.]

Which team would you vote #1?

View Results

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***

Bonus: High Schoolers

Starters:

  • Dwight Howard
  • Kevin Garnett
  • LeBron James
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Brandon Jennings

Bench:

  • Tyson Chandler
  • Josh Smith
  • JR Smith
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Lou Williams
  • Monta Ellis
  • Amare Stoudemire
  • Al Jefferson

Uh…nevermind.  I think we all know who would win this tournament.

*****

Which of the 10 teams above do you think would be the best? Which would win a March Madness-style tournament?



About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.

Comments

  1. I love stuff like this. Great idea, and great job with it.

    I do think Wake Forest should be on this list.

    Starters:
    Tim Duncan
    Al-Farouq Aminu
    Josh Howard
    Jeff Teague
    Chris Paul

    Bench:
    James Johnson
    Ish Smith

    Paul and Duncan alone I think would put the Demon Deacons somewhere in the #5-7 range, especially since Paul has proven that he doesn’t need a good coach to be the leader of a good team. The lack of a bench would hurt them; but they’d do pretty well in one game with everyone fully healthy and rested.

    I vote for UCLA to win the March Madness-style tournament, assuming Kevin Love is 100%.

    • Keith Mullett says:

      Beat me to it, Josh. Wake would be very interesting, even with Duncan’s age (although his per-36 stats this year are in line with his MVP seasons, and that doesn’t factor how he changes the game defensively, even now).

      My only other issue is minor and semi-unrelated, but Kyrie as 3rd best PG in the NBA? Right now? I like the kid and his game, but I’m not ready to anoint him just yet.

  2. Two big questions: (1) Are you evaluating how well these guys would play as an actual TEAM, or just sizing up talent or even potential talent upside? (2) You gave Butler an edge because of coaching. You’d have to factor that in for the others as well.

    Kentucky and Texas have a lot of talent, but I’m not convinced they’d make a great team. Also, they’d have to play defense, haha.

  3. Sean SteeLO says:

    *You forgot about Antawn Jamison – North Carolina/ Los Angeles Lakers bench player

  4. Arizona?
    Jerryd Bayless ,Chase Budinger, Channing Frye, Jordan Hill, Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, Jason Terry, Luke Walton and Derrick Williams. Compares favorably to the bottom of the list

  5. Darkhorse…Georgia Tech:

    Jarrett Jack
    Iman Shumpert
    Anthony Morrow
    Derrick Favors
    Chris Bosh

    Bench:
    Thaddeus Young
    Will Bynum
    Marbury from China

    That starting 5 has a legit 6th man of the year frontrunner, an athletic shutdown SG, a legit outside shooting threat, a banger down low, and an all star PF/C

  6. Missed Matt Bonner from Florida – #12 all time in 3 pt % still playing for the Spurs #LetBonnerShoot

  7. How about an International vs. HS matchup?

    Int’l is filthy

    Rubio
    Ginobli
    Dirk
    Pau Gasol
    Marc Gasol

    Bench:

    Nash
    Caledron
    Serge Ibaka
    Tony Parker
    Asik
    Batum
    Alexey Sched (for moral support)

    • JimmyJohns says:

      You think of a great idea like that and then list Rubio as a starter over Parker? C’mon man!

      • mnsports20something says:

        Parker would probably be the better starter, but if Rubio’s fully healthy and confident in his knee, he’s like the reincarnation of Pistol Pete Maravich when it comes to distributing the ball in a flashy yet effective manner. Rubio can’t quite score as well as Parker or Pistol Pete could, however. International team probably couldn’t go wrong with either in the starting 5.

  8. Nice article…. You forgot AJ Price (Wizards-bench) & Charlie Villanuva (Pistons-bench/starter)
    Year in Year out… UCONN has the most players in the NBA… do your homework dude…..

    • Jon Washburn says:

      This may have been true in the past, but it’s no longer the case. Kentucky currently has 22 players in the league, compared to UConn’s 14. Still a good call on Price and Villanueva though. They have been added to the rosters for tomorrow’s showdown!

      • Casper One says:

        Don’t forget Jeff Adrien (Bobcats-bench)…looks like UConn keeps moving up the list from the current #6 standing. Year-in-year-out, UConn is tops (until Kentucky’s “one & done” recent recruits….only a matter of time ’til Calipari tanks that program like UMass & Memphis

  9. Washington:

    Brandon Roy
    Nate Robinson
    Spencer Hawes
    Jon Brockman
    Quincy Pondexter
    Isaiah Thomas
    Terrence Ross
    Tony Wroten

  10. Jon Washburn says:

    Unacceptable oversight by me. Not only are they in the tournament, but they became a very high seed as well. We’ll see how it all plays out tomorrow!

  11. You do understand that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo are incredible defenders, right?

  12. tdogg98264 says:

    That UCONN team should be higher up… I’d pick them over #5 Duke and #4 Florida, maybe even higher. I mean, you have the greatest 3 point shooter of all time, Drummond finally getting starters minutes, Okafor could move to the 4 instead of the 5 and like the author said, Kemba would finally have teammates. That team is legit

  13. Michigan State University is decent. Not huge stars but guys that fill inand are great complimenting players.

    Shannon Brown
    Alan Anderson
    Jason Richardson
    Draymond Green
    Zach Randolph

    They don’t have a bench at all but the have solid starters

  14. Are you doing a fixed roster number or counting all of the pros? I noticed some teams have more bench players. For instance, UK with 7 and KU with 6.

    Kansas also has Xavier Henry, Tyshawn Taylor, and Cole Aldrich currently in the League.

    • Jon Washburn says:

      Thanks a lot. I solved this discrepancy in the next post. Basically, I took the top 12 players from each school if there were 12 available…but certain teams had to come to play with less.

  15. Todd milfeld says:

    For some reason I’m saying Carolina

  16. Oklahoma state has two current players – Tony Allen and John Lucas, III. (James Anderson was cut during the season)

    But we have a ton of previous players – as well as the best coach ever – Eddie Sutton who could take “some” talent and turn them into superstars. He was the epitome of “grit and grind”.

    go Pokes!

  17. prettylady says:

    I’m saying North Carolina

  18. Stu Padasso says:

    I understand this is a totally subjective article so a lot can be debated, however, you’d think the writer could at least get his facts straight. For example, Marvin Williams is a starter for the Jazz, Earl Watson went to UCLA and is a backup PG for the Jazz (but not on your UCLA list), and why is Enes Kanter not listed for Kentucky?

  19. oldschooler says:

    GT and Wake should be on the list but also Marquette and in the distance Syracuse.
    Marquette- D. Wade, Wesley Matthew,Steve Novak, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Lazar Hayward, Darius Johnson-Odom (still on a team?) and you could have ex-Marquette alum Doc Rivers coach.
    Syracuse- Carmelo, Fab Melo, Wes Johnson, Krish Joseph, Dion Waiters, Hakim Warrick

  20. ARIZONA:
    Since 1988, Arizona leads the nation with 34 selections.

    Starters:
    Derrick Williams
    Chase Budinger
    Andre Iguodala
    Jason Terry
    Gilbert Arenas

    Bench:
    Luke Walton (lol)
    Richard Jefferson
    Jerryd Bayless
    Jordan Hill
    Channing Frye

    If every player was healthy, I think this team could be a top 5 contender.

  21. Arizona could be coached by either the hall of famer Lute Olson or Arizona’s current coach Sean Miller.

  22. very subjective article but I love the debate..The high school list is insane! Just the starting 5 is an amazing team

    Dwight Howard
    Kevin Garnett
    LeBron James
    Kobe Bryant
    Brandon Jennings

    WOW

  23. wrong on #10…Gonzaga…Sacre, Turiaf, Daye all active..

  24. this team would never lose a championship

  25. bumblebee tuna says:

    marquette:
    D Wade, Wes Matthews, Jae Crowder, Steve Novak and Jimmy Butler

  26. I’d have to go with Florida… if you include Matt Bonner off the bench that is a legitmate 3 point threat. Bradley Beal, Chandler Parsons and Mike Miller could all adapt to solid guard players. They’d give any team wayyy too many matchup issues. They’d be the team I would pick in the tourney…Outside of the High Schoolers of course…

  27. Kentucky… but how about Brandon Knight, Darius Miller, Enes Kanter, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Nazi Mohamed? Still worried about outside shooting?

  28. Just wondering if you purposefully left players off of teams. I know of three players offhand that you didn’t list on UCLA’s team.

  29. For UCLA- earl watson, Dan gadzuric and Ryan hollins

  30. What about Marquette?, Dwayne Wade, Wes Mathews, (Starters) Steve Novak, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Lazar Hayward

  31. Can’t believe you left out Carmelo’ s team!

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