Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Nerlens Noel has probably played his final game as a collegiate athlete.
Noel's career as a Kentucky Wildcat was supposed to end with him cutting down the nets and celebrating a National Championship in Atlanta.
Instead, it likely ended with Noel being carried off the court with a torn ACL.
The devastating injury has been the subject of much debate over the past 36 hours. If this were 2005, Noel (10.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.4 bpg) would already be in the NBA making millions of dollars. But now that players aren't allowed to jump straight from high school to the pros, top prospects are putting their entire future at risk by completing their required one year of college.
In football, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney faces a similar dilemma. If Clowney was allowed to declare for the NFL Draft right now, he'd likely be the No. 1 pick. Unfortunately, he won't be eligible for the draft until after his junior season. Fearing that an injury or a bad season could cost him millions of dollars, Clowney has considered the possibility of working out on his own until he's eligible to play in the NFL.
Let's say Noel's injury drops him from the No. 1 overall pick in next June's NBA Draft to 10th. Last season's No. 1 selection Anthony Davis is set to earn $5,144,280 this season. The No. 10 pick, Davis' teammate Austin Rivers, will collect $2,238,360 in salary for 2012-13. That's almost $3 million less than Davis is making.
So essentially, the very act of Noel's knee hitting the padding in front of the hoop Tuesday against Florida may have cost the 18-year-old and his family $3 million.
I understand why the league is hesitant to allow high school players to jump straight to the NBA. They're kids and most of them aren't ready for that kind of responsibility yet.
But does going to college for one year really make you an adult? Greg Oden wasn't getting an education when he went to Ohio State. The hardest class he took was the "History of Rock and Roll."
Oden's heart was never in Columbus and I'm sure Noel never wanted to be in Lexington. These guys were NBA players as soon as they left high school, regardless of what uniform they wore for their one year in college.
Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins went to Kentucky for two semesters. It didn't make him any more grown-up. Just ask Keith Smart.
Maybe it's time we stop fighting it. David Stern's heart was in the right place when he made the rule change in '06 but the one-and-done epidemic might be even worse than the barrage of 17 and 18-year-olds we saw walk through the door in the early 2000s.
Being the stat junkie that I am, I wondered how that extra year was affecting players' statistics. The number of one-and-dones we've seen since 2006 (51) is roughly the same as the number of players who skipped college between 1995 and 2005 (38).
But that's where the similarities end. Yes, there have been a handful of successful one-and-done players (seven of them are appearing in Sunday's All- Star Game in Houston) but for the most part, they haven't been nearly as successful as their high school counterparts.
Ten of the 38 players who declared for the draft after high school between 1995 and 2005 went on to become NBA All-Stars. That's a success rate of over 25 percent (26.3).
During one stretch from 1995 to 1998, four out of the five high school players selected were All-Stars. Three of those players (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal) are still in the NBA.
Since 2006, only five of a possible 51 one-and-dones (9.8 percent) can be classified as All-Star caliber. Their names are Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose.
For every Durant there's been about ten Donte Greens (6.1 career ppg) and just as many Daniel Ortons (2.7 ppg in 21 appearances).
Ten of the 38 college skippers went on to average 20 ppg at least once including Monta Ellis, Al Harrington and Al Jefferson. Only six of the one- and-dones have accomplished that (Durant, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Irving if he keeps up at his current pace, Love and Rose).
Experiencing a year of college was meant to help players better assimilate to life in the NBA. But somehow, it's crippling them even more.
Strangely enough, sophomores haven't fared much better. Just seven of the 62 sophomores selected on draft day since '06 have been to an All-Star game (Blake Griffin, James Harden and Rajon Rondo to name a few). Six of them have posted a 20 ppg season during their careers (LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Russell Westbrook are among the six).
I realize I'm coming off as a little shortsighted by labeling players as successful based on the benchmarks of All-Star appearances and 20-point scorers. For example, I never mentioned O.J. Mayo (17.9 ppg) and DeMar DeRozan (17.6 ppg), a pair of one-and-dones (both from USC, ironically) who have had respectable careers despite being snubbed by All-Star voters and falling short of the 20-point plateau.
There's another factor that needs to be considered as well and that's a four- letter word called "time." The generation of one-and-dones is really just beginning. The Kobes and T-Macs of the late 1990s have gone out and had their careers. Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe and John Wall's careers are still blossoming.
Only five of the 10 high school All-Stars I referred to earlier were named All-Stars before their fourth season. Heck, it took Andrew Bynum and Rashard Lewis seven years to become All-Stars.
Tyson Chandler (11.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg) took even longer to develop. Sunday he'll represent the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game for the first time in his 12 NBA seasons.
Nerlens Noel's day will come. Or maybe it won't. Only time will tell.
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