When Amir Johnson’s name became part of the 2005 NBA group of draftees after Detroit selected the Westchester High School (Los Angeles) product with the 56th pick, no other true high schooler would hear his name called in such type of event up to these days. Truth be told, all of Satnam Singh (2015), Thon Maker (2016), and Anfernee Simons (2018) made it to the NBA straight out of high school, but their cases are the exception to the rule and all come with an asterisk attached to them.
The reality, though, is that NBA put a ban of the prep-to-pros pipeline leading up to the 2006 draft, making the members of the 2005 HS class the last ones able to jump-start their pro careers making a straight leap from high school to the Association. That, if you ask me, was a bummer. With that route cut out, prospects were mostly forced to make it to the NCAA ranks for a year before declaring for the draft. The latest developments regarding elite prospects getting ready for the pros, though, are watching them ditch college in favor of other options such as playing overseas (LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton did it) or entering the G League as part of its Select Team (Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, Jalen Green, Daishen Nix, and Kai Sotto will be there next season).
But what if the NBA had not banned the prep-to-pro route back in 2006? With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll go class by class (rankings by 247Sports Composite board) reviewing who could have made the jump straight to the NBA, who was ranked too high and could have flopped after such an eventual jump, who needed the most reps to hone their game, etc. Let’s get to it!
2013 HS Class: Top-10 Prospects
2013 Top-10 HS Prospects
|2013||1||Andrew Wiggins||Huntington Prep (Huntington, WV)||SF||6'8||195||5||1.2000||1||1||1||Kansas|
|2013||2||Julius Randle||Prestonwood Christian (Dallas, TX)||PF||6'9||250||5||9.996||2||1||1||Kentucky|
|2013||3||Aaron Gordon||Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, CA)||SF||6'8||210||5||9.990||3||2||1||Arizona|
|2013||4||Jabari Parker||Simeon (Chicago, IL)||SF||6'8||241||5||9.989||4||3||1||Duke|
|2013||5||Andrew Harrison||Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, TX)||PG||6'4||200||5||9.987||5||1||2||Kentucky|
|2013||6||Aaron Harrison||Fort Bend Travis (Richmond, TX)||SG||6'4||200||5||9.979||6||1||3||Kentucky|
|2013||7||Chris Walker||Holmes County (Bonifay, FL)||PF||6'10||210||5||9.973||7||2||1||Florida|
|2013||8||Kasey Hill||Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL)||PG||6'1||175||5||9.968||8||2||2||Florida|
|2013||9||James Young||Rochester (Flint, MI)||SF||6'6||200||5||9.965||9||4||1||Kentucky|
|2013||10||Dakari Johnson||Montverde Academy (Brooklyn, NY)||C||6'10||250||5||9.964||10||1||3||Kentucky|
Is Andrew Wiggins one of the most-hyped prospects ever? You bet. Wiggins’ mixtape has more than 7 million views on YouTube since it dropped back in March 2013. That, simply put, are mental numbers. Oh, and in case you don’t consider that a very scientific method of assessing basketball abilities, well, let me tell you that he was also the consensus no. 1 player in the 2013 class by every scouting service. Uh, oh.
Rounding the top three were two more players considered top-3 prospects by every service around (Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon), while Simeon’s last prodigy (Jabari Parker) also built a strong case to be considered a bona fide upcoming super-pro after committing to blue-blood Duke.
No players were reclassifying from other years to be part of this class, so there was a clear path to every single kid in it to make it to the MCDAAG in 2013, which all of those ranked inside the top-13 did, and 20 out of the top-21 prospects that year. Only Joel Embiid (LOL) and Robert Hubbs missed on the showcase.
Scouts were mostly right when they ranked 2013 teens. Once turning pro, four of the top-5 players have already surpassed the 12-Win Share mark in the NBA and are still active (Andrew Harrison was left out, leaving the league in 2019 with just 3.2 years after debuting in 2017). Other than those, the best kids outside of the top-10 were ranked 14th (Embiid), 15th (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), 17th (Bobby Portis), and 29th (Terry Rozier).
There were three mega-duds inside the top-10 in Aaron Harrison, Chris Walker, and Kasey Hill. James Young and Dakari Johnson are also there, reaching the L but never truly amounting to anything of substance.
Which players WOULD have gone prep-to-pros?
Andrew Wiggins is a lock to put first in this category. As a teenager, he was a phenom, had everybody’s attention, and his NCAA tenure was always seen as a mere forced-step to take before getting to the NBA. Wiggins was far from an efficient college player but was good enough paired with Embiid to bring the Big 12 championship to Kansas. He did what he had always done: dropping buckets in bunches. Wiggins averaged a team-highest 17.1 points per game to go with six boards and one assist, and that was all he needed to become the 2014 NBA draft no. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers—he would never play for them, though, traded to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love.
Although this is not very exciting, the most probable outcome here would have been for all of the next three ranked players to have jumped to the NBA early. I know, nothing surprising or really out of left field, but all of them becoming one-and-done players—and still active in the NBA—it makes sense to think they would have taken the leap.
Randle absolutely dominated in Kentucky (they lost the Natty to UConn), averaging a 15-10 double-double in his lone season there, which could have probably translated nicely to the NBA early too. Aaron Gordon was a freak of nature that in a much more competitive stage than that of high school proved his worth by averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block per game for Arizona in 38 games, becoming the PAC-12 Rookie of the Year. Although Duke disappointed a bit in 2014, Jabari was the leader of the team and boosted his stock with the eyes on the NBA draft by averaging a resounding 19-9 line, which helped him to get drafted second overall months later by Milwaukee.
There is something goofy about the idea of having the Harrison brothers jumping, but it is not entirely crazy. They were carrying a severe amount of hype back then, and although they ended doing nothing as pros, there is a parallel universe in which they would have gone prep-to-pros while getting drafted at least as second-rounders.
Which players COULD have gone prep-to-pros?
The top-four is entirely out of this conversation because it became evident in time—and not that much time—that all of those were ready to play professional basketball as soon as possible. Sure, none of them has become a bona fide star in the NBA, but they have been more than good stars or at least starters for the teams that have had them in their roster, which is not bad for any pro player.
The most glaring could-have-jumped case here is Embiid, and what if this early decision had entirely changed the big man’s career? Embiid got injured late in the 2014 season, missing both the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament with the Jayhawks. Even with that, he ended drafted no. 3 overall by Philadelphia that summer. Embiid’s background makes it hard to believe he would have tried his luck earlier, but he clearly could have done so.
Had he jumped and secured a roster spot in some NBA team (most probably as a second-rounder or UFA), he would have done so without—at that moment—having sustained any injured yet. If you remember, Embiid went on to miss the potential first two years of his career entirely and didn’t debut until the 2017 season. And he’s been a beast ever since. Imagine if he had never sustained injuries as an amateur player and avoided them entirely. He would be on his sixth pro-season, and his already class-leading 22.4 WS might be on the 40s easily.
Which players did scouts whiff on the most?
There weren’t many hidden gems in this class, and it was actually more about whiffing-for-the-bad than missing on obscure talents. You can make a case for Wiggins, Randle, and Parker not being good enough to be considered top-3 recruits, but hey, not everybody gets to contribute what they have already in the NBA.
Other than those that never made it to the NBA, ranking James Young and Dakari Johnson inside the top-10 were a couple of big mistakes, same as Wayne Selden being the no. 13 prospect that year.
As far as unexpected production goes, you might find the likes of Monte Morris (83rd), Josh Hart (79th), Zach LaVine (51st), and Christian Wood (48th) ranked low enough as to consider them true whiffs. Going by the numbers (rank vs. WS in the NBA), the two most-valuable players of the class are, at this point, no. 359 Cameron Payne and no. 364 Luke Kornet, both of them with 2.2+ WS in their careers (a super low number) after being completely overlooked by everyone. The latter two are still in the NBA and trying to play their roles in Phoenix and Chicago respectively.