Each NBA team can have a maximum of 15 players, meaning that a maximum of 450 players are in the League at any one time. It is definitely hard work to get to the world’s premier basketball league, and players take a variety of routes to the top.
The Four-Year Collegiate Star
Symbolic player: Tim Duncan
Staying all four years at a college before declaring for the NBA Draft used to be a commonplace occurrence, with all-time greats such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton racking up accolades and NCAA titles before continuing their dominance in the NBA. In today’s era of hyper-exposure and accelerated stardom however, it has become a rarity for top professional prospects to reach graduation.
For some of these prospects, they are used to simultaneously performing well and being overlooked. These players tend to establish themselves as top high school players and go on to star for major colleges, but are not considered elite-level talents for some perceived deficiency. Examples of include JJ Redick who was an absolute force beyond the arc for Duke and Tyler Hansbrough who ruled the paint for rivals North Carolina. Redick managed to carve out a solid career although his volume-shooting off screens was not expected to translate well in the League, but Hansbrough struggled to make an impact as an undersized big.
Other four-year collegiate hoopers are not heavily recruited out of high school, and end up stuffing the stat sheet at a small, unnoticed college. A pair of outstanding Portland Trail Blazer guards bonded over their common journeys, with CJ McCollum starring for Lehigh while Damian Lillard was the big man on campus at Weber State.
At times, the long-time college star is a guy who values academics over basketball achievements. The symbolic player in this regard is Tim Duncan, who could probably have gone #1 overall in the draft all four years, but chose to stay to get his degree. Two other notable players here are Victor Oladipo and Emeka Okafor, who left college a year early for an unusual reason: they simply completed their degrees in three years instead of the allocated four.
Despite the trend of ‘one-and-dones’ in the League, a batch of young players are eager to prove that the collegiate experience matters. Malcolm Brogdon did the group proud with his Rookie of the Year showing in 2017 while the 2018 NBA Draft brings talents such as Kansas teammates Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Devonte Graham.