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Ranking College Players of the Year by NBA Success
by Ben Leibowitz
PointAfter looks back at past Naismith Player of the Year winners and ranks them by their NBA success using a combination of individual accolades, career win shares and championships won.
Note that more recent winners will rank lower than others because their NBA careers have yet to play out.
#43. Butch Lee
NBA Career Highlights: Averaged 8.1 points over the course of two uneventful NBA seasons
Puerto-Rican-born guard Butch Lee was drafted No. 10 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 1978 after winning the Naismith Trophy. From there, he was traded twice and played just 96 games in the pros.
#42. Jay Williams
NBA Career Highlights: Scored 714 points during his lone season in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls
After being drafted No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2002, Jay Williams averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists in one season (75 games). In June, 2003, Williams crashed his motorcycle in Chicago and suffered career-ending injuries. He opened up about his life in a memoir titled, "Life is Not an Accident," and has gone on to become an analyst for ESPN.
#41. Jimmer Fredette
College: Brigham Young
NBA Career Highlights: Has converted 38.1 percent of his three-pointers in 235 games played
Jimmer Fredette proved himself an offensive powerhouse both at the collegiate level and in the NBA's Development League. Despite his ability to score and shoot from long range, the BYU product hasn't been able to carve a niche in the NBA. He's been traded once and waived three times since entering the pros in 2011.
#40. Frank Kaminsky
NBA Career Highlights: Scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting against the Boston Celtics on Dec. 23, 2015
As Frank Kaminsky finishes an unspectacular rookie year in which he's scored 7.2 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting from the field and 32.4 percent from long range in 75 games, it seems likely that "Frank the Tank" will never reach the level of play he did in college now that he's facing the best of the best night after night in the NBA.
#39. Doug McDermott
NBA Career Highlights: Has averaged 14.4 points per 36 minutes on 41 percent shooting from three-point range
Doug McDermott is a similar player to Fredette in the sense that he's an offensive-minded three-point shooter. The key difference at this point of their careers is that McDermott still holds a roster spot on an NBA team.
#38. Trey Burke
NBA Career Highlights: Has recorded 11 double-doubles in three seasons with the Utah Jazz
Though he was an incredibly impactful player in college at Michigan, Trey Burke has struggled to adapt in the NBA. According to advanced statistics, the Utah Jazz have been considerably better with Burke off the court versus when he plays.
#37. Scott May
NBA Career Highlights: Peaked as a rookie by averaging more than 14 points and six rebounds per game
Scott May averaged 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game as a rookie for the Chicago Bulls back during the 1976-77 season. He converted 45.1 percent of his shots and 82.8 percent of his free throws as well, hinting at a promising NBA career.
But while May lasted seven years in the pros, he never improved upon his rookie year.
#36. Johnny Dawkins
NBA Career Highlights: Played in all 82 regular season games during the 1991-92 season
After being drafted No. 10 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1986, Johnny Dawkins went on to play 541 NBA games over the course of nine seasons. In that time, the point guard averaged 11.1 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
#35. Tyler Hansbrough
College: North Carolina
NBA Career Highlights: Has accumulated 22 double-doubles and 17 technical fouls during his career
Although Tyler Hansbrough rebounds well and hustles when he's out on the court, he's shown a complete inability to set up teammates. Of course, that's not his natural job as a bruising power forward, but "Psycho T" has averaged just 0.4 assists per game for his entire career. He often tries to force the issue when grabbing offensive rebounds when he should be kicking the ball back out to the perimeter.
#34. Calbert Cheaney
NBA Career Highlights: Scored more than 1,000 points in three different seasons
Calbert Cheaney, a left-handed swingman who was drafted No. 6 overall in 1993 by the Washington Bullets, never delivered on the hype brought on from his successful college career. Over the course of 13 professional seasons, Cheaney averaged 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
#33. T.J. Ford
NBA Career Highlights: NBA All-Rookie Second Team
As a 23-year-old, T.J. Ford averaged 14 points and 7.9 assists in 75 games played for the Toronto Raptors. He turned in other solid, yet unspectacular, years in the pros, but multiple injuries suffered to his back and neck prematurely ended his career at age 28.
#32. Evan Turner
College: Ohio State
NBA Career Highlights: Played all 82 regular season games in 2012-13 and 2014-15
Evan Turner certainly has already fallen well short of the expectations that come with being selected No. 2 overall. He was drafted ahead of guys like Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins, all of whom are better players.
Nevertheless, Turner has carved a niche of late as a sixth man for the Boston Celtics. There's a chance he'll take home Sixth Man of the Year honors at season's end for his efforts under head coach Brad Stevens.
#31. Danny Ferry
NBA Career Highlights: NBA champion (2003)
Danny Ferry went out on top by winning a title as a 36-year-old bench warmer on the San Antonio Spurs. He never made an All-Star team in his career after dominating the collegiate atmosphere while at Duke, but he was a rock-solid three-point shooter who stayed in the league for 13 seasons.
In this case, longevity counts.
#30. Lionel Simmons
College: La Salle
NBA Career Highlights: NBA All-Rookie First Team
A former No. 7 overall draft pick, Lionel Simmons played all seven of his seasons for the Sacramento Kings before being forced into retirement by chronic injuries. Like Scott May, Simmons showed plenty of promise as a rookie, but didn't improve after the fact.
Simmons averaged 18 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game during his first year in the pros, but missed out on Rookie of the Year honors due to someone who shows up later on in this list.
#29. Joe Smith
NBA Career Highlights: NBA All-Rookie First Team
Joe Smith is viewed by some as one of the NBA's biggest draft busts. After a stellar two-year stay at Maryland, Smith was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the No. 1 overall selection. He went on to establish himself as a meaningful supporting player, but never made an All-Star team.
The open letter he wrote to his younger self in The Players' Tribune is a fascinating read.
#28. J.J. Redick
NBA Career Highlights: Currently ranks No. 16 on the NBA's all-time three-point percentage leaderboard
Though J.J. Redick hasn't made an All-Star team, his 41.2 career win shares rank above 19 other Naismith Trophy winners in the scope of the NBA. It helps that Redick has played for competitive teams throughout his career (chiefly the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers), but Redick has also contributed significantly toward that success.
In 2015-16, the sharpshooter from Duke has made 47.1 percent of his three-point shots. That's the top mark in the league among qualified players.
#27. Jameer Nelson
College: Saint Joseph's
NBA Career Highlights: All-Star (2009), NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Despite his diminutive stature, former Saint Joseph's standout Jameer Nelson has carved a niche in the NBA as a capable floor general. He made the All-Star team back in 2009 by averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 45.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The Orlando Magic reached the NBA Finals that season, but Nelson was only able to play in five playoff games due to injury.
#26. Austin Carr
College: Notre Dame
NBA Career Highlights: All-Star (1974), NBA All-Rookie First Team, No. 34 retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers
Austin Carr averaged more than 20 points per game in his first three professional seasons. He made his only All-Star team in 1974 when he averaged 21.9 points, 3.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.
#25. Kenyon Martin
NBA Career Highlights: All-Star (2004), NBA All-Rookie First Team
Kenyon Martin (AKA "K-Mart") was selected No. 1 overall in the historically awful 2000 NBA Draft. That class could easily be deemed the worst in league history, as only three players selected made an All-Star team.
Martin was among the three, and actually played a meaningful role on the New Jersey Nets teams of old led by Jason Kidd.
#24. Christian Laettner
NBA Career Highlights: All-Star (1997), NBA All-Rookie First Team
Arguably the most hated college basketball athlete of all time, Christian Laettner helped the Blue Devils win two NCAA championships. And while it's clear his college career outranks his NBA days, Laettner may actually be underrated as an NBA player.
He twice averaged at least 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists, and made an All-Star appearance for the Atlanta Hawks in 1997.
#23. Glenn Robinson
NBA Career Highlights: NBA champion (2005), 2x All-Star, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson followed a similar career path to Danny Ferry, in that he rode off into the sunset after acquiring a championship ring with the Spurs as a bench warmer.
A former No. 1 overall pick, Robinson made two All-Star games in his career (in 2000 and 2001). He boasts impressive career averages of 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
#22. Danny Manning
NBA Career Highlights: 2x All-Star, NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1998)
Danny Manning is still viewed to this day as one of the best NCAA basketball players of all time. In 1988, he won an NCAA championship, the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player, the Naismith Trophy, the John R. Wooden Award, NABC Player of the Year, Big Eight Player of the Year and was a consensus First-Team All-American ... phew.
That college dominance proved an impossible task to follow, but Manning cobbled together a respectable NBA career anyway.
#21. Andrew Bogut
NBA Career Highlights: NBA champion (2015), All-NBA Third Team (2010), All-Defensive Second Team (2015), NBA blocks leader (2011), NBA All-Rookie First Team
A No. 1 overall pick who averaged 20.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 62 percent shooting during his final season at Utah, Andrew Bogut faced lofty expectations in the pros.
He never developed into a go-to option at the center position and has never made an All-Star team, but he's reinvented himself as a dominant defensive force with the mighty Golden State Warriors, who won a title in 2015.
#20. Larry Johnson
NBA Career Highlights: 2x All-Star, All-NBA Second Team (1993), NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Larry Johnson was a force to be reckoned with early in his career while suiting up for the Charlotte Hornets. He averaged 19.2 points, 11 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a rookie en route to winning ROY honors. The latter half of his career spent with the New York Knicks was marred by injuries and declining play, though.
#19. Shane Battier
NBA Career Highlights: 2x champion, 2x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Though Shane Battier was never named to an All-Star team, he ranks highly on this list for his lockdown defense and two championship rings. He was truly elite on the defensive end of the court throughout his career and remains rather underrated in the scope of history.
#18. Mark Aguirre
NBA Career Highlights: 2x champion, 3x All-Star
During his tenure playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Aguirre averaged more than 20 points in six consecutive seasons. Throughout that span, Aguirre made all three of his All-Star berths.
From there, the small forward was traded to the Detroit Pistons, where he accumulated his two championship rings.
#17. Marcus Camby
NBA Career Highlights: NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2007), 2x All-Defensive First Team, 2x All-Defensive Second Team, 4x NBA blocks leader, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Marcus Camby's illustrious NBA career was built on the defensive end of the court, where the talented shot-blocker won Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
Throughout his career, Camby played for the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets.
#16. Antawn Jamison
College: North Carolina
NBA Career Highlights: 2x All-Star, NBA Sixth Man of the Year (2004), NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Although Antawn Jamison's career accolades of two All-Star berths and one Sixth Man of the Year don't look very impressive, he joined elite company following a 16-year career.
Jamison is one of just 20 players in NBA history to amass at least 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Sixteen of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, and the three others -- Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett -- are surefire Hall of Famers as well.
Jamison has far fewer win shares than any of the 20 -- 87.8, everyone else has more than 100 -- but it's interesting to note how Jamison's longevity positions him historically.
#15. Elton Brand
NBA Career Highlights: 2x All-Star, All-NBA Second Team (2006), NBA Co-Rookie of the Year, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Elton Brand averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in four professional seasons. Nevertheless, he was only named an All-Star in one of those years (two All-Stars total).
Brand's longevity is impressive, but playing for a number of lackluster teams throughout his career prevented him from making a splash in the postseason atmosphere.
#14. Anthony Davis
NBA Career Highlights: 3x All-Star, All-NBA First Team (2015), All-Defensive Second Team (2015), 2x NBA blocks leader, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Anthony Davis was shut down for the season in 2016 to undergo surgery on both his knee and his shoulder. Soon after, it was revealed that "The Brow" has been playing through a torn labrum for three years.
Provided Davis has already reached three All-Star teams and an All-NBA First Team despite never being 100 percent healthy in the NBA, it's scary to think how good he can be. He'll likely rocket up this list as his career continues.
#13. Ralph Sampson
NBA Career Highlights: 4x All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (1985), All-NBA Second Team (1985), NBA Rookie of the Year
The Houston Rockets drafted Ralph Sampson No. 1 overall in 1983 to pair him with incumbent center Hakeem Olajuwon -- thus creating a Twin Towers scenario. Sampson responded by winning Rookie of the Year and making the All-Star team in each of his first four professional seasons.
Afterward, however, Houston traded Sampson to Golden State, where recurring injuries derailed his promising career. He wound up missing more than half of the scheduled games during his 10 NBA seasons.
#12. David Thompson
College: North Carolina State
NBA Career Highlights: 4x All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (1979), 2x All-NBA First Team
The scope of David Thompson's NBA career gets a tad muddled, because he played his rookie season in the ABA for the Denver Nuggets -- earning Rookie of the Year, an ABA All-Star, ABA All-Star Game MVP and All-ABA Second Team. Nevertheless, he played well enough in the NBA as well to compile a fair amount of individual accolades.
Nicknamed "Skywalker" for his vertical leaping ability, Thompson was an elite offensive talent who struggled defensively.
#11. Marques Johnson
NBA Career Highlights: 5x All-Star, All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, NBA All-Rookie First Team
Though Marques Johnson was a volume scorer throughout his career (he averaged 20.1 points per game for his NBA tenure), he attained that tremendous scoring output via masterful efficiency. In his career, Johnson converted 51.8 percent of his field goals.
According to Basketball Reference, he's one of just 13 players ever to finish his career averaging at least 20 points on at least 51 percent shooting. He's the only one of the 13 who isn't in the Hall of Fame.
#10. Blake Griffin
NBA Career Highlights: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Third Team (2015), NBA Rookie of the Year, Slam Dunk Contest champion
Blake Griffin's career to this point has been bookended by letdowns. He missed his entire "rookie" year while recovering from a broken knee cap. In 2016, Griffin broke his hand after punching a Los Angeles Clippers equipment manager -- bringing about a long absence to recover, as well as a four-game suspension.
Despite the baggage, Griffin remains an elite talent.
#9. Pete Maravich
College: Louisiana State
NBA Career Highlights: 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, NBA scoring champ (1977), NBA All-Rookie First Team, No. 7 jersey retired by Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans
Pete Maravich changed the way fans and pundits look at the game of basketball with his slick handles and flashy passes. Of course, "Pistol Pete" was a scorer above all, and peaked by averaged 31.1 points per game in 1976-77.
All told, however, Maravich was a miserable defensive player. He recorded a negative defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) in all seven seasons of his career in which it was recorded. His teams also rarely made the playoffs, which might actually make him a bit overrated historically.
#8. Patrick Ewing
NBA Career Highlights: 11x All-Star, All-NBA First Team (1990), 6x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, New York Knicks all-time scoring leader, No. 33 retired by New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing falls into the camp of guys like Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Karl Malone and others among the best NBA players never to win a championship. He spent nearly his entire career in New York with the Knicks, racking up All-Star teams as one of the league's most dominant centers.
#7. Bill Walton
NBA Career Highlights: 2x champion, NBA Finals MVP (1977), NBA Most Valuable Player (1978), 2x All-Star, All-NBA First Team (1978), All-NBA Second Team (1977), 2x All-Defensive First Team, NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1986), NBA rebounding leader (1977), NBA blocks leader (1977), No. 32 retired by Portland Trail Blazers
Were it not for debilitating foot and back injuries that prevented Bill Walton from playing a single game in three of his 13 seasons, you could reasonably argue that the hulking center would have become a top 10 (perhaps even top five) player ever.
Walton was transcendent early in his career, doing just about everything for the Portland Trail Blazers. He later evolved into a key bench player for the champion Boston Celtics.
#6. Kevin Durant
NBA Career Highlights: NBA Most Valuable Player (2014), 7x All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (2012), 5x All-NBA First Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, 4x scoring champ, 50-40-90 club (2013)
Many NBA fans and pundits would agree that Kevin Durant is a top-three player in the NBA today (along with Stephen Curry and LeBron James in some order). Though he has yet to win a championship, he's won an MVP award, four scoring titles and entered the exclusive 50-40-90 club.
He has plenty of career left, but he's already positioned himself to be viewed as one of the game's best when it's all said and done.
#5. David Robinson
NBA Career Highlights: 2x champion, NBA Most Valuable Player (1995), 10x All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 4x All-NBA Third Team, NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1994), 4x All-Defensive First Team, 4x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA scoring champ (1994), NBA blocks leader (1992), NBA rebounds leader (1991), No. 50 retired by San Antonio Spurs
David Robinson (AKA "The Admiral"), famously served two years in the Navy after being drafted No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1987. When he fulfilled his active-duty obligation, Robinson returned to win Rookie of the Year honors in 1990, beating out Lionel Simmons and others.
From there, Robinson won an MVP in 1995 and two championships in San Antonio -- where he spent his entire NBA tenure.
#4. Larry Bird
College: Indiana State
NBA Career Highlights: 3x champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 3x Most Valuable Player, 12x All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (1982), 9x All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Second Team (1990), 3x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, 3x 3-Point Shootout champ, 2x 50-40-90 Club, No. 33 retired by Boston Celtics
"Larry Legend" finished his career with as many MVP awards as Larry O'Brien trophies (three). One of the best shooters ever, Bird was the heart and soul of the 1980s Boston Celtics.
Bird made the All-Star team in every season he played save for one (in 1988-89 when he played just six games due to injury). For his career, Bird averaged an absurd 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists. He's the only player ever to retire with averages that outstanding.
#3. Tim Duncan
College: Wake Forest
NBA Career Highlights: 5x champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x Most Valuable Player, 15x All-Star, All-Star Game MVP (2000), 10x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 8x All-Defensive First Team, 7x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, Spurs all-time leading scorer
As if the raw individual accolades are not impressive enough, add in the fact that Tim Duncan has won five titles, and two of which occurred 15 years apart. His dominance and longevity are truly astounding.
#2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
NBA Career Highlights: 6x champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 6x Most Valuable Player, 19x All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-NBA Second Team, 5x All-Defensive First Team, 6x All-Defensive Second Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, 2x scoring champ, 4x blocks leader, NBA rebounding leader (1976), NBA all-time leading scorer, Milwaukee Bucks all-time leading scorer, No. 33 retired by Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers
Formerly known as Lew Alcindor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used his patented sky-hook to score more points than any other player in NBA history. He won six championships, earned six MVP trophies and reached the All-Star team a record 19 times.
And yet, someone else garners the top spot...
#1. Michael Jordan
College: North Carolina
NBA Career Highlights: 6x champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 5x Most Valuable Player, 14x All-Star, 3x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Second Team (1985), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988), 9x All-Defensive First Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, 10x scoring champ, 3x steals leader, 2x Slam Dunk Contest champ, NBA playoffs all-time leading scorer, Chicago Bulls all-time leading scorer, No. 23 retired by Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat
After missing out on a roster spot on his high school's varsity team, Michael Jordan had a stellar college career at the University of North Carolina, then became the best player in NBA history.
His unbridled work ethic and hatred of losing guided MJ to six championship rings. When it comes to former Naismith Trophy winners, nobody can compete with No. 23.
Article: Courtesy PointAfter
NBA Basketball: "Ranking College Players of the Year by NBA Success"