With the NBA Finals beginning tonight and the draft fast approaching, we're taking a look back at the top players from the 2010-11 season. The following is a quick look at the recruiting rankings and amateur careers of the 15 All-NBA players and the 10 All-Rookie players.
Of the nine All-NBA players Rivals ranked during the recruiting process, seven were five-star prospects, including two No. 1 overall prospects. The remaining six All-NBA players not ranked by Rivals either played overseas or predated our basketball rankings.
The rookie team paints a more complete picture: Of the 10 members of this season's All-Rookie team, six were five-star prospects.
Of the 15 All-NBA selections, four went straight from high school to the NBA. There are three international players, two each played in the Big 12 (both at Texas) and Conference USA (Dwayne Wade was at Marquette when it was in C-USA) and one each played in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC.
Of the 10 All-Rookie picks, three were from the SEC (all from Kentucky), two were from the Big East and there was one each from the ACC, Big 12, Colonial, Pac-10 and WAC.
Here's a look at the NBA's top players and where they started as high school and college players.
ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
F LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT Rivals ranking: No. 1 overall in 2003 class (Profile)
High school: Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent St. Mary's
Draft: First overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003
The buzz: In July 2002, nearly a year before James was drafted, his family said college remained an option, at least enough to list Duke, Florida, Louisville, North Carolina and Ohio State as a top five. Then again, James was being courted by Nike and adidas at the same time. James, of course, went straight to the NBA, was the rookie of the year in 2003-04 and a two-time MVP by his seventh season.
F KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER Rivals ranking: No. 2 overall in 2006 class, No. 1 small forward (Profile)
High school: Suitland (Md.) Montrose Christian
Draft: No. 2 overall pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007
The buzz: Durant's draft class was the first to be affected by the NBA's rule requiring a prospect to be 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be drafted. Durant sure looked like he was ready for the pros during his single college season with the Longhorns, though. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds and swept the national player of the year awards, becoming the first freshman to win the Naismith, Wooden and Robertson awards. Durant was behind Greg Oden in both the recruiting rankings and the 2007 draft.
C DWIGHT HOWARD, ORLANDO MAGIC Rivals ranking: No. 1 overall in 2004 class (Profile)
High school: Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
Draft: No. 1 overall pick of the Magic in 2004
The buzz: Howard was the last player to go directly from high school to the NBA as the top overall pick, joining James (2003) and Brunswick (Ga.) Glynn Academy's Kwame Brown (2001). Howard needed a couple of years to develop, but he has become the top defensive player in the game, winning the past three defensive player of the year awards. He finished second in the MVP voting this season.
G KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS Rivals ranking: No Rivals ranking at the time.
High school: Ardmore (Pa.) Lower Merion
Draft: No. 13 overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac
The buzz: Bryant has said that if he didn't go directly from high school to the NBA, he would have gone to Duke.
G DERRICK ROSE, CHICAGO BULLS Rivals ranking: No. 3 overall in 2007 class, No. 1 point guard (Profile)
High school: Chicago Simeon
Draft: No. 1 overall pick of the Bulls in 2007
The buzz: Rose was the 2008-09 NBA rookie of the year. Through the recruiting process, Rose was ranked third behind Michael Beasley (an All-American and Naismith finalist when North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough won the award) and Eric Gordon, who averaged 22.3 points for the Clippers this season.
ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
F PAU GASOL, LOS ANGELES LAKERS International experience: Spain
Rivals ranking: N/A
Draft: No. 3 overall pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2001
F DIRK NOWITZKI, DALLAS MAVERICKS International experience: Germany
Rivals ranking: N/A
Draft: No. 9 overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998
C AMARE STOUDEMIRE, NEW YORK KNICKS Rivals ranking: No. 2 center in 2002 class (Profile)
High school: Orlando Cypress Creek
Draft: No. 9 overall pick of the Phoenix Suns in 2002
The buzz: In another "what-if?" scenario, Stoudemire planned to sign with Memphis if he didn't jump directly to the NBA from high school. Presumably, he would have been a dominant force in Conference USA, as he won the NBA's rookie of the year award in 2002-03. Memphis isn't the only team that can play the "what-if?" game with Stoudemire. He attended six high schools: Lake Wales (Fla.) High, Durham (N.C.) Mount Zion Christian Academy, Washington (N.C.) Emmanuel Christian, Orlando Dr. Phillips, Orlando West Orange and Orlando Cypress Creek.
G DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT Rivals ranking: No Rivals ranking at the time
High school: Oak Lawn (Ill.) Richards
Draft: No. 5 overall pick of the Miami Heat in 2003
The buzz: Wade sat out 2000-01 as a partial qualifier at Marquette. It was the last time Wade was a non-factor, as he led Marquette to the 2003 Final Four. He was something of a transformational player for Marquette, as the Golden Eagles have reached the NCAA tournament in eight of the 10 seasons since Wade became an active player. Marquette reached the tournament only four times in 18 seasons before Wade's arrival. He now is teammates with James and Chris Bosh, meaning three of the top five picks in the 2003 NBA draft now play for the Heat.
G RUSSELL WESTBROOK, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER Rivals ranking: Unranked nationally in 2006 class (Profile)
High school: Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger
Draft: No. 4 overall pick of Seattle SuperSonics in 2008
The buzz: The Sonics/Thunder front office may have been the only ones to see Westbrook's full potential. He wasn't a highly ranked recruit, especially compared to other players UCLA brought in at the time. Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute were in the previous recruiting class, and Kevin Love followed in the next class. Westbrook was the lowest-ranked recruit in a two-man signing class; the other was four-star forward James Keefe. He was no better than third-team All-Pac-10 at UCLA; that recognition came in 2007-08, the same year Love was a first-teamer and Collison was a second-teamer. Westbrook was the league's defensive player of the year that season.
ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
F LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS Rivals ranking: No. 16 overall in 2004 class, No. 4 center (Profile)
High school: Dallas Seagoville
Draft: No. 2 overall pick of the Bulls in 2006
The buzz: The 2006 draft wasn't a strong one, in part because that was the first season high schoolers were not allowed to go directly to the draft. Italian center Andrea Bargnani was the top pick that season. The next three picks after Aldridge were relative flops: Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), Tyrus Thomas (LSU) and Shelden Williams (Duke).
F ZACH RANDOLPH, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES Rivals ranking: No Rivals ranking at the time
High school: Marion (Ind.) High
College: Michigan State
Draft: No. 19 overall pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2001
The buzz: For the most part, Michigan State has been able to sustain a high level of play without cycling through one- and two-year players. Randolph was an exception. He averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in his only season with the Spartans, who reached the Final Four that season. He was a decorated high school player, named the MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game. He's been a late-bloomer as a pro, reaching his first All-Star game in 2010, his ninth season in the league.
C AL HORFORD, ATLANTA HAWKS Rivals ranking: No. 36 overall in 2004 class, No. 7 power forward (Profile)
High school: Grand Ledge (Mich.) High
Draft: No. 3 pick of the Hawks in 2007
The buzz: Horford was part of one of college basketball's all-time best signing classes, though no one was touting it as such at the time. Forward Corey Brewer was the highest-ranked prospect in the class, ranked five spots ahead of Horford. Also in the class were four-star forward Joakim Noah and three-star point guard Taurean Green. Together, they were four of the five starters for Florida's back-to-back national championship teams. Horford was the highest-drafted player, ahead of Brewer (No. 7 overall), Noah (No. 9) and Green (No. 52).
G MANU GINOBILI, SAN ANTONIO SPURS International experience: Argentina
Rivals ranking: N/A
Draft: No. 57 overall pick (second round) of the Spurs in 1999
G CHRIS PAUL, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS Rivals ranking:
No. 14 overall player in 2003 class, No. 3 point guard. (Profile)
High school: Clemmons (N.C.) North Forsyth
College: Wake Forest
Draft: No. 4 overall pick of the Hornets in 2005
The buzz: Paul was the third-ranked point guard in the recruiting class, after Shannon Brown (who went to Michigan State) and Drew Lavender (who attended Oklahoma, then Xavier). By his sophomore season, Paul was the nation's best point guard, averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals. He left Wake Forest as the school's No. 7 career scorer despite playing only two seasons.
ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM
F BLAKE GRIFFIN, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS Rivals ranking:
No. 23 overall in 2007 class, No. 6 power forward (Profile)
High school: Edmond (Okla.) Oklahoma Christian
Draft: No. 1 overall pick of the Clippers in 2009
The buzz: Griffin's instant stardom in the NBA should come as little surprise to those who watched him in college. After sitting out the 2009-10 season with a stress fracture in his left kneecap, Griffin was the unanimous pick as rookie of the year in his first full pro season. He could have begun his NBA career in 2007-08 but decided to spend a second year at Oklahoma, where he could play one last season with his brother, Taylor. Griffin was the consensus national player of the year at OU as a sophomore and set the Big 12 record for double-doubles (30), breaking a record set a year earlier by Kansas State's Michael Beasley.
C DeMARCUS COUSINS, SACRAMENTO KINGS Rivals ranking:
No. 2 overall in 2009 class (Profile)
High school: Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore
Draft: No. 5 overall pick of the Kings in 2010
The buzz: During the recruiting process, Cousins committed to UAB and Memphis, but signed with neither, instead going to UK. Along with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, Cousins was one of three members of the Wildcats' 2009 signing class to be named to the NBA's All-Rookie teams.
G LANDRY FIELDS, NEW YORK KNICKS Rivals ranking: Unranked nationally in 2006 class (Profile)
High school: Los Alamitos (Calif.) High
Draft: No. 39 overall pick (second round) of the Knicks in 2010
The buzz: For perhaps the first time in his career, Fields was not overlooked this season. When he signed at Stanford, five-star twins Brook and Robin Lopez arrived in the same class. By the time he had blossomed into a stat-sheet-stuffing swingman, Stanford had slipped to the bottom of the standings in a weak Pac-10. The Cardinal went 13-24 in conference play during his junior and senior seasons. Just imagine how bad Stanford would have been without Fields: He averaged 22.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals as a senior.
G GARY NEAL, SAN ANTONIO SPURS Rivals ranking:
Unranked nationally in 2002 class (Profile)
High school: Baltimore Calvert Hall
College: La Salle, then Towson
The buzz: Neal has had the most indirect route to the All-Rookie team. He was graduating from high school when most members of this rookie class were in the fifth grade. He was in the same high school class as Amare Stoudemire and he is the same age as LeBron James. Neal started his college career at La Salle, where he was Atlantic 10 rookie of the year in 2003 before transferring to Towson after his sophomore season. He holds the Colonial Athletic Association record for career scoring average (25.6 points). After going undrafted, he played in Turkey, Spain and Italy before landing with the Spurs.
G JOHN WALL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS Rivals ranking:
No. 1 overall in 2009 class (Profile)
High school: Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Christian Academy
Draft: No 1 overall pick of the Wizards in 2010
The buzz: If not for Griffin's knee injury that delayed his arrival in the NBA for a season, Wall may have been the rookie of the year. Wall was the SEC player of the year in his lone season at UK - though, oddly, coaches picked Cousins as the freshmen of the year. Wall will have one accolade all to himself at least for now: He is Kentucky's only No.1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM
F DERRICK FAVORS, UTAH JAZZ Rivals ranking:
No. 3 overall in 2009 class (Profile)
High school: South Atlanta
College: Georgia Tech
Draft: No. 3 pick of the Nets in 2010.
The buzz: Favors needed some time to develop into a consistent offensive player through the course of his only season at Georgia Tech. He averaged 15.6 points and 9.1 rebounds over the final 11 games, including 22 points and 11 boards against Duke in the ACC tournament. Favors helped Georgia Tech to the second round of NCAA tournament, but he would be the last major recruit of Paul Hewitt's time at Georgia Tech. Hewitt was fired after this past season and now is the coach at George Mason.
F PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS Rivals ranking:
Unranked nationally in 2008 class (Profile)
High school: Palmdale (Calif.) High
College: Fresno State
Draft: No. 10 overall pick of the Pacers in 2010.
The buzz: In George's two seasons, Fresno State went a combined 28-39 overall and 10-22 in the WAC, which isn't exactly an elite mid-major league.
C/F GREG MONROE, DETROIT PISTONS Rivals ranking:
No. 8 overall in 2008 class, No. 1 power forward (Profile)
High school: Harvey (La.) Helen Cox
Draft: No. 7 overall pick of the Pistons in 2010.
The buzz: Monroe was the Big East rookie of the year as a freshman and an all-conference player as a sophomore. In addition to his basketball accomplishments, Monroe was a National Honor Society member in high school, and Helen Cox High has retired his jersey.
G/F WES JOHNSON, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES Rivals ranking:
Unranked nationally in 2006 class (Profile)
High school: Petoskey (Mich.) Eldon Academy
College: Iowa State, then Syracuse
Draft: No. 4 overall pick of the Timberwolves in 2010.
The buzz: Add Iowa State to the list of teams wondering what could have been. Johnson transferred after the 2007-08 season, which was the freshman year for eventual All-Big 12 performer Craig Brackins. Johnson transferred to Syracuse, where he averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as the Orange went 30-5 in his lone season with the club.
G ERIC BLEDSOE, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS Rivals ranking:
No. 23 overall in 2009 class, No. 3 point guard. (Profile)
High school: Birmingham (Ala.) Parker
Draft: No. 18 overall pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010, traded to the Clippers.
The buzz: Bledsoe signed at Kentucky as a point guard, but he had to defer to Wall. He didn't join his teammate in the draft lottery, but he was one of five Wildcats selected in the first round of the 2010 draft, along with Wall, Cousins, Patrick Patterson (drafted 14th overall by the Rockets) and Daniel Orton (drafted 29th overall by the Magic).