• Noel Moon

NBA Draft Analysis: Which colleges do the best NBA players come from?

  • The college that had the highest number of NBA lottery players drafted between 1995 and 2020 was Duke University.

  • The college with the highest median value over replacement was Wake Forest. Some notable players from the college include Tim Duncan and Chris Paul.

About a decade ago, the NBA changed their draft policy so that players would have to attend at least one year of college or play one year overseas before entering the NBA. Prior to this change, many players have entered the NBA directly out of high school. Some of these players have gone on to become very successful like Lebron James, but many others did not last very long in the NBA.

If the graph of college vs the number of players, the college with the most players is “Null”, which denotes a player that was drafted out of high school or from overseas. The next 4 colleges are Duke, Kentucky, UNC, and Kansas. These colleges are traditionally very strong in college basketball and receive plenty of media coverage as well, so it makes sense that many players would come from these 4 colleges. Continuing down the list, there are more traditionally strong basketball schools like UConn and UCLA. Based on these results there seems to be a notable correlation between attending a strong basketball school and later being drafted into the NBA.

One point to note about the previous findings is that just because a college sends a lot of players into the NBA, it doesn’t mean that these players perform well in the NBA. If you look at the bottom graph, you can see that the school with the highest median value over replacement (VORP) was Wake Forest, which has had only 3 players drafted as lottery picks since 1995. Going down the list are more schools where only a few players were drafted as lottery picks. Since big-name colleges like Duke and Kentucky send so many players into the NBA, it is unlikely that all of them can go on to be exceptional players. This is seen by how the median VORP for Duke is 0.6, which is barely above 0. It is possible that the extensive media coverage of these basketball schools can lead to these players having stronger name recognition and a possible higher likelihood of being drafted based on familiarity and past performance rather than actual potential.

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