Over the years Scout.com has made it a point to scour the country to find all the best young talent on the hardwood. In a way the NBA Draft tells us how we did. Here is a look at where the first round picks were ranked coming out of high school, and how they developed since their time in high school and on the AAU circuit.
1. Kyrie Irving (Scout rank No. 2 – 2010) – Early on in his high school career Irving was overlooked, but by the time he was a junior everyone knew about him. Irving’s true explosion started in April following his junior season, and just continued as the summer went on. Irving challenged for the top stop in the rankings, though he came just short. After a heated recruiting battle, Irving selected Duke and had a solid freshman year that was on the verge of being spectacular before being sidelined by a foot injury. Irving more than lived up to his billing when on the court, even if things didn’t go perfectly for him health wise.
2. Derrick Williams (Scout rank No. 95 – 2009) - It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that Williams was underrated coming out. He was the classic late bloomer on the West Coast who flew somewhat under the radar. Williams initially committed to USC, but after a coaching change selected Arizona over Memphis. Once in college Williams grew and put on roughly 40 pounds of muscle and turned himself into an absolute beast of a human being. While not lightly recruited, no question that Williams deserved more respect when it came to the rankings.
3. Enes Kanter (Scout rank No. 3 – 2010) - Kanter came to the United States before his senior year in high school. After bouncing around at several different prep schools, Kanter finally had a chance to show off his skills at the Nike Hoops Summit where he dominated with 34 points and 13 rebounds. With that showing, it was obvious Kanter had to be ranked highly, though such little information on his game made it tough. Eventually a top five ranking was decided on, and Kanter decided to attend Kentucky. He was never eligible for the Wildcats, and entered the draft after technically being listed as a “manager” at UK.
No. 4 Tristan Thompson (Scout rank No. 10 – 2010) - The talent was always there with Thompson, and at one time he was the top player in the class. However he leveled off some as compared to others in the class, and found himself ultimately out of the top five in the rankings. He selected Texas as a high school player in New Jersey, and eventually finished his career at Findlay Prep in Nevada. Thompson was good at Texas, and showed the athleticism and length that made him a five-star talent, and the Cavaliers drafted him in this spot, which was slightly higher than many anticipated.
No. 5 Jonas Valanciunas (Scout rank N/A) – Never evaluated by Scout.com, Valanciunas was considered a top prospect in Europe, but didn’t play in the Hoops Summit and was never considered for a ranking due to his lack of presence on this continent.
No. 6 Jan Veseley (Scout rank N/A) – A big time athlete according to those who have seen him, Veseley wasn’t evaluated or seen by Scout.com. He has always been in Europe, and wasn’t considered for a ranking.
No. 7 Bismack Biyombo (Scout rank N/A) – Came out of nowhere to impress people at the Nike Hoops Summit this April. Biyombo went for 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks. Obviously a professional, he declared for the draft immediately and was considered a potential top 10 pick. Due to his lack of eligibility or presence in the country he wasn’t considered for a ranking.
No. 8 Brandon Knight (Scout rank No. 6 – 2010) - At different points in his high school career Knight was seen as one of the top two or three players in the class, though eventually he found himself just out of the top five. Knight actually transformed from a pure point to a scoring point during his high school career. A big time recruiting battle culminated in him expectedly choosing Kentucky. At UK he put up very impressive numbers, and declared for the draft. A kid who never seemed comfortable with the spotlight media wise, Knight always wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line as evidenced by the McDonald’s All-American Game.
No. 9 Kemba Walker (Scout rank No. 12 – 2008) - Walker wasn’t always a hotshot recruit. On a loaded New York Gauchos squad, some weren’t even convinced Walker was the best point man until near the end of his high school career. However Walker proved to be a big time winner and exploded as maybe the top pure point guard in the class. Walker chose Connecticut over Cincinnati in a tough recruitment. Eventually Walker would become the best player in college basketball and lead the Huskies to a national championship. A five-star talent coming out, Walker managed to outperform his lofty ranking.
No. 10 Jimmer Fredette (Scout rank NR – 2007) - This would be classified as a miss. Fredette was actually the third option on his own AAU team behind Talor Battle and Mark Lyons. He was a big time scorer and did emerge late in Orlando at the AAU Nationals, but never got much national love or considered for a spot in the top 100. Fredette obviously became a nationwide sensation in college, and proved to be one of the best players in college basketball.
No. 11 Klay Thompson (Scout rank No. 45 – 2008) - Like Williams, Thompson was a West Coast kid who really came on later in the process. Labeled as “soft”, Thompson was a perimeter scorer who could really shoot. He was loyal to Washington State who recruited him from the very beginning over Michigan and Notre Dame. Thompson became an instant scoring sensation in college, and proved that his ascent late in his high school career was no fluke. While in the top 50, looking back maybe he should have been even higher.
No. 12 Alec Burks (Scout rank NR – 2009) - Lightly regarded out of Kansas City, Burks chose Colorado over Kansas State and garnered a three star ranking. It immediately became obvious that Burks was better than his ranking and emerged as one of the best players in the Big XII. In hindsight maybe the rise should have been seen more than it was. Burks really improved every time he stepped out on the floor, and by the end of his high school career, was beginning to seriously emerge as a star. Still Burks slipped through the cracks some, and obviously proved to be someone who should have found his way into the rankings.
No. 13 Markieff Morris (Scout rank No. 62 – 2007 - He actually selected Memphis and then went to prep school. Upon doing that Morris de-committed and decided on Kansas. Morris was seen as an interior guy who could hit a perimeter shot, but was going to be a solid post down low. Morris continued to develop and became an elite player in college, and eventually found his way into the lottery.
No. 14 Marcus Morris (Scout rank No. 31 – 2007) - Much more highly thought of than his brother, Marcus was a borderline five-star prospect who was seen as an elite talent. In a loaded class he felt just out of the five-star range, but still was known for his size and ability to play on the wing. His commitment to Memphis was followed by a de-commitment and subsequent commitment to Kansas with his brother. Morris has developed as a wing for sure, and was always seen as a potential NBA talent.
No. 15 Kawhi Leonard (Scout rank No. 71 – 2009) - Leonard earned a top 100 ranking through toughness and motor. His lack of refined skill kept him out of the top 50, and kept all of the Pac 10 from showing him love, but Leonard was happy with San Diego State where he blossomed and his game continued to grow. With added skill to his unreal motor, Leonard exploded and saw himself go in the first round. While he was ranked, obviously in hindsight maybe it should have been a bit higher.
No. 16 Nicola Vucevic (Scout rank NR – 2008) - He came in with super recruit Demar DeRozan in what now could be described as maybe the best class in the country. Vucevic played one season at Simi Valley (CA) Stoneridge Prep, but not many knew about him. He had eligibility concerns for college, and eventually was cleared and exploded as a sophomore and junior. Given that he was in the country as a senior, after being raised in Belgium, obviously Vucevic should have been ranked, though the questions surrounding his status made it very tough.
No. 17 Iman Shumpert (Scout rank No. 18 – 2008) - A Chicago guard who not many knew about, Shumpert began his explosion in April following his junior season at an event in Pittsburgh, and continued it through May. Eventually Shumpert picked Georgia Tech over North Carolina and Marquette, and showed right away that his five-star ranking was justified. A big point guard with athleticism, Shumpert exploded later on in his career, and justified all the praise he received.
No. 18 Chris Singleton (Scout rank No. 15 – 2008) - Singleton had dominant moments on the AAU circuit with the Atlanta Celtics, and was as coveted a recruit as any. He chose Florida State over Kentucky and Tennessee making a decision late in the process. Always a good defender, he became a dominant defender in college and someone who scored more than he showed in high school. His athleticism and size made him an elite recruit, and it translated into being a first round pick. Obviously Singleton was very appropriately ranked.
No. 19 Tobias Harris (Scout rank No. 7 – 2010) - Harris was always a skilled kid with size, but once he got into shape his whole stock just exploded and his game took off. During the McDonald’s game Harris was destroying kids before suffering a foot injury. He chose Tennessee over Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Kentucky in what some saw as a surprise. Harris had a very solid freshman season and left after the year. Not an elite athletic talent, Harris’ skill level always looked to translate, and that is why he became a middle of the first round pick.
No. 20 Donatas Motiejunas (Scout rank N/A) - In the 2009 Nike Hoops Summit Motiejunas showed he was an elite prospect. He scored 21 points and snagged eight rebounds as the World team beat the USA. Still since he wasn’t in this country and played professionally Motiejunas was never evaluated by Scout.com or considered for a ranking.
No. 21 Nolan Smith (Scout rank No. 26 – 2007) - In a loaded class, Smith was always one of the most consistent players, though some questioned if he could ever play point guard. The question about position combined with a ridiculous class kept Smith out of the five-star range. Still Smith chose Duke over Louisville in a big time recruiting battle and became one of the best players in the country as a senior for the Blue Devils. Ranked appropriately all things considered, Smith became the player many expected all throughout his high school career.
No. 22 Kenneth Faried (Scout rank NR – 2007) - Not seen as much of a prospect coming into the college game, this would go down as a big time miss. Faried wasn’t highly recruited, didn’t get much love from scouts, and was largely unknown. As time went on, it became obvious that Faried was a stud. He is the best rebounder in modern day college basketball, and worked his way into being a first round pick. Looking back at it, this would be a swing and a miss.
No. 23 Nikola Mirotic (Scout rank N/A) - Was overshadowed by Kanter in the 2010 Hoops Summit game, but still showed potential by scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds. It was clear that he was a big time prospect, but in Europe and playing professionally, he wasn’t evaluated or considered for a ranking.
No. 24 Reggie Jackson (Scout rank No. 92 – 2008) - He was an absolute sleeper for the longest time, before exploding late in the rankings. Coming from Colorado, not many knew of Jackson, and eventually Boston College snared his commitment over interest from Nevada. Once at BC, Jackson showed that he can flat out get buckets, and proved he was even slightly under ranked in college. Still he did get put into the top 100, and had four-star status despite not being very highly publicized early on as a prep player.
No. 25 Marshon Brooks (Scout rank NR – 2007) - Coming out of Georgia, people thought Brooks was too skinny and didn’t have a true position. Well Providence College decided they had a steal in Brooks, and they were right. Only a two-star prospect, Brooks became one of the best scorers in college basketball and proved people wrong at every single level, and is now a first round pick.
No. 26 Jordan Hamilton (Scout rank No. 14 – 2009) - Talent alone had Hamilton as a top 10 prospect, but his lack of possessing any desire to pass the basketball pushed him down some in the rankings. Hamilton was an explosive scorer with length, but there were some questions surrounding him. In college it was much of the same, though as a sophomore he showed some conscious shooting the basketball, and had an excellent year. Hamilton fell in the draft lower than expected, some think due to character concerns that teams had. Still he was a five-star prospect, and turned that into being a first round pick, even if not as high as expected.
No. 27 JaJuan Johnson (Scout rank 47 – 2007) - Day by day and month to month the improvements came with Johnson. A rail thin 190 pounds as a senior, some questioned Johnson’s strength, but his skill and athleticism made him a wanted man. Johnson chose Purdue over Xavier, Indiana, and Butler in a tough recruitment. He was more prospect than player, but the potential was obvious from day one. Johnson is a self made player, and his improvement showed that his top 50 ranking was more than justified. In fact it might have even been a little bit on the low side.
No. 28 Norris Cole (Scout rank NR – 2007) - Cole actually initially committed to NAIA Walsh College. Now he did do that over an offer from Robert Morris. Still considered a mid-major player, he got out of his NAIA letter and chose Cleveland State. It was clear as a senior that Cole was going to be good, but no one saw this coming. Also a straight ‘A’ student, Cole was a gem of a kid, and turned into one of the best players in college basketball. This one goes down as a miss, but still Cole deserves the credit for that, his curve for getting better was a very steep one.
No. 29 Cory Joseph (Scout rank No. 14 – 2010) - Was given a five-star ranking and was considered maybe the best defensive guard in the class coming out. Joseph was excellent as a senior, and chose Texas over Minnesota, Connecticut, UNLV, and Villanova. He entered the draft a year or two early, but with his length, athleticism, and feel for the game he earned his way into the first round. Joseph could have been a lottery pick potentially had he stayed, and time will tell exactly how this ranking plays out completely.
No. 30 Jimmy Butler (Scout rank NR – 2007) - A well documented story, Butler never played AAU basketball and overcame family adversity to become a star at the junior college level and eventually at Marquette. Butler was never evaluated or seen coming out by Scout.com. This is a great story of a kid overcoming a tough situation and earning his way into the league. Butler never had any hype, and was never seen before the junior college ranks, but once on the scene he became a big time performer and a first round pick.