Best One and Done NBA Players of All Time
To basketball fans, the term "one and done" has become as much a part of the sport's culture as terms like "jump shot" or "free throw" over the last two decades. It's a term used for a player who plays one year of college basketball and then declares himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
The very best one-and-done players to make it from college to the NBA have come through from 2005 on, which was the delineation point from when the NBA made it illegal for players to go right from high school to the pros.
Since then, the pipeline of one-and-done players to the NBA is a who's who of the very best players in the world. Here's a look at the greatest one-and-done NBA players of all time — with some of the newest being none other than Tyler Herro and Anthony Edwards.
15. Jaylen Brown
The final spot on this list was by far the hardest to pick, but we like Jaylen Brown here because he's been such a steady, impactful presence on the Boston Celtics since he was picked No. 3 overall by the team in 2016.
Brown has just gotten better with age — he's averaged over 20 points the last three seasons and helped lead the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals, marking the franchise's first appearance there since 2016.
14. Zach Randolph
College: Michigan State
The oldest player to make this list is former NBA power forward Zach Randolph, who led Michigan State to the Final Four as a freshman in 2001 before the Portland Trail Blazers selected him No. 19 overall in the NBA Draft.
Randolph played 19 seasons in the NBA and only made two All-Star teams — but he banked $195.5 million in career earnings.
13. Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal was an All-SEC selection in his one season at the University of Florida and led the school to the Elite Eight before bouncing to the NBA, where the Washington Wizards made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Over the last decade, the 6-foot-4 guard has established himself as one of the NBA's best players while playing for one of its worst franchises. Beal averaged over 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 and is also one of the league's highest-paid players — he's scheduled to make $36.4 million in the 2022-2023 season.
12. Tyler Herro
Say what you will about Tyler Herro's inability or unwillingness to play defense — as Miami Heat general manager Pat Riley was quick to point out following the 2021-2022 NBA season — dude can get buckets with the very best of them.
Herro was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021-2022, but it wasn't his first time in the spotlight since the team made him the No. 13 overall pick out of Kentucky in 2019, as he helped lead the team to the NBA Finals as a rookie in 2020.
Also, how many guys have a song named after them?
11. Kevin Love
The Kevin Love who played one season at UCLA in 2007-2008 looked nothing like the player that NBA fans have come to know and love over the last decade. What the two versions of Love had in common was filling up the stat sheet, as the freshman phenom averaged 17.6 points and 10.5 rebounds on the way to being named Pac-10 Player of the Year and an All-American.
Love and teammate Russell Westbrook led UCLA to the Final Four, and then he was selected No. 5 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft — one pick behind Westbrook. Love won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 in arguably the greatest comeback in NBA history, with his team trailing 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors. He's also a five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA pick with an offensive toolbox few big men have ever possessed.
10. Devin Booker
Devin Booker was one of seven players off the University of Kentucky's 2014-15 roster to declare early for the NBA Draft — the Moss Point, Mississippi, native was an All-SEC selection and SEC Sixth Man of the Year in his one season with the Wildcats.
Booker didn't even turn 19 years old until almost five months after he was drafted by the Suns and made his third consecutive NBA All-Star nod in 2022, along with being named to the All-NBA Team for the first time.
9. Trae Young
Few players in recent NBA history have given us the "how did he do that?" like Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young — a 6-foot, 165-pound scoring wonder who signed a five-year, $207 million contract extension with the Atlanta Hawks before the 2021-22 season.
Young grew up with basketball in his life. His father, Rayford Young, played at Texas Tech before playing pro ball in Europe. Trae starred at Norman North High, where he averaged 42.6 points per game as a senior and stayed close to home, playing one season at the University of Oklahoma before he was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
8. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis was as dominant of a college player as we've seen in quite some time in his one season at Kentucky, leading John Calipari and the Wildcats to an NCAA championship in 2012.
Davis spent almost a decade toiling away on the New Orleans Pelicans before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 and helped lead the team to the 2020 NBA championship ... then two years later missed the playoffs entirely. So, in a decade in the NBA, he's had one really meaningful season but put up consistently great individual stats the whole time ... so good job!
Just kidding that's actually not good.
7. Chris Bosh
College: Georgia Tech
Chris Bosh was a top recruit who picked a school not traditionally among the nation's best with Georgia Tech for some pretty cool reasons — both his cousin and his aunt had attended college there.
In his one season playing for head coach Paul Hewitt, Bosh dominated with 15.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while leading the ACC in field goal percentage. Selected No. 4 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, Bosh would eventually team with fellow '03 selections LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to win two NBA championships on the Miami Heat.
6. Kyrie Irving
Much like he's done during his NBA career, Kyrie Irving went totally missing for his Duke teammates during his one year playing college basketball. With the Blue Devils in 2009-2010, Irving played only 11 games — the first eight and the last three after suffering a toe injury.
Irving may have won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, but it's hard to argue he's not going to go down as one of the worst teammates of all time after having ostensibly quit on his last two teams, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. Enough of this guy already.
5. Carmelo Anthony
If we're just doing the greatest one-and-done players of all time in regard to what happened during that one season of college basketball, Syracuse forward Carmelo Anthony is the winner.
Anthony led the Orange to their one national championship in school history in 2003, making an amazing run during the 2003 NCAA Tournament that was capped with a win over Kansas in the NCAA championship game.
In 20 years in the NBA, few players have filled it up like Anthony — he's the No. 9 career leading scorer of all time, but it's come at the expense of team success. He's never even played in the NBA Finals.
4. Anthony Edwards
Few NBA players in recent memory have given us the feeling we get watching Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards in his first two seasons as a pro. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has propelled the Timberwolves into the NBA postseason as a legitimate tough out — something another one-and-done on Minnesota's roster, Karl-Anthony Towns, wasn't capable of in his first six years with the team.
Edwards averaged 21.3 points, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 2021-2022, and if you're looking for a top-line breakout star for the 2022-2023 season, this is your guy.
3. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid was one of two one-and-done players on the University of Kansas roster in 2013-2014 — teammate Andrew Wiggins went No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Embiid was selected No. 3 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.
It would be a long wait for 76ers fans to actually see Embiid in action — he sat out all of his first two seasons with injuries but has been one of the NBA's best centers since finally making his way to the court. He averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 blocks in 2021-2022.
2. Jayson Tatum
Never accuse us of not being objective — Jayson Tatum is an NBA star who we truly can't see the appeal of but definitely can recognize the massive talent that the St. Louis, Missouri, native possesses.
In his one season at Duke, Tatum showed he could be a star, and when Boston Celtics general manager gambled that the player he really wanted, Tatum, would still be around at the No. 3 overall pick, he traded away the No. 1 pick and still got his man in the 2017 NBA draft.
Tatum had a breakthrough year in 2021-2022, leading the Boston Celtics back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 and earning Eastern Conference Finals MVP honors. He also showed he could specialize in awkwardness and weird, performative tributes to his idols.
1. Kevin Durant
Anyone lucky enough to watch Kevin Durant play during his one collegiate season at the University of Texas understood what they were watching — a prodigy. The Washington, D.C., native swept National Player of the Year honors in 2007, becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to do so.
Despite all of that individual success, Durant and the Longhorns were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round in an upset loss to USC ... was it a sign of things to come? Despite winning two NBA championships on a "super team" with the Golden State Warriors, Durant's legacy as a pro is still very much defined by his postseason failures.