Which colleges have produced the best Current NBA players? Ranking the Top 25

As March Madness approaches, it seems only fitting to sort the NBA’s superstars by their alma maters. We’ve seen great programs like Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, and Carolina… but how have these schools done in terms of NBA success? Here’s my rankings.

The Rules

  1. Current NBA Players Only. We’re imagining a tourney going down today. Not former players, not how good they were in their prime. Marquette gets current D-Wade, not prime D-Wade. Sorry guys.
  2. It doesn’t matter how good the player was in college. Paired with Rule #1, a player’s college career is irrelevant in this discussion. Colleges are being used as a way to divide the teams, but Kansas gets confident, ripped, MVP-candidate Joel Embiid, not scrawny injured college Joel Embiid.
  3. It’s 5 on 5. Most schools don’t have enough NBA players to make a starting lineup and a bench, so we’re just playing 5 on 5.
  4. Not all 5 players have to be in the NBA. I am allowing G-League or International Players if they are needed to fill out the lineup. For example, Oklahoma has Trae Young, Buddy Hield, and Blake Griffin, but no other players currently in the NBA. They are allowed to add two other former Sooners, but that inevitably makes their team worse and hurts their ranking.
  5. My Ranking Sytem. To get a ballpark estimate, I averaged out the NBA 2K ratings of each team. However, the ratings are not flawless by any means, and they fluctuate constantly. Therefore, I didn’t blindly rank off the numbers. Fit matters, too.

Missed the Cut

These are schools that had enough players for me to create a lineup, but they just weren’t good. At all.

Best to Worst: Missouri, Arkansas, Oregon, Pitt, Wisconsin, Baylor, Creighton, Maryland, Purdue, UNLV, Iowa State, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Miami

Received Votes

These were all able to field a respectable starting five, good enough that I felt it necessary to tell you the five I came up with. Still, they didn’t make the top 25, so by the poll analogy, they’re in the “also receiving votes” category.

33. NC State Wolfpack

Dennis Smith Jr

Lorenzo Brown

C.J. Williams

T.J. Warren

J.J. Hickson

32. LSU Tigers

Ben Simmons

Antonio Blakeney

Garrett Temple

Johnny O’Bryant

Jarrell Martin

31. Stanford Cardinal

Chasson Randle

Josh Huestis

Dwight Powell

Brook Lopez

Robin Lopez

30. Cal Golden Bears

Tyrone Wallace

Jaylen Brown

Allen Crabbe

Ryan Anderson

Ivan Rabb

29. Syracuse Orange

Michael Carter-Williams

Dion Waiters

Wesley Johnson

Carmelo Anthony

Jerami Grant

28. Colorado Buffaloes

Derrick White

Spencer Dinwiddie

Alec Burks

Andre Roberson

Chris Copeland

27. Virginia Cavaliers

London Perrantes

Malcolm Brogdon

Joe Harris

Justin Anderson

Mike Scott

26. Tennessee Volunteers

C.J. Watson

Josh Richardson

Jordan McRae

Tobias Harris

Jarnell Stokes

The Top 25

It’s pretty self-explanatory… this is the Top 25. I also included a little blurb about each team. For your enjoyment.

25. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Jarrett Jack

Josh Okogie

Iman Shumpert

Thaddeus Young

Derrick Favors

Did this one surprise you a little? It surprised me too. The frontcourt includes three solid NBA players, and Okogie has looked great as a rookie. Jack is 35, and could definetely fill in.

24. Utah Utes

Andre Miller

Delon Wright

Kyle Kuzma

Jakob Poeltl

Andrew Bogut

This is another surprising one. Miller is two years removed from retirement, but the other four are solid. Kuz can do the scoring while the others play defense, rebound, and distribute.

23. North Carolina Tar Heels

Raymond Felton

Reggie Bullock

Danny Green

Harrison Barnes

Marvin Williams

UNC is certainly a Top 10 college basketball program, but it’s not an NBA superstar factory. Rather, it churns out smart, solid players. Barnes would have to be the #1 scorer, which isn’t ideal, but the team would be solid.

22. Georgetown Hoyas

Hollis Thompson

Otto Porter

Jeff Green

Greg Monroe

Roy Hibbert

Despite their lack of a true point guard, this lineup would be one of the physically toughest in the nation. They can overpower and post up most opponents, plus Porter and Green can score from the perimeter, too.

21. Memphis Tigers

Derrick Rose

Will Barton

D.J. Stephens

Tyreke Evans

Tarik Black

Black is a bench-warmer and Stephens is a G-Leaguer, but the other three are above average NBA starters. Rose and Evans creating would do just fine against most of the other teams on this list.

20. Oklahoma Sooners

Trae Young

Isaiah Cousins

Buddy Hield

Taylor Griffin

Blake Griffin

This is a weird one. Three very good NBA players, w/ Cousins, a G-Leaguer, and Blake’s brother Taylor Griffin, who played 8 NBA games. But their three stars would carry them pretty far, and they’d sure be fun to watch.

19. Villanova Wildcats

Kyle Lowry

Jalen Brunson

Josh Hart

Mikal Bridges

Omari Spellman

Like UNC, Villanova is not an NBA factory, but a winning college program. They’ve been ranked top 8 in the last six seasons. Lowry would lead them, but they’ve got shooters around him. All smart players.

18. Texas A&M Aggies

Alex Caruso

Khris Middleton

Danuel House

Robert Williams

DeAndre Jordan

Despite the minimal experience of Caruso and Williams, I like the fit of this team. They’d be great defensively and Middleton would be a solid primary scorer with spot-up shooters and rim-runners by his side.

17. Michigan Wolverines

Trey Burke

Caris LeVert

Glenn Robinson III

Tim Hardaway

D.J. Wilson

I love how these teams embody the playstyle of their schools. This is such a Michigan team. LeVert is a 20 ppg scorer and the four guards can all score. They’d be an intriguing group for sure.

16. Washington Huskies

Isaiah Thomas

Dejounte Murray

Terrence Ross

Justin Holiday

Marquese Chriss

Despite only three tourney appearances in the last decade, UW has showcased some talented players that would put it together in the NBA. They also have some of my favorite uniforms in college hoops.

15. Marquette Golden Eagles

Dwyane Wade

Wesley Matthews

Jimmy Butler

Jae Crowder

Henry Ellenson

It’s kind of surprising to see Marquette up here. But Butler and Crowder were second rounders, and Matthews went undrafted, so that explains that. It’d sure be an interesting team to watch though.

14. Indiana Hoosiers

Yogi Ferrell

Victor Oladipo

Eric Gordon

OG Anunoby

Cody Zeller

IU has only made four tournaments in the last decade, but they’ve still produced talented players. Great work by Tom Crean. Oladipo is a great 1st option and they’ve got three and D guys around him.

13. Louisville Cardinals

Terry Rozier

Donovan Mitchell

Deng Adel

Gorgui Dieng

Montrezl Harrell

I really like the fit of this team. Mitchell has proven to be a reliable #1 option, and Rozier would be great in a secondary role. Harrell setting picks and the forwards hitting shots and defending? Sounds good to me.

12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Chris Paul

Jeff Teague

Al-Farouq Aminu

James Johnson

John Collins

Now this one really surprised me. Wake hasn’t been ranked in nine years. But the talent sure adds up. All five are starting-level players in the NBA. How many other teams have that?

11. Ohio State Buckeyes

Mike Conley

D’Angelo Russell

Evan Turner

Keita Bates-Diop

Kosta Koufos

I love this OSU group. Conley and Russell would make a great backcourt, they compliment each other very well. Turner can score, too, and KBD can do the little things. Also appearing is Kosta Koufos. It’s a fun squad.

10. Michigan State Spartans

Gary Harris

Denzel Valentine

Miles Bridges

Draymond Green

Jaren Jackson Jr

This is such an MSU team. I don’t know who the scorer is, I guess Harris, but most MSU teams do just fine without an iso scorer. Also try scoring on Draymond+JJ. What a duo. This team is top 10. Especially w Izzo.

9. Arizona Wildcats

Allonzo Trier

Andre Iguodala

Aaron Gordon

Lauri Markkanen

Deandre Ayton

This is a fun one. I wish they had a true point guard, but Iggy can pass well. And I don’t know who’s defending a Markkanen-Ayton frontcourt but I also don’t know who Markkanen and Ayton are defending.

8. Florida Gators

Bradley Beal

Chandler Parsons

Corey Brewer

Al Horford

Joakim Noah

First, look at Parsons in college compared to now. This is an awesome team. The trio from the back-to-back titles would really benefit from Beal helping with the scoring. It would help to have prime Jo, but still. Wow.

6. USC Trojans

De’Anthony Melton

DeMar DeRozan

Nick Young

Taj Gibson

Nikola Vucevic

USC has two East All-Star level players in DeMar and Vooch. With role guys like Melton (look his stats up) and Taj, there’s just enough room for Swaggy to be Swaggy. They’d be fun and they’d be good. Gotta love this 5.

5. UConn Huskies

Kemba Walker

Shabazz Napier

Jeremy Lamb

Rudy Gay

Andre Drummond

This would be fun. It’s a great balance of scoring and defense, of tournament success and late bloomers. Kemba and Gay could lead the offense with Drummond blocking shots and rim-running. Top 5 seems right.

4. Texas Longhorns

D.J. Augustin

Avery Bradley

Kevin Durant

P.J. Tucker

LaMarcus Aldridge

KD is the best player in this article, unless you love AD. Aldridge has been great this year, Augustin is a solid point guard, and Bradley and Tucker are both very good defenders. This team fits great. Hook ’em.

3. Duke Blue Devils

Kyrie Irving

J.J. Redick

Brandon Ingram

Jayson Tatum

Marvin Bagley III

Ooooo this would be fun to see. These 5 embody the changing of eras at Duke. Ingram and Tatum can create alongside Kyrie, JJ can hit shots, and Bagley will rebound. The problem is that none of them would get along.

2. UCLA Bruins

Russell Westbrook

Jrue Holiday

Zach LaVine

Trevor Ariza

Kevin Love

UCLA takes the #2 spot ahead of Duke. Russ leads the offense with Love scoring in a variety of ways. LaVine can hit shots and do cool dunks, while Ariza is a good 3-and-D guy and Holiday is an elite defender. Great fit here.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

De’Aaron Fox

John Wall

Devin Booker

Anthony Davis

Karl-Anthony Towns

Well, that was kind of anti-climatic. There’s really no debate for the top spot. The one-and-done factory has it. Three all-stars here and two players that will be all-stars soon. Big Blue Nation comes out on top. The craziest thing to think about with Kentucky is the players that didn’t make it into their starting five. I wonder where their second team would rank in this list… Rajon Rondo, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray, Julius Randle, DeMarcus Cousins is probably the next best five. They’re not as good as UCLA, and probably not Duke, but they may be Top 5. Crazy what Coach Cal has done there.

One of the morals of this story is that college success does not equal NBA stars. Look at programs like Villanova, Purdue, Wisconsin Virginia, and UNC. Now compare those with USC, Marquette, Wake Forest, and Washington. There’s no question that the first group has seen more success at the college level, but the latter group has actually produced more NBA talent.

  
I grew up in a small town in Indiana, about an hour outside of Chicago. I’ve been a diehard Chicago sports fan my entire life, and basketball has always been my favorite sport. In high school, I founded a Sports Media Club, where my classmates and I wrote articles and produced podcasts. After graduating, I kept writing and podcasting on my own. Now I’m a freshman at Purdue University, and I am excited to join Lineups and continue to further the growth of the content side of the site.

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