All-Decade: Ranking the No. 1 prospects from 2010-19
At Rivals, we are celebrating the decade in high school basketball recruiting coverage with a series of All-Decade features. Today, national basketball analyst Eric Bossi starts things off by looking at the No. 1 prospects from 2010-19 and ranking them in order of best to worst, based on their high school ability.
1. ANDREW WIGGINS, 2013
Look, it was going to be hard for Wiggins to ever live up to the considerable hype that came along with him. He was at the forefront of the social media and mixtape ages and was an online celebrity before he stepped foot on campus at Kansas or got taken No. 1 in the NBA Draft and won Rookie of the Year. He’s not been an All-Star yet, but Wiggins is currently in the midst of his best season to date and was averaging just under 20 points per game through his career entering the 2019-20 season. He’s far and away the best performing No. 1 player of the last decade and it would be tough to make a case that anybody else in his class should have been ranked ahead of him.
2. JAMES WISEMAN, 2019
I get it, Wiseman’s college career has barely even started. On top of that, after being embroiled in eligibility controversy during his high school days in Tennessee, he’s the subject of a major fight between the NCAA and Memphis over alleged improper benefits he received from Penny Hardaway two years ago, when Hardaway was his high school coach. On the floor, though, Wiseman has looked like a total can’t-miss prospect and a future No. 1 Draft pick. He’s got size, he’s got athleticism and his game is built for the current era of NBA basketball.
3. R.J. BARRETT, 2018
Five or 10 years from now there’s a good chance we’ll look back and say that Barrett shouldn’t have been No. 1. Heck, his first year at Duke showed us that as he played alongside the guy that probably should have been the top player, Zion Williamson. But, the body of work that Barrett built as a high schooler at Montverde (Fla.) Academy and with the Canadian National Team is as strong as I have ever seen. He’s already off to a pretty good start to his NBA career and figures to have a long and productive run in the league. Put it this way, I don’t think I’ll ever look back and cringe over him being No. 1. That happens later in this list.
4. JAHLIL OKAFOR, 2014
As a freshman in college, Okafor led Duke to a national title. Then as a 20-year-old rookie with the 76ers he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game and was an All-Rookie selection. At this point I’m thinking, hey not a bad start for a former No. 1 players. Then, for a while, Okafor went off the rails. Injury, inactivity, poor attitude and the style of the NBA going completely away from throwback bigs all worked to have him nearly out of the league. He’s back now and should be a good role player for years to come. In retrospect, Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished No. 5, is looking like the top prospect from that 2014 class.
5. JOSH JACKSON, 2016
I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that Jackson has begun his third season as a pro in the G League playing for the Memphis Hustle after being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies by the Phoenix Suns. I fully expect him to make his way back and if he does he’s still incredibly young and has proven what he can do. In college at Kansas he was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-American. Then as a rookie, after some adjustment, Jackson averaged 18.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game after the All-Star break and looked to be on track to have a very successful career. Missteps off the floor, indifference and attitude have hurt him early but at just 22 years old there’s hope he can get things straightened out. If he does, he’s proven he can have a very good career. His 2016 class was expected to go down as an all-time great class but has been somewhat disappointing thus far. In retrospect, Jayson Tatum (No. 3) or De’Aaron Fox (No. 6) probably would have been the best choice for the top spot.
6. AUSTIN RIVERS, 2011
The 2011 rankings cycle was the first one that I was involved with and after the end of the season my vote for the No. 1 player was firmly with Anthony Davis (No. 2) and I thought Brad Beal (No. 4) should be No. 2. At the end of the day, though, the top spot wasn’t my call and Rivers won out. Rivers was ACC Freshman of the Year, went No. 10 in the NBA Draft after one season in college and is now in his ninth year in the NBA. So, by any stretch he’s been a success. But, to know that he was ranked over Davis (and Beal), well that one still stings.
7. MICHAEL PORTER, JR., 2017
Though Porter Jr. has yet to experience big-time success in the NBA, it’s too early for me to say that I wish I had done something different and gone with say DeAndre Ayton (No. 3) over him. I certainly didn’t see Trae Young (No. 16) developing into a likely NBA superstar and clear best player from the class. The reason Porter Jr. at No. 1 doesn’t haunt me yet is that we still haven’t seen what he’s really capable of because injuries wrecked his college career and cost him his first year in the NBA. The back issues may prevent him from ever being what he could have been but it’s not often that I would ever question myself about ranking a guy who had his blend of athleticism, size, skill and proven production in the top spot. If he ends up a bad pick, it will be for injuries not ability.
8. SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD, 2012
As a class, 2012 looks to be the worst of the decade so it only figures that the No. 1 pick has turned into a relative bust. No. 2 Nerlens Noel hasn’t exactly set the world on fire either. It’s too bad, because Andre Drummond was going to be the easy choice for No. 1 and would have looked like a great pick, but he reclassified to 2011. Muhammad’s start was at least promising. He had a pretty good freshman season, at least as a scorer, at UCLA. During his second year with the Timberwolves he averaged 13.5 points per game and looked to be on his way to having a long career as an instant offense kind of guy off the bench or a third or fourth scoring option. Instead, he’s been out of the NBA since early in the 2017-18 season and he may never be back. But if not Muhammad, who does that leave? Steven Adams (No. 5) and Gary Harris (No. 25) have probably had the most success from that class. As bad as it was, though, 12 of the top 40 players are still active in the NBA.
9. SKAL LABISSIERE, 2015
I’ll never live ranking Labissiere over Ben Simmons down. Nor should I. It took about a minute into their college careers to realize I’d made a grave mistake. I loved Labissiere’s story of escaping a massive earthquake in Haiti, he was big, he was smooth and he was skilled. He was also not an Alpha, lacked confidence and during a chaotic senior year where he played for what was essentially a traveling rec league team I was fooled by him doing things he would never again be asked to do on a basketball court. He had one ineffective season but at least he’s now in his fourth year in the NBA and figures to play many more. But yeah, ranking him over Simmons is a terrible look that I’ve accepted responsibility for many times. I even admitted it to Simmons' mother during a chance encounter at an Arkansas/LSU game during his freshman season. Her reaction, well let’s just say that’s a story of it’s own.
10. JOSH SELBY, 2010
The final rankings for the class of 2010 were released about a month or so before I came to work at Rivals.com so I’ll never know for sure what gave Selby the edge. I was always told it had a lot to do with his performance at McDonald’s All-American Game workouts. Nevertheless, Selby started off strong at Kansas but by the end of his lone season in Lawrence he had fallen out of favor with Bill Self. He was then the MVP of the NBA Summer League after being drafted by Memphis but his NBA career would only consist of scoring 83 points over the course of 38 games. Looking back at that class, No. 2 Harrison Barnes has had a very solid career but it is Kyrie Irving (No. 4) who has endured as the true star of the bunch.