NBA Draft Picks by School (1949-2008)

Since we’re in the deadest of dead times when it comes to college basketball, we figured now was as good a time as any to update some of our databases with 2008 figures.  We like to do this for a couple of reasons: a) we’re incredibly stat nerdy, and if we don’t update our charts with new data in a reasonable amount of time after it becomes available, we begin suffering cold-sweat night terrors involving 39395 errors; and, b) like everyone else, we find it difficult to access this kind of historical data on the interwebs, and so this year we’ll be adding links to Google Docs to harbor all of our raw data.

Yes, Redheads Appreciate Robust Data

Our first task is to update our NBA Draft Picks by School information.  You may recall that we put together several posts last summer detailing the historical statistics of the first two rounds of the NBA Draft from its inception as a round-robin spectacle in 1949.  (See Draft Picks 1949-2006 by School, by Round and by Decade)  Since not a lot of the data has changed in the interim, we’re going to take a different tack this time around.  Rather than overwhelming you as we did last year with enormous data-filled tables, we’re going to break it down into smaller bite-size morsels first before giving you the full Monty.  However, if you’re the type of person who can’t wait to dive headfirst into reams of data, be our guest.  All of the raw data from the 1949-2008 NBA Drafts is here.

So here’s Table A, where we list the 11 programs with the most NBA Draft picks in history (1949-2008).  For the full list of programs with ten or more historical draft picks, see our Google Doc on the subject.

It doesn’t take much brainpower to see that UCLA‘s Ben Howland and UNC‘s Roy Williams are likely to spend the next decade further dominating this list.  Louisville and Kansas also stand to rise into the top five quickly with the players Rick Pitino and Bill Self are recruiting these days.  Indiana, Duke, Kentucky – all have been trending downward, but how will the newish coaches at IU and UK change that, and will Coach K start recruiting studs again now that making the Sweet 16 is the norm at Duke?  St. John’s and Maryland? Both are living on lost glory with no recent signs of improvement.  And keep an eye on the sleeping giant Thad Matta is building at Ohio St. (currently at 25 total picks) – he could overtake the Terps with two more of his Thad Five-type classes. 

Total draft picks are nice, but championships are won with first-round talent, and first-round talent tends to become first-round picks (just sayin’).  So let’s slice the data a little further to see what schools produce the most first rounders (Table B). 

The top six programs in history are also the top six producers of first round talent.  Correlation, much? (ok, for that comment, forget Notre Dame and their zero F4s)  We’re still aghast that Minnesota continues to appear in the top ten of this list.  Something tells us that Tubby won’t exactly set the Twin Cities on fire with first rounders up there on the tundra.   

How about elite players?  It’s true that a good argument can be made that the NBA’s recent propensity in drafting potential over production has mitigated some of the value of analyzing these draft numbers at the college level, but there’s likely still a strong correlation between elite NBA draftees and collegiate team success.  See Table C for the list of the schools with the most Top 10, Top 5 and #1 Overall Picks.   

LSU is the real anomaly of this group – they’ve had a modicum of team success over the years (three F4s), but they seem to excel in producing top-tier individual talent, with eight Top 5 picks in history.  Considering that LSU trails only UNC, UCLA and Duke in that category, it is phenomenal that the Tigers haven’t had more national success over the years (until we remember again… Dale Brown, John Brady).  Did anyone else realize that Duquesne has had two #1 picks in its history, and that they were in consecutive years?!?  Those Dick Ricketts (1955) and Sihugo Green (1956) teams of the mid-50s must have had P-town roiling, eh?  (well, actually, the Dukes were NIT Champs in 1955).

Now we’re to Table D, which shows the breakdown of picks by decade.  Keep in mind that the table is sorted by the 2000s column on the left – yes, we’re guilty of a serious case of presentism. 

We threw this table up mostly to show that with one NBA Draft remaining this decade, several schools have a chance to take the lead for most picks in the 2000s.  UCLA, Duke, Connecticut, Florida and Arizona could all have a couple more picks in the books by this time next year.  UNC is the real wildcard, though.  The Heels could have as many as five draftees in next year’s class, which would give them an outside shot at leading the decade, and is amazingly something that UNC has never done in its regal NBA Draft history.

Again, here is the link to the Google Docs listing the programs with 10+ draft picks in history, and here is the link to the comprehensive raw data where you can look up and manipulate the table to locate any pick from the last sixty years. 

We have some further ideas for this data, but that’ll have to wait for another post. 

12 Responses to NBA Draft Picks by School (1949-2008)

  1. Erkki says:

    Wouldn’t Purdue be the most underwhelming multiple-#1 pick school? They had Joe Barry Carroll (aka Joe Barely Cares) in 1980 and Glenn Robinson in 1994. At least Maryland won a National Championship.

  2. Whit says:

    Thanks for making your spreadsheets available. Why do you not list Wayne Hightower (drafted 7th overall in 1962) for Kansas? Is it because he left KU early in 1961 (played in Spain for 1 year)? Likewise, why not list Wilt Chamberlain for Kansas? There are other players listed for Kansas (as well as other schools) in your spreadsheet that left school early.

  3. rtmsf says:

    Fair point, although the Big Dog was a 20/6 career guy in the NBA and two-time all-star. JBC was an 18/8 guy over 10 seasons with 1 AS appearance.

    Lucas was a 10/7 guy with a drug problem and Joe Smith (12/7) is mostly infamous for the tampering problem that led to the destruction of the Twolves franchise. Neither player ever made a single AS game.

    So yeah, none of the four were worthy of a #1 overall pick, but I’d still say the two Terps had worse NBA careers.

  4. rtmsf says:


    This came up last year too with how you handle players who left school but then went somewhere else in the interim. You have to draw a line somewhere, so we consider someone to be drafted from the last place he played organized basketball or went to college.

    In Hightower’s case, that would be Spain, therefore he fell under the (Spain) column, resulting in the 7th overall pick in the 1962 draft.

    Re: Wilt, he spent the 58-59 season playing for the Harlem Globetrotters, and that’s where he is on the column if you look carefully.

    I certainly wouldn’t have any qualms if someone wants to count both of these players as KU draftees, but the reason we did not is because there are so many exceptions when you start trying to parse out each individual situation. By doing it the way we did, we feel that this was the cleanest way to handle the data.


  5. Brooke says:

    I would like to see which school turns out the most quality NBA players, perhaps this means in terms of averages in points, rebounds, assists and/or other salient metrics. My guess is that UNC and Arizona would top that list if the data were cut since 1990 or so.

  6. arizownsya says:

    I think Oliver Miller is missplaced under Arizona when he really played at Arkansas State?

  7. rtmsf says:

    Really nice catch. We changed the original spreadsheets to correct that error, although it was Arkansas.

  8. Gregg Ellis says:

    Does this list include players that signed with a scholarship with a university but went into the draft right after high school?

  9. Mike White says:

    Very good stuff here. As for the talent/championship ratio at Carolina, I can’t explain it. Some have theorized that UCLA has done better principally due to the fact that they are the only dominant team on the west coast, and consistently has the easiest travel schedule in the west bracket. Other than that though…UNC should have more than 4 champion ships.

    …but we’ll take what we have. I think just about anyone would.

  10. nvr1983 says:

    It looks like they were listed as high school players in the document. Players are listed by the last place they played before they were drafted. This explains why Wilt Chamberlain is listed as having played for the Harlem Globetrotters instead of Kansas while Danny Ferry is listed as having played for Duke and not Il Messaggero (now Virtus Roma), his Italian league team.

  11. […] folks over at Rush the Court have compiled a list of schools which have produced the most NBA draft picks (Google Spreadsheet) […]

  12. […] draft pick (Larry Demic in 1979).  Beginning in 1989 with the transcendental Sean Elliott, Olson put 13 first-rounders and 17 second-rounders into the NBA Draft, including such fantastic pros like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert […]

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