We have seen a solid group of NBA stars who flourished in the NBA despite being drafted straight out of high school. While this is often very difficult to do thanks to the physicality and skills of grown men playing professional basketball, some stars were able to have their game translate perfectly. Skipping college was not an issue for the following 5 players, and we have compiled a starting lineup of the best 5 who went to the NBA as high-schoolers.
It is important to mention some honorable mentions including 6-time All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, 3-time 6th Man of the Year Lou Williams, and 2-time All-Star Rashard Lewis who all prospered as players who were drafted out of high school. But only 5 players top the list of the best to ever do it out of high school, and they form a dominant starting five that would have won multiple championships over the span of a decade had they played with each other.
Starting Lineup: Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard
Tracy McGrady is one of the most dominant shooting guards of his generation and was on track to be one of the best ever if not for his nagging back injuries. But when McGrady was on the floor, he was supremely dominant. He holds career averages of 19.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 4.4 APG while playing as a primary scorer and playmaker. While many remember T-Mac for his unstoppable scoring ability, his playmaking might have been his most natural skill.
McGrady will act as a primary playmaker for this lineup and the main scorer behind Kobe Bryant. He has the skills to do it all, and his versatility means he will be tasked with relieving LeBron James in setting up teammates and playing point. Of course, McGrady’s athleticism will come in handy as a 6’8” explosive guard who was faster and stronger than most players at his position.
The Black Mamba will always take his play to another level when playing with other great players and be the vocal leader of this team. Despite playing with 4 other Hall of Famers, Kobe will take the responsibility of taking and making the biggest shots. After all, he is the best overall scorer in this lineup. As a 6’6” shooting guard, Kobe had every move and counter-move in his arsenal and will feast in one-on-one situations.
Kobe will also take responsibility for shutting down the best players on the opposing teams. He has the most respected resume on the team as a perimeter defender and will not take that end of the floor lightly. It is important to note that Bryant never enjoyed bringing the ball up the floor so he will begin creating space for himself while McGrady or LeBron James bring the ball up the court from the inbounds.
The best playmaker and all-around player on the team, LeBron James will have the most impact setting up his superstar teammates and attacking the rim with force. James knows he can be the best player on the floor at any time, but he will take initiative to be unselfish and force himself to rebound the ball and lead the fast break.
Playing with McGrady and Bryant allows James to either score at the rim with ease or drive and kick to his backcourt. LeBron plays at his best when playing with other superstars because he can just do what he does best: play the game with a high basketball IQ. With James joining Bryant as one of the leaders on the court, this lineup will be completely unstoppable.
At the power forward position, Kevin Garnett is one of the best to ever do it. The 2004 MVP is one of the best two-way big men in NBA history and is among the top-5 power forwards who ever lived. After Tim Duncan and Karl Malone, Garnett’s name often pops up at his position. The big man played more of a finesse game than banging down low, which makes him a perfect partner to Dwight Howard.
Garnett was a special high school player but was even more special as a professional. The Big Ticket was one of the most fierce competitors in sports history and his aggression on both ends of the floor will be perfect for keeping momentum on his team’s side. With Garnett on the floor, it will be hard for any team to handle the scoring and defensive presence of this unit.
3-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard is one of the most athletically gifted big men in the history of the league. He was 6’10” tall but his vertical and lateral quickness was something that couldn’t be taught. Howard was so dominant defensively, that he averaged a double-double in his rookie season straight out of high school. Over his Hall of Fame career, Dwight has averages of 16.2 PPG and 12.1 RPG to go along with 1.9 BPG.
Howard won’t get a ton of touches in this starting lineup but he will be a target whenever McGrady or LeBron feed him lobs. Dwight is also a perfect pick n roll partner and is very effective at making rim runs or cleaning up misses on the offensive boards. Howard will hold down the fort as the best defender on the team and will be the final piece of a team that would run riot in the league.
How Many Championships They Could Win If They Played Together For 10 Years?
Had this starting five played together, we are looking at a team that has 7-8 rings at a minimum barring injury. It may be safe to assume that they win every year, but injuries or other external factors play a pivotal role in any NBA season. Considering injuries and also factors such as off-court issues means they miss out a maximum of 2-3 titles across a decade. That means that other than the Bill Russell - Boston Celtics, this starting lineup would have formed the most dominant team in NBA history.
This lineup has it all on offense and defense. Kobe Bryant is one of the best defensive guards in NBA history, making 12 All-Defensive Teams and playing both as an on-ball stopper and team defender. Bryant can pick opponents up the length of the floor and has very active hands. Of course, a prime LeBron James is capable of defending all 5 positions at any given time due to his size and athleticism. Garnett and Howard will be the primary defensive stoppers on the team, with a combined 4 Defensive Player of the Year Awards between them.
On offense, this is the greatest team in NBA history. McGrady was a 2-time scoring champion and will be responsible for handling the ball and creating his own shots. Kobe is also one of the top five scorers in NBA history and is a 2-time scoring champion in his own right. LeBron will be handling playmaking responsibilities and has the highest career APG average on the team, sitting at 7.4 APG. Garnett is dominant from the mid-range, while Dwight will feast off lobs from LeBron and T-Mac whenever Kobe isn’t taking his shots. In a nutshell, this is a perfect team on both ends with size and skill, and they will easily win 7 titles at a minimum.