The class of 2005 was definitely a notch below the classes of 2006 and 2007. Well, the portion of the class that made it on campus, at least. By all accounts, Martell Webster, Andrew Bynum, Gerald Green, C.J. Miles, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Andray Blatche, and Amir Johnson would have been pretty good college players. Let's take a look at how the college edition of this class performed in their freshman seasons.
Already the dropoff is evident. While these guys played a lot of minutes and overall had solid efficiency numbers, they were not "go to" players on their teams (unlike the top 10 players of the classes of 2007 and 2006).
By the time we hit the next tier, the efficiency numbers have fallen below average. And these guys weren't carrying their teams, either. In fact, only 5 players in the class of 2005 had a Shot% of 25.0 or greater. Ironically enough, all of those guys are still in school (Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Eric Devendorf, Dominic James, and Nate Minnoy).
A bit higher Shot%, but otherwise similar to the last tier.
Very similar numbers for the next two tiers - each of which played less than half of the available minutes, on average.
Let's take a look at how this looks graphically.
There is still a clear downward trend, but these graphs show a lot more randomness. Perhaps another byproduct of the One Year Rule - it makes scouting services look a little better. I'll leave others to debate whether that's good or bad.
One other thing struck me as I looked over this data - while I was quick to blame the NBA for the lower productivity, is that entirely accurate? After all, we're not measuring counting stats, like points or rebounds. We're looking at averages. So if you pull out 5 of the top 10 ranked players, that shouldn't change the average of the pool, using the remaining 5 players (assuming you take out those 5 at random). Imagine you pick out the 10 tallest people in a very crowded room, then, at random, you take 5 people out of that group. You might pick out the tallest (dragging the average down), or you might pick out the shortest (pulling the average up), but you shouldn't expect the average to change much if you pick out 5 guys at random.
And it's not as if only the top players in each tier left - in the top 10, the NBA guys were ranked #2, #3, #5, and #10 (averaging #5...right square the middle). The 11-20 tier lost #12, #14, #16, and #18 (averaging 15...again, in the middle).
So I see two possible explanations for the lower numbers:
1. The class of 2005 was weak - this is almost certainly true, as the lower overall numbers were present all the way down through the rankings. But in this context, I mean it was weaker at the top.
2. Players, agents, all those "bad advisers" are actually better evaluators than the rankings services - it's entirely possible that the NBA guys were, in reality, the best 8 players in this class (or close to it). And they (and the people around them) recognized this, which encouraged them to skip college. If that's the case, well, maybe all the rancor these advisers get is not deserved after all. Maybe they're the smartest guys in the room.
To find out more, we'll have to look at the classes of 2004, 2003, etc. We'll pick that up some other time.