July’s live recruiting period is right around the corner, meaning that the Class of 2016 will have a chance to truly prove themselves to the recruiters and the recruitniks around the country. Scholarships will be earned and rankings will be justified over the course of those three weekends in July.
But scholarship offers and rankings don’t always tell us who the best players in a given class will end up being. Ask Steph Curry. Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be re-ranking eight recruiting classes, from 2004-2011, based on what they have done throughout their post-high school career.
Here are the 25 best players from the Class of 2004, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:
1. Dwight Howard (No. 1): Seven-time All-Star. Five-time First-Team All-NBA center. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I’d say he’s done alright.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 16): The No. 2 pick in 2006, Aldridge has spent his entire career in Portland, becoming one of the best power forwards in the entire world. He averaged 23.2 points and 10.2 boards this past season, but has yet to get the Blazers past the second round of the playoffs. He’s a four-time All-Star with three All-NBA appearances.
3. Rajon Rondo (No. 25): Rondo has never been the easiest player to deal with, but there’s no questioning his ability. He was the starting point guard for the 2008 NBA champion Celtics and a four-time All-Star that was routinely among league leaders in assists and steals. He was traded to Dallas in the middle of the season.
4. Joakim Noah (No. 75): After three seasons at Florida — which included back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007 — Noah was the No. 9 pick in 2007. He’s since developed into one of the best centers in the NBA, having made a pair of All-Star teams, even getting named a first-team All-NBA center in 2014.
5. Al Horford (No. 36): Like Noah, Horford went from winning back-to-back NCAA titles to going top ten in the 2007 NBA Draft. And like Noah, he’s developed into one of the best big men in the league. He’s dealt with injury issues throughout his career, but he is a three-time All-Star.
6. Roy Hibbert (UR): Hibbert’s development from 7-foot-2 stiff to college star to No. 17 pick to one of the better centers in the NBA was a stunning development, as was his complete disappearance in the 2014 playoffs. Hibbert is a two-time All-Star.
7. Kyle Lowry (No. 28): Lowry was the No. 28 pick in the 2006 draft after two seasons at Villanova, but he’s developed into one of the most productive guards in the NBA in the last four years. He averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 boards last season as he made his first All-Star team.
8. Al Jefferson (No. 4): Jefferson was the 15th pick in 2004 after bypassing college and entering the NBA Draft. He’s become one of the most productive big men in the NBA, averaging 17.0 points and 9.1 boards during his 11 seasons. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.0 boards as recently as the 2013-14 season, but has managed to play in just seven playoff games since he was a rookie.
9. Jeff Green (UR): Green became an all-league player and a lottery pick after three seasons with Georgetown, going fifth in 2007. He’s averaged 14.8 points in his career, thriving as a complimentary scorer in both Boston and Oklahoma City. He finished this season with Memphis. Green missed the 2011-12 season with a heart issue.
10. Josh Smith (No. 3): Smith has been a terrific fantasy player in his career, averaging 15.1 points, 7.7 boards, 3.4 assists and 2.0 blocks in his 11 seasons. His best seasons were in Atlanta, but after being lambasted as one of the least valuable players in the NBA for Detroit, Smith was a critical midseason pickup for the Rockets as they reached the Western Conference Finals.
11. Rudy Gay (No. 5): Gay was the 8th pick in the 2006 draft after spending two years at UConn. He hasn’t averaged less than 18.2 points since his first season in the league, but he’s also managed all of seven career playoff games, all of which were during the 2011-12 season.
12. J.R. Smith (No. 9): The enigmatic Smith was the No. 18 pick in 2004, bypassing college altogether. He’s been a double-figure scorer in the NBA since his second season, but his penchant for reckless shots — both on the court and in a bar — has kept him from reaching the full potential given his talent. He’s currently with the Cavs. Smith was Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13.
13. DeMarre Carroll (No. 148): Carroll spent five years in college — two at Vandy, two and a redshirt season at Missouri — before getting picked at the end of the first round in 2009. It took him a while to find his role in the league, but he was a key piece in Atlanta’s emergence as an Eastern Conference contender the last two seasons.
14. Corey Brewer (No. 31): After winning back-to-back national titles with the Gators alongside Noah and Horford, Brewer went seventh in the 2007 NBA Draft. He’s managed to remain a starter on the wing for playoff caliber teams. Brewer was traded to Houston during the 2014-15 season and averaged 11.2 points for the Rockets during their playoff run.
15. Glen Davis (No. 13): A second round pick out of LSU in 2007, Big Baby won an NBA title with the Celtics as a rookie in 2008. He’s since blossomed into an solid role player in the NBA, spending four seasons with the Celtics before heading to Orlando. He spent this past season as a bench player with the Clippers.
16. Nick Young (UR): Young was the 17th pick out of USC in 2007. He’s always been able to score — he averaged 17.4 points for Washington in 2010-11 and 17.9 points for the Lakers in 2013-14 — but his claim to fame is his relationship with Iggy Azalea.
17. Shaun Livingston (No. 2): Livingston was the fourth pick in the 2005 draft, skipping college. He was averaging 9.4 points and 5.3 assists as a 21-year old in his third season when he suffered one of the worst knee injuries I’ve ever seen. He won an NBA title as a back-up wing with the Warriors this season.
18. Arron Afflalo (No. 26): Afflalo lasted three seasons at UCLA before becoming the No. 27 pick in the 2007 draft. After two seasons with limited minutes in Detroit, Afflalo turned into a regular starter and excellent role player on good Denver teams. He averaged 18.2 points in 2013-14 for Orlando.
19. Rodney Stuckey (No. 131): Stuckey averaged 24.4 points and 4.8 assists over two seasons with Eastern Washington, Stuckey was the 15th pick in 2007. He caught on with the Pistons at the tail end of their reign in the mid-aughts and while he’s never been an all-star, he’s averaged double-figures for the last seven seasons and started 300 games in his career.
20. Marvin Williams (No. 11): Williams was the No. 2 pick in the draft after playing as the sixth-man on North Carolina’s 2005 national title team. He spent seven solid but unspectacular seasons with Atlanta — reaching the playoffs five times — and has since moved on to Utah and Charlotte.
21. Jordan Farmar (No. 22): Farmar’s been mostly a career back-up after being a late-first round pick by the Lakers in 2006. He best individual seasons came with the Nets and the Lakers in the last three years. This past season, he was on the Clippers, but managed just 36 games.
22. Anthony Morrow (No. 96): Morrow put up some big numbers for mediocre Georgia Tech, going undrafted in 2008. But the one thing he’s always been able to do is to shoot and score. He has averaged 10.5 points in his career, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.
23. Dorell Wright (No. 12): Wright went straight to the NBA, getting picked 19th in 2004. He’s spent much of his career being a role player and specialist, but in 2010-11, he started all 82 games and averaged 16.4 points for the Warriors.
24. Tyrus Thomas (UR): Thomas exploded onto the college scene in 2005-06 as a redshirt freshman, helping LSU to the Final Four and playing his way into a top four pick. His best season in the league came in his third year, as he averaged 10.8 points and 6.4 boards. He played two games for Memphis in 2014-15. He’s made more than $37 million in his career.
25. A.J. Price (No. 32): Price was a late-second round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, having helped UConn to a Final Four after missing two seasons due to a serious health issue and a run-in with the law. He played for three different NBA teams in 2014-15.
Sebatian Telfair (No. 6)
Randolph Morris (No. 10)
Robert Swift (No. 14)
D.J. White (No. 15)
Daniel Gibson (No. 29)
Greg Stiemsma (No. 45)
Toney Douglas (No. 66)