It's every young basketball player's dream to play for a big-time college program and make big-time dollars in the NBA. Of course, there are many different routes one can take to make that dream a reality. Do you want to play for a Hall of Fame coach? Are stellar facilities a must-have? Will a deep NCAA tournament run get you the exposure you need? As you can see, there are a number of factors players need to take into account before selecting where they'll play collegiate ball.
To try and help determine which college program pumps out the most NBA-ready players, we decided to run some numbers using one always-important statistic - salary. Below, you'll find the top 20 schools whose alumni currently make the most money in the league for 2013-2014, according to ESPN's data. You may not be surprised to see which school is sitting at No. 1.
20. LSU: $23,534,293 - 5 players
The Tigers don’t boast any true NBA superstars at the moment, but they do have a number of solid veterans who will combine to make over $23 million this season. Kings guard Marcus Thornton leads the way, making just over $8 million this season, followed by serviceable power forwards Brandon Bass and Glen Davis. Anthony Randolph and Garrett Temple round out LSU’s list.
19. Arkansas: $24,326,342 - 4 players
Sometimes it only takes one, and in Arkansas’ case, that ‘one’ is Brooklyn Net Joe Johnson, who’s albatross of a contract made him considered one of the most untradeable players in the NBA—until Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov decided that he really wanted to win, and acquired Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. Johnson makes $21,466,718 this season, while the other three Razorbacks on this list - Ronnie Brewer, Patrick Beverley, and Jannero Pargo - make under $3 million combined.
18. Michigan State: $26,265,990 - 4 players
Zach Randolph is the only legitimate superstar Spartan still in the NBA, and the salaries show that: he pulled in over $18 million for his post presence. Once-high-flying guard Jason Richardson is still cashing in over $6 million this season, while Alan Anderson and Draymond Green are making just under $1 million each.
17. Stanford: $26,848,167 - 3 players
The bulk of Stanford’s paychecks come from one family; star Nets center Brook Lopez had a break-out season last year and will make $14,693,906 for his efforts, while his brother Robin will haul in just under $6 million himself as a Portland Trail Blazer. Guard Landry Fields adds just over $6 million of his own to the total.
16. Syracuse: $28,368,406 - 4 players
Carmelo Anthony accounts for most of this total with his $21 million salary, while young guards Dion Waiters ($3.8 million) and Michael Carter-Williams ($2.2 million) come up after Melo. Waiters’ future with the Cavaliers is uncertain, though he will have a spot in the NBA for a while, but MCW should help Syracuse shoot up this list in the next few years. The Rookie of the Year favorite exploded onto the scene for the Sixers this season, and they will want to lock him up with a new contract sooner rather than later.
15. USC: $28,382,974 - 6 players
Most don’t think of USC as a program that churns out many big NBA stars, but the Trojans have three players making pretty good money in DeMar DeRozan ($9.5 million), O.J. Mayo ($8 million), and Taj Gibson ($7.5 million). Many viewed DeRozan’s contract as a bad one for the Raptors, but he has become the team’s leading scorer, and they are currently well in the playoff hunt. Outside of these three, Nikola Vucevic is in line to get a solid second NBA deal. The young forward averages 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic at just $1.8 million this season.
14. Memphis: $31,675,971 - 5 players
Memphis produced two of the more explosive (when healthy) guards in the NBA in former MVP Derrick Rose and current New Orleans Pelican Tyreke Evans. Rose is pulling in $17.6 million from the Chicago Bulls, although I’m sure they would pony up a few more million if it meant that Rose could stay on the court for a full season. Evans makes $11.8 million as one of the Pelicans strong guard trio. Elliot Williams, Will Barton, and Chris Douglas-Roberts each make under a million to add a bit to Memphis’ total.
13. Marquette: $31,900,232 - 6 players
The Golden Eagles’ combined salaries are heavily propped up by Dwyane Wade’s $18.7 million, but Wesley Matthews ($6.9 million) and Steve Novak ($3.75 million) each contribute as well. The player to watch out for is Jimmy Butler, who broke out during last year’s playoffs as a capable offensive threat and elite perimeter defender. He’s only pulling in $1.1 million this season, but is in line for a big second contract.
12. Georgetown: $32,610,774 - 6 players
Roy Hibbert’s breakout for the Indiana Pacers has done wonders for the Hoya bottom line. As one of the best pure centers in the NBA, Hibbert will make just under $14.3 million in 2013-14. Forwards Jeff Green nets $8.7 million this year, while Otto Porter, and Greg Monroe are each at just over $4 million, although Monroe should be seeing an extension soon, or he may test free agency in the off-season.
11. Wake Forest: $42,365,552 - 6 players
Wake Forest basketball has been down for a few years, but the Demon Deacons still claim two of the NBA’s top players and probable future Hall of Famers as their own. Chris Paul is widely considered the best point guard in the NBA and is paid like it, hauling in over $18.6 million this season. Tim Duncan is still an All-Star level power forward, but he has taken modest contracts in order to help the San Antonio Spurs build around him. The Big Fundamental will bring in over $10.3 million this season. Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague has been surprisingly steady this year, and makes $8 million for his efforts. Al-Farouq Aminu ($3.75 million), Ish Smith ($950,000), and James Johnson ($634,000) round out Wake’s list.
10. Texas: $43,109,367 - 8 players
Superstars Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge account for over $32 million of Texas' $43 million in salary, and for good reason. The Thunder and Trail Blazers are tied for second place in the NBA's Western Conference with 28-9 records, largely because of their contributions. While the Longhorns haven't made a Final Four run since 2002-2003, they have consistently churned out decent NBA talent.
9. Georgia Tech: $46,237,403 - 8 players
Yep, the same Georgia Tech program that's only reached the NCAAs three times since its title game run in 2004. Miami's Chris Bosh makes over $19 million, despite taking a lower salary to join the Heat. Thaddeus Young, Jarrett Jack and Derrick Favors all make at least $6 million. The Yellow Jackets surprisingly check in as the No. 3 ACC team on our list.
8. Kansas: $46,758,883 - 14 players
While Kansas has churned out a high number of NBA players, all but one - Paul Pierce - make less than $5 million. And Pierce's deal, which pays him just over $15 million this year, expires at the end of the season. While it's fair to assume that freshman superstar Andrew Wiggins, should he leave the Jayhawks after one year, will make a good chunk of change, it probably won't stop the program from free falling on this list next year. The number of NBA role players who attended KU (Hinrich, Chalmers, Rush, Robinson, Collison, Henry) is astounding.
7. Arizona: $53,838,585 - 9 players
The Wildcats' top four players in salary - Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Jason Terry - are all veterans who most likely won't get big contracts in the future. Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, needed a change of scenery from Minnesota to Sacramento to get more playing time and show what he can do. Still, the lack of rising stars means that Zona will probably move down this list in the future, too.
6. North Carolina: $53,948,533 - 16 players
The Tar Heels have 16 players in the NBA, second to only Kentucky. Denver's Ty Lawson is actually the main breadwinner, checking in at just under $11 million this year. Next up are Marvin Williams, Brandan Wright, Danny Green and Raymond Felton. Like Kansas, UNC has a crazy-high number of role players in the NBA, along with a few aging superstars (Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison). While the sheer number of players should keep the Heels on this list for quite some time, they won't be challenging for the top spot any time soon.
5. Florida: $60,873,433 - 12 players
Florida's back-to-back NCAA titles in the mid-2000s produced three of the top four Gators, salary wise, currently playing in the NBA today. Al Horford and Joakim Noah both make over $11 million, while Corey Brewer checks in at $5 million. David Lee, who played at UF just a few years before those tournament runs, comes in at just under $14 million. One player to watch is 20-year-old Bradley Beal, who could be playing himself into a nice little contract with the Washington Wizards in the future.
4. Duke: $67,081,620 - 14 players
Last year, Duke actually topped this list. Why the drop? Corey Maggette (and his contract) retired, dropping the overall total over $10 million for the Blue Devils. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng still make $15 million and $14 million, respectively, but one has to imagine that neither will get another huge deal in their career. 21-year-old superstar Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, has huge potential to land a max contract after his rookie deal expires. Whether he'll leave Cleveland, though, is a debate for another time.
3. UCLA: $68,606,959 - 12 players
Simply put, UCLA has produced two of the best young superstars in the NBA - Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. Jrue Holiday, Arron Afflalo and Trevor Ariza have also turned into solid players who make between $7 million and $10 million per year. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad has had a tough time finding minutes for the Timberwolves, despite being drafted in the middle of the first round. The Bruins haven't churned much out in the past few years, but what they produced in the mid-to-late 2000s should keep their presence felt in the league for years to come.
2. Connecticut: $75,530,794 - 12 players
The Huskies have a very nice mix of older/younger NBA talent. While veterans like Rudy Gay, Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon currently pull in the most cash, budding stars like Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb are poised for higher-paying contracts in the near future. Just like last year, UConn was within $2 million of taking the top overall spot, which you guessed it, belongs to:
1. Kentucky: $77,324,323 - 21 players
The program that everyone loves to hate, led by the coach that everyone loves to hate, actually produces the most NBA players. But it's not just the Coach Cal era - four of the top six paid former Wildcats - Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince, Chuck Hayes and Keith Bogans - played well before he came to town. Even when those contracts expire, UK has another crop of rising stars. John Wall, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will all make substantially more money in a few years than they do now. It's entirely possible that Kentucky retains this spot for the next three, four, maybe even five years.