Charges by a girlfriend that he threw a cell phone and kicked her forced James Thompson IV to settle for prep school instead of South Carolina. And despite his unbelievable play at Eastern Michigan, Thompson could become first freshman ever to finish in the Value Add Basketball top 10 and not make the NBA.
The numbers are staggering. A 6-foot-10 freshman hits 83% of his free throws in conference play and makes 67% of his field goals (5th in the country). With virtually no support from his Eastern Michigan teammates, he torched Louisville for 6-of-8 shooting and 13 rebounds.
|1||Hield, Buddy 24||Oklahoma||6’4||Sr||SG||10.03||83%|
|2||Warney, Jameel 20||Stony Brook||6’8||Sr||PF||9.33||32%|
|3||Payton, Gary 1||Oregon St.||6’3||Sr||PG||9.13||64%|
|4||Simmons, Ben 25||Louisiana St.||6’10||Fr||SF||8.84||96%|
|5||Barber, Anthony 12||North Carolina St.||6’2||Jr||PG||8.71||36%|
|6||Thompson, James 2||Eastern Michigan||6’10||Fr||C||8.69|
|7||Allen, Grayson 3||Duke||6’5||So||SG||8.59||65%|
|8||Frazier, JJ 30||Georgia||5’10||Jr||PG||8.56|
|9||Hooker, Quinton 21||North Dakota||6’0||Jr||PG||8.56|
|10||Morris, Monte 11||Iowa St.||6’3||Jr||PG||8.48||69%|
|11||Punter, Kevin 0||Tennessee||6’2||Sr||PG||8.43|
|12||Walkup, Thomas 0||Stephen F. Austin||6’4||Sr||SG||8.4|
|13||Brown, John 0||High Point||6’8||Sr||SF||8.24||12%|
|14||Robinson, Justin 12||Monmouth||5’8||Jr||PG||8.22|
|15||Ulis, Tyler 3||Kentucky||5’9||So||PG||8.1||51%|
If the season ended today, he and LSU’s Ben Simmons would join only Michael Beasley, Mike Conley, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kevin Love, Jared Sullinger, Karl-Anthony Towns, Sheldon Williams, and Cody Zeller as freshman who broke into the top 10. No other freshman is in the top 80.
Yet the one name on that list who has been a major disappointment is Beasley, who also had legal issues, and the NBA does not like to invest in a guaranteed three-year contract to draft someone with problems.
Without the character question Thompson would look like the No. 2 draft pick, which entails about $13.2 million over three years. That is a big incentive to put the past behind him.
Other great college players do not make the NBA. At 5-foot-8, Monmouth’s Justin Robinson is unlikely to make the NBA despite leading the most exciting team in basketball to a stunning come-from-behind win Friday against Rider on a last second three-pointer.
For those players we hope they can enjoy a great time in college and then perhaps take a few hundred thousand dollars a year while enjoying life in Europe. But for those with the potential of Thompson, the ceiling is high and the floor is low.