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The College Player of the Year and the NBA Draft

Posted by Andrew McKillop on June 24, 2011

In pro basketball when a team selects the College Player of the Year (CPOY) in the draft, extra attention is brought to that pick.  I thought it would be interesting to examine the history of CPOY award winners in the NBA Draft.  The analysis includes the NABC, Naismith, Robertson, Rupp, Sporting News (1958-, and Wooden CPOY awards.

Although the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jimmer Fredette after selecting him, it marked the 6th time the Bucks selected a CPOY.  Thus the Bucks win the NBA’s version of the Al Davis Award for selecting “trophy players”.  The Clippers have selected a CPOY on five occasions.

The Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, and Phoenix Suns have never selected a CPOY in the draft.  The Los Angeles Lakers only CPOY draft selection came in the defunct territorial draft (Walt Hazzard).

Success in the college ranks doesn’t always transfer to the pros; however college success does help with a players draft position.  Only eleven out of the 62 eligible (territorial picks not counted) CPOY’s have been selected outside the first nine picks in the NBA draft.

  • CPOY’s are most commonly selected with the #1 pick (22 times), followed by the #2 pick (10 times).
  • On average the CPOY is selected with the 5th overall pick (territorial picks not counted).
  • Danny Ainge (1981-2nd round, 31st selection) and Dee Brown (2006-2nd round, 46th selection) are the only former CPOY’s to be selected outside the first round of the draft.


CPOY’s have won 43 NBA titles (29% of CPOY’s have won an NBA title), 20 MVP awards (12% of CPOY’s), and have made 182 All-Star Game appearances (55% of CPOY’s).

It’s interesting to note that four CPOY’s won NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, without being drafted by the Lakers.

Adam Morrison
Butch Lee
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Shaquille O’Neal


Listed below are the players that have won the CPOY and NBA MVP award.

Player League MVP Finals MVP CPOY NCAA MOP
Oscar Robertson 1964 1958-60
Bill Walton 1978 1977 1972-74 1972-73
David Robinson 1995 1987
Shaquille O’Neal 2000 2000-02 1991
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar * 1971-72, 74, 76-77, 80 1971, 85 1967-69 1967-69
Larry Bird 1984-86 1984, 86 1979
Michael Jordan 1988, 91-92, 96, 98 1991-93, 96-98 1984
Tim Duncan 2002-03 1999, 03, 05 1997

* Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went by Lew Alcindor early in his career.

As you can see Abdul-Jabbar and Walton are in an exclusive club, winning NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, CPOY, and NCAA Tournament MOP awards.


Reference: Basketball-Reference, Sports-Reference/College Basketball



2 Responses to “The College Player of the Year and the NBA Draft”

  1. Tex Noel said

    I am not a basketball fan…but its POY winners have gone in the opening round of the NBA Draft; incontrast, the NFL shine a way from the winner of the Heisman Trophy.

    Keep-up the outstanding work, Andrew.

    • Andrew McKillop said

      It seems that most NBA teams think that college success has a great chance of turning into NBA success. I suppose that’s because a basketball player only has four other teammates to lift them up, while in football they have ten. Showing that in football even individual success can be at times heavily attributed to team success (i.e. Jason White).

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