The current draft system implemented by the NBA (and, by association, the NCAA) is not working. The one-and-done system not only makes a mockery of college basketball but also of the academic institutions misused by players as a stopgap between high school and professional basketball. The NBA needs to rethink some aspects of the draft.
The frustration concerning the NCAA’s academic policies (or lack of) was recently given a voice by UCLA’s quarterback Josh Rosen. His comments revolved around NCAA football, but they certainly also pertain to college basketball. If not more so, since the one-and-done rule makes the idea of enrollment a greater farce, since players really only have to stay eligible for a single semester.
UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen: “Raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have” https://t.co/iHQul43Lsa
— The Big Lead (@thebiglead) August 8, 2017
Warning: There are no bad ideas here. At least in the way third-grade teachers tell their classes there’s no such thing as a bad question kind of way, so let’s get crazy.
College Players Are Expected to Stay Two Years
Under this new hypothetical system, the NBA would allow players to come straight out of high school. Players can even leave college after one year. However, there’s a big stipulation that is meant to keep players in school: a high school or one-year college player entering the draft must play in the G-League up until the All-Star break. This borrows from the way MLB utilizes its minor league system.
Further, any player who completes two or more years of college and enters the draft is NBA-eligible immediately.
This serves two functions. First, it incentivizes players to stay in school. Would you rather play 40 games in Sioux Falls and Rio Grande in front of a few thousand people in the G-League, or at Duke or Kentucky in front of rabid fans in a packed arena?
If the league wanted to further disincentivize high schoolers from going pro, it could implement something like this: no high school players who enter the draft are eligible to be drafted in the first round.
Think of how wild the NBA would be if another LeBron James was coming out of high school, and the most coveted draft pick was the first pick of the second round. The team with the first pick in the first round usually controls the first pick in the second round, anyway. So there’s not really any disadvantage here. But the value of second round picks would skyrocket.
Using the G-League
The biggest and most reasonable argument about not letting high schoolers (and even young college players) in the league is that they’re not ready for the fame, the schedule, the money. Stipulating they cannot get picked in the first round keeps them away from early big-money contracts. Making them play in the G-League is a fabulous promotion for the league, and gets young players ready for the NBA stage with much less attention and pressure. And they get to play for a reasonable amount of money.
Because the NBA is a business, using the G-League in this manner opens up an opportunity to capitalize on another multi-million dollar TV deal. Slow NBA night? Flip over and watch that straight-out-of-high-school kid who plays for the Oshkosh Herd.
One More Wrinkle
This one isn’t really that crazy. In fact, the NBA used to allow this. Ready for it? Let’s allow college freshmen to be drafted, then while maintaining college eligibility. This offers an olive branch to the NCAA. Since they might not think these new rules are beneficial to its game.
For those too young or new to the NBA to remember, teams used to do this. When Larry Bird played his final season at Indiana St., he had already been drafted by the Boston Celtics.
Naysayers would argue this opens college players up to contact agents while still in school. But really, why are we demonizing the agents? To be sure, some probably don’t have the best intentions. But college coaches – and the NCAA in general – are far from the angels they want you to think they are. At least this way, everybody’s hands are above the table.
Allowing freshmen to enter the draft and return to school would bring a whole new audience to NCAA games. If the Portland Trail Blazers held the draft rights to the highly-touted sophomore who plays at Dayton, ratings for Atlantic 10 basketball in Oregon go through the roof!
Should we expect any of these ideas to get the attention of the NBA? Absolutely not. However, one cannot deny it accomplishes a couple major things. On top of being fun to think about.
Players who take school seriously are free to stay in school. And with the questions being raised about players who come out before their second year of college is completed, staying in school doesn’t continue to have the stigma it does now.
Compromise for All
This new draft infrastructure would really spread the talent around, and would be great for the sport of basketball. The NBA might not totally want the G-League and NCAA taking in some additional TV ratings, but the best players in the world would still reside in the NBA. The impact of lost viewership, most likely, is negligible.
All this might sound a little overcomplicated. But come on, the current system can’t be the answer, can it?
If “One & Done” rule “forces” player to college, then players “forced” to be amateurs. Then, NCAA says “nobody forces you to college.” Huh?
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 27, 2012
NBA teams have drafted European players for years with the intention of allowing them to keep playing overseas. Then, when the NBA calls, they come ready, having logged minutes in their Euro leagues as opposed to coming over right away and riding the bench.
These reforms just take that to a new height. It helps players mature gradually. Rebuilding NBA teams can operate with a clear vision for the future by holding rights on players not yet on the NBA team. Contenders can keep a stock of youngsters without clogging up roster spots. If offers a little something for all parties involved, but it also doesn’t give anybody everything they want. Which makes it just crazy enough to work.