COLUMN: NBA’s “one and done” rule needs major overhaul
Saturday, April 19, 2014 12:00 AM
Jabari Parker announced on Wednesday that he’s leaving Duke after one season to enter the NBA draft, becoming one of seven freshmen to leave school for the lure of an NBA career. His decision was one that shocked nobody.
Meanwhile, in New York, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver began the process of raising the league’s minimum age to 20 instead of 19. There certainly isn’t enough time to implement such a policy this year, and, considering that it would have to be collectively bargained with the players’ union, the hope is that the change can be in effect for the 2016 draft.
There is a great debate that can be had about whether or not a person should be denied the opportunity to earn a living based solely on age. If a player is good enough to play professionally at 17 or 18, then why should he have to wait to or three years to be given that opportunity?
Well, he doesn’t have to wait. Even now, there are other avenues available for the players. Pistons guard Brandon Jennings, for example, chose to play a season of professional basketball in Europe while waiting to become draft-eligible out of high school.
The concern for both the NCAA and the NBA is that the product gets damaged by kids choosing to pursue an NBA career rather than staying in school. For the college ranks, when schools like Kentucky are replacing 8-10 players on its roster seemingly every season because they recruit so many “one and done” players, it creates a game that isn’t played with the crispness of a veteran squad.
Those kids that leave schools like Kentucky or Duke or North Carolina? Sometimes they are ready to step in and help a professional team. Often, however, they aren’t ready and wind up either getting beaten up by the men they are playing against on the court, or buried on the end of the bench. Sure, they still have their money, but is this the best service to the league? Probably not.
Just take a look at last year’s number one overall pick, Anthony Bennett of the Cavs. He left UNLV after one year and was touted as a phenomenal athlete. Athleticism aside, Bennett was so bad early in the season, that he couldn’t see the court for more than a few minutes at a time or risk the Cavs giving away games. Bennett was often called the worst number one pick ever, or at least since Kwame Brown.
Bennett averaged 4.2 point and 3.0 rebounds per game for the Cavs this year. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is an advanced stat that measures a player’s total production, was 6.9. The league average is 15.
What I would propose is the NBA adopting the same draft-eligibility process as Major League Baseball. If a kid is good enough to be drafted out of high school, he’s eligible to begin his pro career. If the player isn’t drafted, or chooses not to sign a pro contract, he then begins his college career.
If he chooses college, however, that player is no longer eligible for the draft until after his third season of collegiate ball. Wouldn’t it be great to see the kinds of college basketball teams that could be created by having a group of talented kids stay together for three years? Such things used to be commonplace, you know.
Sure, MLB has a minor league program and rare is the player, high school or college, that goes straight to the big leagues without stopping in the minors for at least a little while. But the NBA has a similar program as well with the Developmental League. Instead of trying to keep Bennett’s confidence up while he was getting embarrassed at the NBA level, why not send him to the D-League for a few lessons on how to be a professional? If nothing else, playing in front of crowds one-eighth the size some of these kids saw in college would surely be humbling, and that’s almost never a bad thing.
The biggest reason that Silver is trying to push this new age requirement, however, is that his owners just can’t help themselves. They see the raw athleticism of some of the elite athletes in the draft and they think that if they pass of a guy, he’ll surely turn into one of the greatest to ever play the game. Make no mistake, this is the same reason that the age requirement of 19 was instituted in the place.
No matter how pretty a player looks, however, he still has to have a jump shot, he still must be able to handle the ball, he still must be able to defend his position, to know how to box out on the glass, and he must understand how to make his teammates better.
If he can do all of those things well, he has a chance to become great. If he cannot, he’s nothing more than another project, taking up space on the roster, just like Bennett.
The NBA does need new draft eligibility rules, if only to save the owners from themselves.