Though the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule was a slight improvement over the previous rule (players could turn pro straight out of high school), it has still been bad for the sport.
College coaches have to deal with rosters that are constantly in flux. The student-athletes are not getting an education; many of them don’t even attend class their second semester because it’s not necessary in order for them to remain eligible to play.
NBA coaches have to deal with players who have limited skills, maturity, and sometimes limited physical development. But now NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is taking steps toward improving the game at both levels.
Silver recently commented on involving people at both the college and NBA level to solve the “one-and-done” crisis.
As the first freshman to turn pro after one season of competition at the collegiate level following the NBA’s new age limit restrictions, [former LSU star Tyrus] Thomas kicked off the controversial one-and-done era. His college experience, he said, didn’t prepare him for the NBA.
“I got drafted in June, but in January, I wasn’t even thinking about the NBA,” Thomas told ESPN.com. “Six months changed my life. College wasn’t structured in any way similar to the NBA except for the demand of the time.”
More than a decade later, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has announced a renewed effort to address the NBA’s age limit — currently 19 years old for draftees — a development that could change college basketball. He claims too many prospects enter the league unprepared.
On “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” last week, Silver said he’s “rethinking” his position on the age limit. He called the process “half and done” for freshmen who turn pro after their first seasons on campus, suggesting the players in that pool fail to make academics a priority.
“I don’t think it’s fair to characterize them as going to one year of school,” Silver said on Cowherd’s show.
Silver also warned of the problems the age limit creates for all parties, including college coaches and athletic directors who’ve complained to him about the rule. He cited the change from two “one-and-done” players in the initial 2006 NBA draft to nearly two dozen projected to secure contracts in this summer’s NBA draft.
It’s clear he wants change. Perhaps something more complex than his previous pleas for a system that would force college athletes to stay in school for two years, a process he and other NBA leaders believe would help both players and their prospective franchises by delivering a more polished competitor to the next level. College coaches have adapted to the turbulence that accompanies the one-and-done culture. Many would prefer more year-to-year stability, even if that would demand reopening the pipeline of high school athletes to the NBA, an idea Silver seems willing to analyze. That’s why Silver said he wants college coaches to participate in the upcoming conversations about changing the rule.
“They’re not happy with the current system,” he said. “And I know our teams aren’t happy either, in part because they don’t necessarily think that the players coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see among top draft picks in the league.”
Some of those who oppose the current age limit and want it raised prefer to discuss their thoughts in private or off the record, because they fear they might deter the five-star recruits who might only last a season but could change their programs.
“I have been disappointed, because I really believe a lot of college coaches feel that if we question the rule, we’re saying we’re not in favor of young players getting opportunities,” said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who helped freshman Jonathan Isaac develop into a projected top-10 pick. “No question, the one-and-done culture has created some problems.”
“If guys want to go pro out of high school, let them,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “But one-and-done is fine if they can’t go out of high school.”
If they choose to attend college, others favor the popular two-and-done idea with a new age limit of 20 years old touted by Silver in recent years.
“Two years, I think it would be a good rule,” Self said.
“I’m all for individual players trying to make a living in the NBA, but it seems that too many underclassmen stay in the draft and do not get drafted,” [USC head coach Andy] Enfield said.
[Tyrus] Thomas also wants change. But the two-and-done idea, which would give prospects another year of school, wouldn’t make life easier on them, he said.
“What are you going to implement in the college system to prepare them?” Thomas said. “An extra year to do what?”
That’s a good question for Silver and the leaders at the next level.
Whatever happens, college coaches hope they’re included in the conversations and discussions.
“I think that would be important,” Baylor’s Scott Drew said.
Hamilton agreed. He said Silver’s gesture signals a significant moment for all levels of the game.
“I applaud Adam Silver for at least having the wherewithal to have the discussion,” he said. “We need to have the discussion where we see what’s best for the game of basketball.”
In addition to the issues outlined in the article, there’s also a financial consideration for the pro teams. If an NBA franchise has to invest 2-4 years into developing a player’s skills, it makes assessing their worth in free agency much more difficult, as well as for outside teams interested in signing the player away.
Oftentimes, players get big contracts based on potential that never quite pans out. Starting with a more-developed rookie would help curtail that problem. The sooner an NBA team knows what it has, the better.
The NBA has other glaring issues: the out-of-whack financial structure that undervalues true superstars and grossly overvalues everyone else, and the current lack of competition at the top of the conferences.
But the age restriction is one big problem the NBA can easily solve.