The influx of high school players entering the NBA draft in recent years has yielded both positive and negative returns. Every team hopes to find their superstar out of high school with the hope of possible decades of contribution. It is also no surprise that the commissioner has had his worries and problems with this recent trend. David Stern got his wish in instituting an age-limit for the NBA Draft in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The official NBA press release regarding the new CBA states:
?Beginning in 2006, the age limit for entering the Draft will increase from 18 to 19 years of age. U.S. players must be at least one year removed from high school and 19 years of age (by the end of that calendar year) before entering the draft. An international player must turn 19 during the calendar year of the draft.? (www.realgm.com)
Stern has made it clear during the last few years that it has been his desire to implement an age limit on players entering the NBA draft, but it was never certain exactly what the ruling would be. Now it?s crystal clear, no more preps to pros. No longer can a player like Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, or Sebastian Telfair jump straight to the League. What is yet to be determined is if this is a detriment to the NBA, who thrives on having marketable players, or a benefit with more developed and polished players entering the league. Many of the leagues top-flight stars have managed to jump straight from high school to the NBA lifestyle, but there have also been those who haven?t been as successful. For every Jermaine O?Neal, there is a DeSagana Diop. For every LeBron James there is a DeShawn Stevenson.
There is no question that this age limit will benefit the NCAA. Imagine former teammates and current rival centers Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry battling it out in the NCAA tournament, or the point guard battle if Shaun Livingston had attended Duke and Sebastian Telfair played for Rick Pitino at Louisville. Of course, there is no guarantee that these match-ups would ever happen, but there is no telling what kind of collegiate battles fans would enjoy.
The age limit also benefits players that choose to attend college. It is apparent that college greatly benefited the four UNC first round draft choices. Not only did they gain the experience of living the college life, but they also increased their draft stock while winning a national championship. On the other side, Randolph Morris, a 6-11 center for the University of Kentucky, averaged 8 points per game in his freshman campaign. This is after seriously entertaining thoughts of going pro after high school. Now, players have to take some responsibility for their actions. Most draft experts agreed that Morris had sub-par pre-draft workouts, and it was a stretch for him to be considered in the late second round. Instead of returning to the SEC powerhouse in Kentucky and improving his game for a possible lottery selection in the 2006 draft, Morris kept his name in the hat only to end the draft night without a team. Morris fought an uphill battle against the NCAA which resulted in a season-long suspension due to receiving payments during pre-draft workouts. The center successfully appealed the suspension and will join his teammates for the SEC conference slate.
Players need to take ownership of their career, they need to know when they have a chance at the first round, or if it?s their goal, the second round. What makes the process exceedingly difficult is people around them telling players how great they are and what an impact they could make in the NBA. How can a person who has the best interest of the athlete at heart, honestly tell Morris that he had a legitimate shot at being drafted in the first round after averaging 8 points, and 4 rebounds a game in college. At some point the player must take a step back, assess the situation, and realize that even if the rules allow for an early-entry into the draft, it may not be in the player?s best interest.
I see this new rule as having very little effect on the NBA game, and a major impact on the college game. If David Stern wanted to really alter the trend of watering down the NBA with unprepared players, he should have implemented a high school plus 2 years, or even followed the NFL?s lead and drafted up a high school plus 3 years limit. Instead of players like Randolph Morris jumping to the NBA after his senior year in High School, they are now stuck with Randolph Morris jumping to the NBA after a less than stellar freshman season in the SEC, that is, of course, assuming that he even makes an NBA roster.
The NBA will have a much better idea of a player?s readiness for NBA basketball when they are 20, after two seasons of high-level collegiate basketball. It is debatable as to which is more beneficial, to sit on the end of an NBA bench getting acclimated to the temperature of the NBA, or to play quality minutes in a different league.
Mike Dunleavy Jr, decided that the NBA could wait, and chose to spend three seasons at Duke University. Duke, and their coach Mike Krzyzewski, had a stellar track record of players coming to Duke in order to prepare for the NBA, but after a few seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Dunleavy offers a different view. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Dunleavy stated that, ?it sounds silly to say the college game isn?t good for guys, but there may be some truth to it. If you?re good enough to play 10 to 15 minutes a night and practice every day, you?ll get dramatically better being in the NBA compared to staying in school.?
The NBA is making great strides towards improving the league, but there is more that can be done. The National Basketball Association Developmental League (or NBADL) is a step towards developing a workable ?minor league? system for the NBA, and it offers players a different alternative if the can?t make it into school, or don?t want to. This system must become a priority of the NBA, much like it is for baseball. The coaches can keep a closer eye on their players if they are in a NBA team organized farm system, than if they were overseas playing ball. Major college teams are the big winners from the new age limit, but the NBA is not far off from developing a structure that could benefit everyone: the players, the coaches, the teams, and eventually the fans.