The one-and-done rule is an absolute travesty. If we can agree on that then we can proceed. If not, we’ll have to address that at a later date.
In this piece we’re operating under the assumption that all of us loathe the National Basketball Association’s rule that stipulates a player must be at least one year removed from high school in order to enter the Draft. Pretend to be a college student for a semester, play overseas, or workout on your own. Those are the limited options for high school senior standouts. Frankly, the NBA doesn’t give a damn what these kids do so long as they’re not clogging up its rosters.
Sure, the rule allows some kids, who inevitably belong at the highest level, to begin their professional careers a year or two early. How many of them are really ready for that though?
By implementing that one-year barrier the NBA has tricked numerous players into thinking they’re ready for the leap simply because they’ve put in the minimum amount of time required. Instead of grading players based on how long they’ve been playing, why don’t we evaluate actual talent so these guys can make this monumental decision on solid ground?
The root issue here is the dynamic that exists between the NBA and major college basketball. Essentially, the Association has all the power and can dictate what happens at the Division I level. Like it or not, the NCAA has become the NBA’s minor league system. Denying it doesn’t change the fact that the NCAA, through its players’ goals, is beholden to the NBA.
Think of it this way: If the NCAA really wanted to, it could demand that all these athlete-students spend at least two years in school. That’s long enough to get at least some kind of degree. That will never happen though, because it would convince many one-and-done players to go the international route instead of “playing school” for a couple months.
Remember that a lot of these kids we’re talking about have just one goal at this point in their lives. They want to make it to the NBA. They haven’t thought beyond that. Many don’t know what comes next. Most probably don’t care.
Well, we know what comes next, don’t we? These guys get drafted or signed before they’re truly ready and then spend their entire career trying, and more times than not, failing to stick somewhere. We see a D-League highlight featuring a former college star and wonder where he’s been hiding. Chances are he’s been bouncing around the league, playing just well enough to sign another contract but not well enough to lock up a spot on anyone’s roster.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a career like that. Hell, the dude’s made it farther than 99 percent of the population. Clearly he’s got some game, but everyone reaches their ceiling sooner or later. The problem isn’t that he didn’t stick anywhere. The problem is that he easily could have had he not been so eager to get paid to play.
You know what would have seriously helped him? Staying in college another year or two and fine-tuning his craft. That way, when his name is called on draft night, he’s actually ready to contribute the next day, not the next season.
The NBA is killing the momentum of these guys and failing to capitalize on the fans that they’ve accumulated in college. That’s why the NBA should implement an entry system that closely mirrors that of Major League Baseball.
For those unfamiliar, three categories of players are eligible for the MLB draft:
- High school graduates who have not yet attended college or junior college
- College players who’ve completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old
- Junior college players, regardless of how many years they’ve played or lived
That’s it. And isn’t it simple? If, out of high school, you’re good enough to head straight to the pros then go right ahead. If not, go to college for three years. The best part is that high school players who get drafted now have options. They can try their luck in the pros now, or they can go to school, hone their craft there and re-enter the draft in three or four years.
Of course, the conventional path from the draft to the Majors is much longer than it is in basketball. Baseball players know they’re likely signing up for years of minor league living in order to chase their dreams. Generally speaking, basketball players don’t seem to be so eager to put that sort of work in, even though it’s in their best interests.
This rule change would correct, or at least improve, many of the issues that arise in these draft scenarios.
In the rare occurrence that another LeBron James comes along, he doesn’t have to waste a year doing something he doesn’t want, or need, to do. Under the current rule, a guy like Ben Simmons, who clearly has no interest in pursuing a degree, is forced into school for a year. As a result, the last kid on LSU’s bench, a kid who studies psychology, is now out a full-ride scholarship so the school can accommodate Simmons, a guy who studies nothing but hoops. This particular example is hypothetical, but this sort of thing has to be happening in reality and it’s just not right.
Let’s also remember how this affects the makeup of college basketball teams across the country. Basically, the big programs are now getting a total makeover every two years, as opposed to every four years. Fans can hardly keep track of who’s on their favorite team. As if the recruiting process wasn’t rigorous enough, now coaches must continually convince their players to stick around beyond the one-year minimum.
The college game, as a whole, is getting killed by the influx of one-and-done players. Yes, there are a couple can’t miss prodigies every season, but just like that they’re gone. By the time we’re familiar with these guys and become fans of their game, they’re declaring for the draft. Having great players only draws audiences if the public knows who those players are. Nowadays it’s rare to have a dominant player actually come back to school for another year.
This rule change would benefit everyone involved. Players, though they’d have to wait longer, would be better prepared once they enter the NBA. The Association would be getting more polished players who are ready to step in and contribute immediately. Fans can follow their favorite players and teams much easier. And coaches can get back to actually coaching their players.
Unfortunately, this is not an easily implemented change and convincing all these different groups that it’s for the best would take some doing. Until then we’ll just let the one-and-done rule and those who exploit it continue to ruin the game of basketball.
Photo: YouTube screen grab