Young Whippersnappers II: My comment became a post

>> Wednesday

Like Nate, I'm a reformed "Kids should go to school" guy in a sports perspective, so I'm gonna agree with him, but for different reasons.

The NBA may say that it's helping players develop into the NBA game. Not being a professional, or even marginally talented basketball player myself, I can't believe that players like LeBron and Kobe would have been THAT MUCH better had they gone for 4 years, or even 1 year of college.

That being said, I'll bet a lot of TEAMS wish they had their draft picks back when they were afraid of missing out on the next Kevin Garnett. Jonathan Bender (Toronto, 5th pick in '99 Draft) and Kwame Brown (Washington, #1 in '00 Draft), I'm looking in your direction. I don't care about "role players" or "solid contributors" or "defensive specialists" in this discussion. If you use a top-5 or top 10 pick on a guy, he needs to be a player who can help your franchise more than 10 points a night.

I also think it's really duplicitous for the NBA to talk a big game about its players getting a college education now, while at the same time celebrating (and profiting off) players like LeBron, Kobe, McGrady, and Wade, none of whom have graduated from college, and only Wade went.

Really all that this "one-year" rule does is it disperses NBA teams' risk on a young prospect by giving them an extra year to watch them play against competition that doesn't involve 5'10" white guys and coaches' sons with bad shots who couldn't make it on the bench at a D-III school. If the NBA was really serious about wanting players to get an education, they'd require 4 years of college ball instead of one. The One-Year Freshman is really just a year-long pre-draft workout, but against teams like Duke, Georgetown, and Texas instead of teams like St. Luke's Academy and East Ridge High. It gives the GMs more insight into what kind of a player he would be before a top-5 draft pick is blown.

If you look at it through another lens, through the one-year-of-college rule, the NBA is keeping good players from freely working in jobs they're talented enough to do. In that respect the NBA is no different from any other profession which requires licenses for its members (Doctors, Attorneys, Pharmacists, Taxicab drivers, etc.). However, these industries differ from sports because there's not really the same public safety risk from a guy claiming to have knowledge and training in basketball and being unqualified that say...someone who claims to be a good heart surgeon . The stakes aren't as high. So if they can cut it, there's really no reason to keep them out. It can only make the NBA's talent pool deeper and better. So why not do it? I think you need to look at who would BENEFIT from new, young, talented players being left out of the league. In that case, I think you need to look at the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement and who has negotiating power.

This is something that I think falls completely at the feet of the Players' Union. They're the only people I can see who would benefit from keeping the hottest new prospect off the bench. Perhaps old vets hanging on by their fingernails for one last ride? During CBA negotiations, the players' union sits at the table and has negotiating power to ask for "one-year college requirements" that will never affect them because they're already in. High school prodigies can't negotiate. While that may sound cynical, I think we need to get away from the childish view of sports that it's just for "the good of the game," when especially in the United States, the leagues are mostly run by a cartel of owners who run the teams for their own profit or amusement. Why should we expect the players' union to be any different? A team taking a risk on a high school player is doing so with the expectation that they will be the future of their franchise, essentially saying that the old guard is out. Even if the new player is God-awful, it could be two or three years before their spot on the bench is cleared up, and for some vets, that's too long to wait.

If the fresh-outta high school players suck, they won't make it in the league, and teams that rely on them will be out wins and dollars. But if a player has the ability needed to succeed in the NBA at 18, then I say, by all means go for it. Requiring players to go to college does not allow a player to do the job he loves. However, on the other side of the coin, I think it's very rare for college basketball to HURT a player's development, both as an athlete and as a person. Could Dwyane Wade have made a splash in the NBA right out of high school instead of going to Marquette for 3 years? Maybe. But he might have been another late-90s high school draft washout. Tim Duncan certainly hasn't been any worse for the wear after 4 years at Wake.

In the end, the NBA owners and the players union negotiate the terms of the CBA, essentially setting policy for basketball in North America for their own benefit (be it another year or two of playing past your prime, or less risk on the next Garnett/Bender), while the newer players, who will be affected by this policy, don't have a say.

That's just my $.02.


Nathan 5:11 PM  

To reiterate what Pat said: the NBA does not have a "one-year of college" rule. The rule simply states that players must be out of high school for one year. Obviously, the best move for a prospect is to go to college, but the NBA is not forcing anyone to play college hoops.

Also, one aspect that has not been mentioned yet is what I think is the best reason to keep the one-year rule. Every year there are a lot of kids that pass up on college to go straight for the pros because they are convinced to do so by someone who wants to be their agent. Then these kids don't get drafted, it is too late to apply to college, their "agent" walks away unharmed, and they're left in a pretty shitty situation.

There was at least one movie made about this exact phenomenon, but I can't remember the name of it. Regardless, it happens a lot, and kids that could have been stars end up stuck on the streets with a lot of debt. This is the real argument for "forcing" kids to go to college for at least a year. Last night Dick Vitale suggested that we should allow kids to go straight to the league, but force them to stay at least three years if they do choose to go to school. That might sound good on the surface, but it would lead to a lot more kids trying to make the jump when they really aren't ready.

This really is a sticky situation, because no matter how you go about it, someone is going to suffer.

Mike 5:53 PM  

Yea, good call on the rule, I realized that about halfway through the post, thought about going back and changing it, then realizing that hardly anyone goes straight out of high school, then goes to play for Treviso, Real Madrid Baloncesto, or AEK Athens for a year before entering the NBA Draft. So it's really a de facto "one-year in college rule."

You're right though.

Matt 3:41 PM  

Is that baby Chinese? He looks Chinese. Or weird, at least.

Vinnie 12:26 PM  

Finally got around to reading this... Well done.

One point of contention: If every "top-5 or top 10 pick" were a 20-ppg impact players, the NBA would have... a lot of 20-ppg impact players.

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