Alternatives to the One-and-Done Rule in the NBA
The one-and-done rule is a contentious point of debate for fans of professional and collegiate basketball, and rightfully so.
With the NCAA currently serving as nothing more than a free feeder system for the NBA, should there be new rules in place that focus more on the development of players through the pro ranks in a bona fide minor league system?
There's no denying that the NBA would benefit from a more legitimate minor league system, but the development of the D-League in recent years has been encouraging.
What follows is a variety of suggested alternatives to the NBA's current one-and-done rule, several of which implement some expanded use of the D-League.
EPL-Style Youth Academies
Wishing for the NBA to have English Premier League-style youth academies is admittedly a pipe dream, but it's a fun alternative to explore.
Although we're still a few years away from each NBA franchise owning and operating its own D-League franchise, youth academies would be a way to do away with eligibility questions altogether.
Like the top soccer clubs in Europe, NBA teams would theoretically be allowed to scout talent, no matter how young. If a franchise believes that a player is worth the long-term investment, then they're brought aboard to compete against the most promising individuals throughout the basketball universe.
Under this framework, youth academies would function as a subset of D-League teams. Once players exceed the age of 18, they would be eligible to compete at the developmental level and subsequently move up to the big time if they're deemed ready.
If you're one who believes that prospects should be given the option to be drafted straight out of high school and start a career in the NBA immediately, then pay attention.
Clearly, the old system didn't work out as well as many would have liked. Sure, a handful of players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James made the high school-to-pro jump look easy. But for those few success stories, there are countless failures (see: Kwame Brown, Sebastian Telfair and Eddy Curry, for starters) that tainted the process.
One suggestion that would help curb the selection of busts would be to make a top-10 exception. Under this alternative, players who have been projected as top-10 picks out of high school for an upcoming draft would be allowed to declare.
How would the projection process work, you ask? In order to come to a consensus, NBA scouts and GMs would compile a ranking of sorts, and from there they would extend invitations to qualified prospects.
In the end, players receiving top-10 grades would instantly be eligible to compete in the pros while those who miss the cut would take the one-and-done route.
Make Players Stay in School for a 2-Year Minimum
One-and-done's not working? Maybe two-and-done will.
College coaches resent the way the current eligibility process works because the NBA sets the ground rules for how long student-athletes must remain in college before declaring for the pros.
To make things more fair for those disgruntled coaches, the NBA cedes an extra year to the NCAA, meaning that players have to commit to two years of collegiate ball prior to obtaining pro eligibility. This proposal would undoubtedly anger prospects to no end, but it would give coaches an extra year to help players hone their skills.
Another positive to consider is that a required two years of college ball would give more players time to show their growth, and NBA teams would be able to evaluate the progression of players on more than one season.
Under these provisions, busts would theoretically be easier to predict based on a larger sample size of playing time.
Option to Get Drafted out of High School, Play in D-League for 1 Year Minimum
We saw what happened with Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky big man was the consensus No. 1 overall pick until he tore his ACL in February, which resulted in his draft stock dropping back in June.
To remedy a top-tier prospect like Noel's stock plummeting due to injury, we have a solution: Allow players to enter their name in the draft straight out of high school, but if a prospect is selected, they must play at least one year in the D-League before making the jump.
In this concept, the D-League would function as a self-sustaining minor league system, doing away with the concept that the NCAA is a free feeder system for the NBA. Sure, it would be a gamble, but allowing players to bolt for the D-League out of high school would mean instant paychecks and an accelerated career track.
For NBA franchises, the minor league concept would allow not only new financial opportunities, but new ways to attract fans to a league that definitely needs them.
If Drafted in First Round, Players Have the Option to Go Straight to Pros
You know how prospects covet the opportunity to be selected in the first round because it means receiving a guaranteed contract? Well, we're going to raise the stakes.
Here's how the plan shakes out: Players are allowed to enter their name in the draft straight out of high school, and if they're selected in the first round, they can bolt straight for the pros.
The obvious question that remains: Isn't this system unfair to second-rounders?
Unfortunately, yes it is.
However, there's a modified solution that could help second-rounders. Since the second round would become meaningless under these conditions, we've decided to piggyback off a previous idea. Second-round picks who want to continue to pursue a pro career instead of playing in college first would be given the option to play in the D-League if they can agree to terms with the team that drafts them.
Under this policy, D-League stints would be a minimum of two years.
This way, second-rounders are not hung out to dry, and the D-League would remain a viable and respected system for player development. It may not be perfect, but it's one way to do away with the one-and-done rule once and for all.