What Can the NBA Do About "One-and-Done" Players?
“One-and-dones” are here for the foreseeable future.
Like it or not, rank-and-file fans are going to have to deal with that.
The big business that is the NBA, too cheap to build a minor league system, is perfectly content to continue pimping the NCAA as its own true developmental pipeline.
Don’t make me curse you out by even suggesting that the NBADL is legitimate; it's a glorified injury rehab stint and a way to keep a few prospects busy, nothing more.
Now, let me preface the rest of this article with some straight talk: putting together a true feeder system is tedious, time-consuming, and expensive.
The major league baseball system has been in place for over a century now, and is so entrenched that it will probably never change. Stud high school senior baseball players have two legitimate avenues to the big leagues: sign with an MLB team and go to the minors, or head to the NCAA for a while.
They will still probably play in the minor leagues, regardless. College stars just tend to start higher up the MLB minor league food chain—high A or perhaps even Double A—and thus make the majors in less time.
In general, a young man with supreme talent still makes his major league debut around the ages of 22-24.
David Stern and the NBA brain trust, having seen far too many attempts at establishing some sort of feeder system fail—some of them failing despite backing from the NBA, including cash—decided to take the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” route.
They decided to embrace the NCAA as their de facto developmental entity, a role that had been entrenched since time immemorial, anyway.
It is fascinating, though, that any major decision the NBA makes now, must be made with the NCAA in mind.
After all, if you’re sleeping with some woman, and you contract syphilis from someone else, the first woman deserves to know before you resume relations, doesn’t she? Because it will impact her life just about as much as it affects you.
So when the NBA went looking for a scapegoat to absolve themselves of guilt for a string of horrid performances in international play, Stern and company basically played it off as a result of "the continuing erosion of fundamental play in the NBA, in part due to the influx of high school seniors directly to the league."
Did anybody besides me know that, the moment the NBA started spewing this nonsense, they were going to offend the NCAA? Was that really so hard to foresee?
I didn’t think so.
You see, the NCAA had already been seething for years, doing a quiet burn over the fact that the NBA was basically encouraging high school seniors to bypass college by drafting them and paying them insane amounts of money to (often) ride the bench.
All while not sharing in the spoils with the NCAA, keep in mind.
So when the NBA decided to “take the high road,” and claim that the level of their play had dropped because of the influx of ultra-young kids (absurd, but very clever, lie), the NCAA had had enough.
They took advantage of the NBA’s very public, albeit global, excuse, and offered a “solution.”
In effect, the NCAA simply said: “Well, why don’t you send all of those young kids here first, like you used to do?”
Think Stern saw that one coming?
Well, he should have.
So now, the NBA had given leverage to the NCAA—remember, their de facto feeder system—and, like the good businessmen that they have become, the movers and shakers at the college level dropped the hammer.
David Stern had basically painted himself into a corner, and there was no way out of it without making some sort of major concession to the NCAA (unless they wanted to start cutting royalty checks—fat chance!) if the NBA wanted to continue their relationship.
So after a couple of re-writes, we had the ridiculous “one year after graduating class” rule that everyone seems to hate.
After that concession was made, the NBA and NCAA, which had once seemed on the verge of estrangement, made nice, with both organizations paying lip service to the idea of making the adjustment for the good of the kids involved.
That’s a truck-sized load of prime buffalo chips.
The NCAA wanted the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Garnetts of the world to spend a year on campus, where they might have fallen in love with the camaraderie and decided to sick around for an extra year or two.
How’s that working out for you, NCAA?
The NBA was merely making a compromise in order to save their (free) developmental program; whether Derrick Rose made it to the NBA at the age of 18 (under the old system) or 19 (his actual age upon being drafted) makes absolutely no difference to the NBA.
So what if a kid isn't ready and washes out? That's his problem, not the League's. At least, that seems to be the attitude that is taken by the NBA front office.
Losing the relationship with the NCAA was the real motivation behind the move.
If the NBA really cared, REALLY gave a damn, they would take each and every application for early entry into the league separately, and rule on a case-by-case basis.
They could set up a panel of retired legends to screen the NBA-readiness of potential one-and-done players.
Recruit guys like Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Tom Heinsohn, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Bill Russell, Jerry Westguys who know the game but who aren’t currently in anybody’s front office, who would once a year hold a scouting combine for outgoing HS seniors.
Set them up with some counselors and psychologists, too; their emotional development and readiness need to be examined, as well.
In Year One, any graduating HS seniors who submitted their name for the draft would be applying to the panel for approval to stay in the draft.
They could be flown to a combine and evaluated; any deemed ready for the NBA would be allowed to stay in the draft; anybody else would be sent off to college.
In Year Two of the program, HS seniors would be joined by one-year college players.
In Year Three, make it HS seniors, along with college sophomores and frosh.
It would never require more than that, because I think we all agree that by their junior year, a player should be mature enough to make an informed decision.
In a typical year, what would we be talking about—fewer than 100 ballers?
This way, you get a bunch of seasoned men, who know what to look for, and who don’t have a dog in the fight, to sign off before sending these kids into the NBA draft.
Is this a perfect suggestion? No, I don’t think so. It would be a logistical nightmare. The applicants would incur hotel and airfare costs, meaning this would be another potential threat to their amateur eligibility. The panelists would have to be paid; by the NBA?
And there still wouldn’t be any guarantees, of course; but since when is anything in this life guaranteed, anyway?
At least the NBA would be making an effort, far more than they’re doing now.
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