Over the past few years, the number of college freshman entering the NBA draft after one year in the college environment has increased drastically. This year’s NBA draft has been properly dubbed “The Year of the Freshman,” as it is projected to see 13 freshmen go in the first round, more than the previous two years combined. But while it’s great for the NBA to see this large influx of talented teens, it’s ruining the college landscape.
As a result of this new shift in college basketball, recruiting on a year-to-year basis has become more important than ever. Instead of finding players with longevity and room to grow, teams are recruiting players only to see them depart a year later. It has become increasingly uncommon to see superstar seniors in the draft. Teams now want that instant star; only those stars don’t seem to last long in college. They move on to the NBA, trying to get as much money as possible.
Sadly, many of the best recruits are not looking into other factors in a school such as education, or experience. They are only looking at which school can get them to the NBA quickest. In today’s landscape, the athletes have become selfish, and only care about themselves.
Staying with a team, growing throughout their college experience, and helping their team win a championship have become afterthoughts. It’s all about how quick the player can get recognized, and how much money they can ultimately earn if they go to the NBA right away.
In addition to changing the college landscape, it is affecting the NBA as well. In the NBA, players are drafted based off of potential. This can be a very hit or miss way of building a team. It can take upwards of four years for some players to develop, all the while honing their skills.
When freshmen are drafted, they lack real experience at a higher level. That’s why some of them never pan out at the NBA level. They can be dominant, even win player of the year awards in college, yet never quite reach that high potential they were drafted on.
NBA teams often draft star freshmen, hoping that they will be as dominant as they were in college, but really, that was the height of their career. Staying in college could have helped them develop into a more mature, well-rounded player.
As we see the best young players leave for the NBA for big paydays and bigger competition, we watch college teams with bright futures get sent back to square one.
The best example of this persistent problem is Kentucky. In 2010, they went to the Elite Eight, then lost five freshmen to the NBA, all first rounders. In total, that was more then in the 2009 draft overall. Then in 2011, their new superstar freshman class brought them to the Final Four, with essentially an entirely new team.
Later this month, Kentucky is slotted to lose two more superstar freshmen to the draft, both of whom are projected as lottery picks. When they leave, Kentucky will just fill the void with new superstar freshmen. However, they are not likely to do better than they did any previous year, because they are constantly in the process of rebuilding.
The NBA can fix this is by amending their Collective Bargaining Agreement when it comes up for renewal after this season. In 2006, the CBA made it so that high school players were ineligible to enter the draft, partially resolving the early entry issue. However, they forgot about college early entry, which only came about since that ruling.
Currently, a player has to be 19 years old at the time of the draft in order to be eligible. For nearly all players, this means that after their freshman season they become eligible. This is where the NBA can change it. The NBA needs to realize the damage it is doing to both the players and the teams in the long run, and make it so the players have at least two years in the NCAA environment, just like college football.
This would give players a greater chance to mature and play against others of the same talent level, all the while preserving the recruiting process, and keeping teams from being in a constant state of rebuilding.