NBA Player Policy: The Multimillion Dollar Amateur

Tom PhelpsContributor IJuly 28, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 04:  A general view of the American flag on the court during the national anthem before the Michigan State Spartans take on the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Ford Field on April 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

In 2006, the NBA implemented a player policy that restricted high school players from entering the draft after their senior season. The rule states that a player’s class must be graduated for at least one season before they can declare and be drafted by the NBA.

However there is one loop hole to this rule, if a player turns 19 years old by the end of the year that the draft takes place, they may be eligible. Now I do not know for sure, but I am unable to find any example of a player applying for an appeal to try and go that route.

The NBA draft consist of two rounds, with the player’s being drafted in the first round being the safest bet for a spot on a NBA roster, however this is not always the case. Many players that have been drafted late in the draft have shown to be successful in the NBA.

The draft rule was put in place to dissuade NBA teams from selecting high school seniors to play professionally straight out of high school. To me, the arguments given for the rule are not very convincing. The thought that a star player will go to college and dramatically mature in one season is unfounded. Many in support of the rule claim that a year in school will help a young player mature and become a more responsible adult.

They claim this will help them handle their situation when they enter the NBA. I’m not sure, but I doubt a player being forced to play college basketball for one year will mature enough to handle the responsibility of being a multimillion dollar athlete.

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In fact there are many examples where middle age adults have shown the inability to adapt to being a millionaire. However to discuss this topic we must look first at the true advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages for the NBA rule are slim. There is one that does deserve consideration, and that is a player playing in a high level association, such as the NCAA high major conference will be more experienced to adapt and play with high level talent. I agree that a year of high end college basketball is valuable in this since, but why not let them learn in the NBA D league for a season instead.

The fact is in the NBA D league they will be around many players who have already played professional basketball. Maybe this type of environment would be more suitable because they will be around players who can give them true practical advice about the NBA. They will not have to encounter pact arenas right away, but will still experience the style of play that takes place in the NBA.

First year players would be more happy in this type of system as well. They will be getting paid to play, which is their goal. An NBA team could do something similar to the rookie rule in major league baseball, meaning they would not have to pay a player a large sum of money while they are completing their year in the NBA D league.

The fans of the rule also argue another point; they claim that the rule helps NCAA basketball by ensuring the best talent available is playing in the NCAA. This is true to a point. But this may cause some concern, because some big name college coaches claim they will not recruit one and done players.

The coaches argue that team chemistry and the insurance of being able to build a team around a group of players is more valuable then adding a super star for one season. This makes some sense, and I wish the NCAA and the NBA would consider this argument from the coaches. 

The rule also places the player at a huge disadvantage. The player is capable of playing in the NBA; some are capable of starting in the NBA. What if they go to college and suffer a career ending injury? They could have had a guarantee contract that would have helped them, but now they have nothing to show for their ability.

Granted the NCAA has taken great steps in this department, and the Universities will fulfill the scholarship obligation. But this scholarship is not worth the millions of dollars the player has missed out on.

If the player is able to sign a NBA contract, they can place causes in the contract that would ensure the NBA team they signed with would pay for their college if they get injured. Plus the athlete would be insured a guaranteed amount of money. So it seems the player would be better off if the injury occurs in the NBA instead of the NCAA.  

Lately the rule can be cited for the players leaving school all together and playing international basketball. We saw the prime example of this when a University of Louisville recruit decided to skip his final season of high school basketball to play overseas. The lure of the money is what caused him to leave high school.

Given this situation is unique and should not be blamed on the NBA rule, one could argue this rule could affect high school seniors that play their final season but bypass the one year in college to play overseas.

Then there is no bases for the argument that the rule ensures high level talent will be available to the NCAA. The player going overseas can make money playing there straight out of school, so why not provide the same opportunity here in the USA.

Another fact is very few high school basketball players have the ability to go to the NBA straight out of school. So why penalize those few who have the ability to play? The forward answer is this: The NBA uses the NCAA as a minor league system. The NCAA is nothing more than that.

They can in essence place a player in there minor league system without any obligation to the player. This makes for a great deal to the NBA, but a bad deal for the high school athlete.

If the player is good enough to be in the NBA, then please let the athlete be rewarded the same as his peers. The world of college basketball worked well before the rule, and will be fine without the rule.

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