NBA Proposes Lowering Eligible Draft Age to 18 After Zion Williamson Knee Injury

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2019

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 16, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 94-78. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

The NBA has reportedly taken its first step toward again allowing players to enter the draft out of high school.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the league submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association to lower the draft-eligible age from 19 years old to 18. 

While the timing is reportedly coincidental, the news comes one day after projected No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson suffered a knee sprain during Duke's game against North Carolina on Wednesday night.

The injury ignited discussion about players risking injuries without getting paid:

Donovan Mitchell @spidadmitchell

Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game.... and these players get none of it.... and now Zion gets hurt... something has to change @NCAA

Trae Young @TheTraeYoung

We Need Change💯 @NCAA

UNDISPUTED @undisputed

"I would advise [Zion] to shut it down and wait for the draft. ... You're set up to risk either limiting your NBA career or potentially wrecking your NBA career for the sake of Duke University, which is paying you no more than room, board, and tuition." — @RealSkipBayless https://t.co/tBIDJD7FBy

The current rules, which began with the 2006 NBA draft, prevent players from declaring for the draft until they are one year out of high school. This has created a system of "one-and-done," where top prospects play one season of college basketball before leaving for the NBA.

Some players benefit from that one season, including Williamson. The Duke star was only considered the No. 5 recruit in the 2018 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, but his play over the first few months solidified him as the top overall pick.

Still, the one-and-done era has also created negatives.

"One-and-done has played a significant role in corrupting and destabilizing college basketball, restricting the freedom of choice of players, and undermining the relationship of college basketball to the mission of higher education," the Commission on College Basketball, which was chaired by Condoleezza Rice, stated in its report in April 2018, per Jeff Borzello, Jonathan Givony and Myron Medcalf of ESPN.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took these notes seriously when discussing possible changes, per Sam Amick of USA Today:

"My personal view is that we're ready to make that change. It won't come immediately, but...when I weighed the pros and cons(and) given that (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and her (NCAA) commission has recommended to the NBA that those one-and-done players now come directly into the league and, in essence, the college community is saying 'We do not want those players anymore,' I mean that sort of tips the scale in my mind that we should be taking a serious look at lowering our age to 18."

These comments make the change likely to happen, but it will still need approval from the NBPA.  


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