Kids In The NBA: The Dumbing Down Of Professional Basketball

Greg StarddardContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2011

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They're called one and done.  You've no doubt heard the term. Basketball players who attend college for one year and immediately declare for the NBA.

Most have no interest whatsoever in gaining a college education and preparing for life after sports.  Their only desire and focus is to play on the grand stage and collect the big paycheck.

I ain't mad at ya!  But it makes me wonder about Commissioner David Stern and his motives.

What does Teflon Dave think when he hears of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins being barred from the team plane after fighting with a teammate?  Or arguing with his coach?

Does Teflon Dave think Cousins is mature enough to handle the rigors and pressures of the National Basketball Association?  Does Teflon Dave think all the "one and dones" currently starting, playing, or sitting on the bench in the NBA make the league better?

The league is full of these kids now.  No one can blame them if someone offers them millions of dollars to play a professional game. Heck, I'd take the money and run too, even if I knew I couldn't compete on a high level with the best athletes in the world.

But as I look around the league, I see a ton of young players who would be better off in college. Why?  Because they can mature as young men, hone their basketball skills, and better help a team and the league as a whole after three or four years of college.

Cousins shouldn't be anywhere near an NBA team at this juncture, except as a fan sitting in the stands. He belongs back at Kentucky where he can grow up as a person and improve his basketball skills.

And you know what? In three or four years he might be a young, decent NBA player. His former running mate at Kentucky, John Wall, would also be better suited for the college game at this point as well. 

Wall was 19 years old when the Washington Wizards drafted him.  Yeah, he's fast. He can out run a lot of players from end to end. And he's mature for kid who just turned 20 years old.

But as we're all seeing now, despite his enormous potential, he's not a top-flight NBA point guard.

I'm not hating on Wall, but I am saying had he stayed at Kentucky for another two years, he'd be a better professional player and would be a much bigger asset to an NBA franchise.

Right now, he's a kid playing professional basketball for a horrible team.  How much improvement can we expect Wall to make given the current conditions he's playing under? 

Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz is another one.  Good college player, but shouldn't be in the NBA right now.  He'd be better served back at Butler, working on his game. Instead, he looks like a college player in a professional league.

Unfortunately, it doesn't matter to Teflon Dave. It's all about the Benjamins. Do whatever it takes to put butts in the seats.

League revenue is the priority. And you know what?  The fans are left with four or five quality teams and the rest are mediocre or terrible. The league has been reduced to the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Magic and Spurs. 

How many one and dones are on those teams? None. They're all veteran teams with experienced players who know how to play the game. 

Have you seen the Kings, Nets, Cavs, Wizards, Grizzlies, Clippers, Pacers or Pistons? All teams featuring kids who needed another two or three years of refining before putting on a pro jersey.  But most were offered an NBA contract and jumped at the opportunity. 

But as a fan,  when you see these teams play, you'd be better off surfing the Internet or TV for a more competitive college or high school game.

Now, before you get your briefs in a bunch, I recognize there have been some exceptions. There are a handful of one-and-dones who have adjusted quickly and can actually compete right now on the NBA level.

In addition, there are others who played only two years of college ball and have turned out to be pretty good pro ballers.  Kevin Durant comes to mind.  Blake Griffin is another.

But even Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose needed a few years to become what he is today.  He looked like a college player in the NBA when he jumped from Memphis after one year.

Is it time to reinstate an age limit for the NBA? Look, I recognize this argument has been tossed around for years.

Once upon a time, Moses Malone, Kobe, Garnett, LeBron and others could go right from a cramped, sweaty high school gym to a 30,000-seat NBA arena.

But then all of a sudden, Teflon Dave decided it would be better if college players played at least a year of college ball before jumping to the NBA. 

Are you kidding me? What a silly, useless rule. One year?

We all know now that talented high school ballers simply enroll in college for 365 days and leave for greener pastures. 

That's why college coaches like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Maryland's Gary Williams have virtually ignored the high school AAU circuit because they know it produces players who aspire to be a one and done. 

It has worked for Coach K because every teenager in the world wants to play at Duke, but it has backfired for Williams.  Still, I give them both credit for sticking to their guns.

What about putting some teeth in the NBA rule and making college players complete at least three years before declaring for the NBA?

I'm not sure Teflon Dave wants to hear that.  It's the type of argument and debate that seems to slide right off the NBA Commissioner, just like the referee gambling scandal. He's more of a CEO than a commissioner anyway, and a CEO is only concerned about the bottom line. 

What's the bottom line?  Making money for the league.  And trust me, they're making money. Tons of it. 

But what the league needs to understand is that allowing kids to play in the NBA is watering down the product. The game becomes less entertaining unless the Heatles are playing. Or the Lake Show. Or the C's.

It's time to help college players prepare for the next level by forcing them to stay in school a little longer.

They'll become better professional players. They'll have more time to mature, and that will help them as they travel down the road of life.

But if we keep allowing 19-year-olds to play in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins won't be the last kid to get kicked off the team plane.