View Full Version : Is the "one and done" rule a sham.Thoughts on fixing it

08-19-2010, 06:37 PM
But first, on the newest idea to fix the age minimum rule.

The NBA's age minimum has reared its misshapen head once again, and not a moment too soon. New NCAA president Mark Emmert has endorsed Major League Baseball's draft system, where prospects can declare for the amateur draft right out of high school but still attend college if they so choose. If they do so choose, they can't leave school for three years or until they turn 21, whichever comes first.

The NBA was a tiny bit like that decades ago; Larry Bird, after all, spent his Final Four season at Indiana State already having been drafted by the Boston Celtics, as players could be selected following their junior collegiate season without having declared for the draft. Clearly, though, as Eric Freeman writes, the fundamentals of talent development in baseball and basketball are so different the comparison's almost useless.

But what Emmert proposes is diametrically different from the current system, which both the NBA and NCAA have manipulated for completely selfish reasons. (The age limit makes good financial sense for NBA owners; the NCAA has continued to tinker with its eligibility rules relating to prospects testing the NBA waters at the expense of its college's student-players.)

There's another way Emmert's plan is diametrically different from the current system: it is the worst of both worlds for the NBA.

By making some prep stars draft-eligible right out of high school, NBA scouting expands once again. A major driver behind the adoption of the age minimum in 2005 was the cost and peril of teams being forced to scout the high school and AAU circuits. LeBron James came into the NBA a bit sullied because of an ill-timed Hummer purchase; David Stern wanted no part of the NCAA's well-developed "taint" market. Perhaps the high school scouting issue is secondary to the brand development of young players the NCAA provides, but it's still a serious factor. Emmert's plan reverses the fix the NBA established. That's not a good start.

Under the age minimum system, the NBA does give up a year of capitalization of sure-thing stars, players like John Wall, who would have sold some tickets right out of high school. LeBron didn't need March Madness to make him a Day-One marketing superstar, and over the years there will be more like him. But by keeping the age minimum to one year, these walking dollar signs are property of the NBA before long. If you extend the standard college stay to three years, that's a lot of potential revenue the NBA would be forfeiting to CBS and the universities. Perhaps all these stars, under the Emmert system, would jump straight to the NBA from high school. But there are always stars who can't jump straight to the league (Evan Turner, for one), and the NBA, by adopting the baseball plan, would forfeit those players an extra two seasons.

Essentially, there's disincentive for the NBA to adopt the system Emmert suggests. It'd probably help the NCAA dramatically -- programs would become more stable, the issue of constant churn would be reduced, the product on the court would be improved. So kudos to Emmert for suggesting it. But I dare him to present it to Stern and keep a straight face.

Of course, the age minimum has been a monumental failure (even according to no less an authority than U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who called the rule a "farce" in January). The rule saves NBA owners (almost exclusively white millionaires and billionaires) a few bucks at the expense of 18-year-olds (almost exclusively low- or middle-income blacks), who then have to navigate the extremely dirty water that is American college basketball recruitment or the possibly more perilous journey to Europe. DeMar DeRozan had to spend a year under the guidance of scandal-magnet Tim Floyd in a sham of an academic experience at USC while his family struggled to pay for lupus treatment for DeMar's mother Diane, all so guys like Paul Allen and Donald Sterling can save some money on scouting and marketing. It's shameful.