Monday, April 2, 2012

NBA's One-And-Done Rule Has Made A Mess Of Basketball

I will be up front about this: I have liked the NBA's one-and-done rule. I am one of those crazy people who LOVE both the college and pro game equally. So seeing these top talents wearing college uniforms for a season or so and then having these kids coming into the League with some sort of top-level experience is great for me.

But that's about it.

Over the past week or so (and usually every year about this time) the one-and-done issue comes to the forefront. This year it seems to have taken a bigger stage as the famously one-and-done factory Kentucky just won the National Championship. It also has gotten run as the NCAA and NBA have been bickering about the rule and its usefulness to each entity.

The NBA loves it because it takes some of the guessing out their draft picks. For many years, the NBA got to draft guys who they have seen in college for 3 or 4 years. About 20 years ago, more sophomores were starting to come out early. By the late 1990s (after Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant), high school seniors were making the jump. That was all good until the 2000s when there were more Kwame Browns and Darius Mileses than LeBron James and Dwight Howards. With the NBA investing money and roster spaces with these kids, they weren't getting much back. Then, about 4 or 5 years into their career, you are having to decide to sign a guy to a long-term deal who was just 23, had barely played and had only showed a sliver of what he may or may not become.

Not to mention that these kids came in with absolutely no "allure" about them. Sure, LeBron James came in as a name brand. But even a guy like Dwight Howard, not many people knew who he was until a few months before the NBA draft. It's hard for a team to sell their fan bases on a Martell Webster who no one heard of before the McDonalds All-American Game than a guy that college fans have be watching for months.

The NBA adopted the one-year buffer and their GMs got a nice look at guys in a more competitive setting.

The NCAA ... which has no control over this ... has reaped the benefits. Not only was there a huge influx of talent into the college game, but it had a trickle down effect to the mid-majors. The mid-majors have had way more success over the past 5 years than they have ever enjoyed before since the stakes off college athletics have reached these heights. The blue bloods, who get those big stars more than ever, have been rolling in the championships. Since the rule went into effect for the 2006-2007 season, here are the teams who have won titles: Kentucky, Florida (who won the 2nd of their back-to-back titles), Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and UConn.

Not to say that those teams had one-and-dones (for the most part they haven't), but it is interesting to see. Yeah, those title losing teams have had their share of one-and-dones (Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Mike Conley) but it isn't like it was any more proportionate than the rest of college basketball. However this Kentucky team did win with three one-and-dones and one that may have been if not for the NBA lockout. Guys who were in college because of the NBA's rule.

Just look at this NCAA tournament. Guys like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, James Michael McAdoo, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, Cody Zeller and Austin Rivers ... while guys like Harrison Barnes, Jerod Sullinger, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones will be in this draft because they were scared off by the NBA's looming lockout after their freshmen seasons ... are being featured and lauded for their skills. Of course. They are the best of the best and they wouldn't be in college if it wasn't for the NBA's rule.

But that just isn't enough for the NCAA. They would love the NBA to adopt a rule where guys had to go ... ohhhh how about 2 years before they go pro. Makes sense. A lot of the college fans aren't too keen on seeing a freshman's potential only to watch him bolt after one season in their school. Also, John Calipari has openly made a mockery of the rule that he's basically running a halfway house for the best high school players (note: I'm not saying Calipari is wrong for this, just that he doesn't care that it looks that way. Coach Cal will openly say that he is playing within the format that is laid out there and you can't hate that he's better at it than anyone else).

See the dirty little secret with one-and-dones is that you really don't have to go to college during the second semester. Just stay eligible during the first semester (always the easiest) and then who cares when the calendar year begins? By the time their grades come out, they are already gone to NBA draft camps and workouts. Calipari's job isn't to get these kids degrees from the University of Kentucky. His job is to win basketball games and championships and he knows that he can rake in the best high school talent each year and do that without having to concern himself with grade point averages. It isn't against the rules -- it is the nature of the beast.

The NBA responded the way you'd expect: You want two years of these kids? You are lucky we are even giving you one!

That's true. Sure, the NBA benefits from this setup too, but they don't need it as bad as the NCAA does. The NBA wouldn't mind having Anthony Davis blocking shots for them or Austin Rivers going one-on-five in an NBA uniform. I mean, the NBA is full of straight outta high school players as well. While those Korleone Youngs may miss here and there, but they really, really like those LeBrons, Kobes, Dwights and KGs.

My problem is the hypocrisy of it all ... especially by the NCAA. The NCAA wants the NBA to expand the rule to 2 or more years even though they don't have to do squat. From a business interest, it would be better for the NBA to expand the rule. They'd get a longer look at these kids while they come into the league more polished and with a bigger brand with them. Imagine if Anthony Davis had to play three years at Kentucky? Would he be placed among the other college greats at the center position like Walton, Alcinder, Ewing or Russell? Laugh now, but it really isn't out of the realm of possibility.

You laugh because we've been living in a basketball society where we don't even expect greatness in college anymore. We know we'll get a glimpse of what could be but understand that we still must wait to see the whole package. The legend just starts.

How to solve it? Well, like most problems that involve big business, it is complicated. It shouldn't be but it always is. It would be great if the NBA would just come out and say "either you come out right after high school or you stay for 3 years of college." But does that really solve the issue? Guys will still come out of high school ill prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for the rigors of pro ball. NBA scouts will still miss on prospects and owners will still be throwing tons of money down the toilet. The whole reason the league put the one-and-done rule was because of all the major draft misses.

As an aside: Michael Olowokandi went to school for four years and he was a bigger bust than Kwame Brown. Just saying.

Force them to college for three years no matter what? I doubt that would happen. A guy like Anthony Davis could stay at Kentucky or just decide to take some international money and go overseas. Why not? Davis will leave Kentucky right now as a sort of folk hero, he has a title and no one in the Bluegrass state will blame him for bolting for the money. Since he couldn't go to the NBA, he could just sign in Europe or something and get a very good amount of money. To foreign teams, this wouldn't be like signing Brandon Jennings: Davis has been intensely coached and isn't as raw as Jennings was going to Italy. The NBA would now lose Davis' momentum (he's the hottest thing in pre-NBA basketball right now) for two years while they waited for him to become draft eligible. The NBA won't do that.

I can see the NBA actually going to a 2-year-and-done rule ... but I wouldn't put it past them to have a sort of waiver panel to allow those "can't miss" high schoolers like LeBron James to apply for early entry into the draft. I also like Mark Cuban's suggestion (sort of) of a longer draft and to really use the D-League to develop talent. Draft four rounds and then have a true farm system where you can still have a real professional team and then use the minors to have your talent work on their game. Of course, the NBA used to have the NCAA do that for them for free.

Whatever is done will be sorted through by lawyers and economists and probably not much by basketball people. The needs of the players will not be taken seriously and two huge corporate entities like the NCAA and NBA will arm wrestle for the talents of the product they want to have represent them. All I know is whatever happens will not be perfect and once side of the isle will feel they are getting screwed ... though it will be players who will feel it the most.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is the most ridiculous ongoing argument that surfaced since the coming out rule. The solution is simple but, as with all simple solutions, will never ever even be considered........
Ever sport except football and basketball have amateur/semi-amatuer teams. If Tiger had been ready for the majors, he would have come out early. Some even say he was and should have. (Maybe he would already have niclaus's record if he had.) The point is once he proved he could compete he did. In tennis there are competitors as young as 17 and 18 competing against full grown adults. They win some and they lose some. How many college grads on athletic scholarship never go pro but get there degree. There's my point.
I suggest that after their high school career an athlete must commit to one or the other. Go pro or play college with the added condition that if they go pro and fail before their 20th birthday, they can still go to college IF THEY HAVE THE GRADES TO DO SO.
Once they go to college, either way, they must go 4 or 5(if they accept redshirting)years unless they are released from the school.
The benefit has three parts:

Pros: They can look at some high schoolers and decide to either let them mature close in the D-League or Far (and take their chances) in the College ranks.

College: Once they get a true student/athlete they have them for 4 years of eligibility. The downside is that they have to keep them for 4 years or until graduation. The student can resign from school or transfer for a better opportunity to a school willing to accept them. Schools will have an increased number of scholarships to support students not playing (I sugest 16 -4 extra scholarships for 4 years)

Athletes: Those that want a degree can get one and not have to worry about an injury ending their lifetime ability to earn. Those that want a shot, get one. If they do not have the grades for college, they were not eligible for college anyway and never go down that road. THose borderline students, not yet ready for primetime but there are colleges interested in them, have a double edged opportunity. They can be picked up by a college .... mature .... get stronger .... get smarter .... elevate their game to the pro level .........or.......... they are assured a college education that will assist them in their future endeavours.
Needs some fine tuning but you get the idea..................tonyr