Before retiring, former NBA Commissioner David Stern did a great job of building the NBA into an international professional sports league. While everyone didn’t always agree with all of his professional moves and changes, no one can deny that he did some things to make the NBA better.
Nonetheless, the NBA has a new commissioner and that commissioner is Adam Silver who was the former league deputy commissioner, who worked side-by-side with Stern for years. Since taking over, there has been much speculation by fans, media, players, coaches, general managers and owners, on what exactly Silver will bring or take a way from the NBA. While I believe that Stern did a good job as commissioner, I still think there are some much-needed changes that need to be made and those changes need to be made by the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver.
Apparently, Silver feels the same way because it has already been reported that Silver would like to make some adjustment to the NBA’s age limit. As of right now, the NBA requires players be at least 19 years of age or one year removed from the graduation of their high school class before entering the draft. These current rules, were established under the 2005 collective bargaining agreement.
However, since the rule has been put in place, a trend of “one-and-done” has elevated in college basketball. If Silver does indeed get his way with this new age limit, players would be forced to wait another year before becoming NBA-eligible.
Allowing Players to Leave Out of High School
Now I personally, think the NBA should have never changed the original rule, they should have kept allowing players to come out of high school and others to go to college. If we are being honest, that particular system did work, mainly because it was more difficult and costly to come out of high school than it was to leave college after one year. When the NBA drafted out of high school, they were typically drafting great players, unlike today, when they are drafting average players who are leaving college to early.
When you chose to enter the NBA Draft after high school, you knew you had to be one of the best players in the nation, not the state or the city, you had to be one of the top 10 players in the nation. When it comes to a lot of these one-and-done players, some were indeed one of the Top 10 players in the nation like your Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving but a good majority of the players who are leaving after one year of college ball weren’t Top 10 players in the nation back in high school but because of a great showing in their freshman year, they typically decide to leave early,without even expanding and working on their game.
Kobe Bryant, recently talked with LakersNation.com about the impact of players such as himself, who were able to come to the NBA straight out of college:
“I think the reality is there’s been a lot of players who’ve come out of high school…if you do the numbers and you look at the count you probably see players who came out of high school that were much more successful on average than players that went to college for a year or two years. It seems like the system really isn’t teaching players anything if you go to college.
‘If you go to college, you play, you showcase, and you come to the pros.’
Well, that’s always been the big argument, as a player you have to go to college, you have to develop your skills and so forth and so on and then you come to the league.
We kind of got sold on that…sold on that dream a little bit. Fortunately, I didn’t really listen much to it, neither did KG, neither did LeBron. I think that worked out pretty well for all three of us.”
While I definitely get where Bryant is coming from, I must say I don’t completely agree with Bryant when he said that the college basketball system “really isn’t teaching players anything.” I think players have to be willing to stay to learn from their college coaches, it can’t just be about showcasing your talent for a year and then leaving. Most importantly, I think players need to know their own skill sets, learn how to honestly and efficiently evaluate themselves and understand what is best for them and make the best decisions for themselves.
The NBA as a whole has gotten steadily worse over the last few years with all these 18-19 year old players flooding the rosters. If you look back in the last five to six-year of the NBA draft, you will see that a lot of the young talent have struggled to perform consistently or at a high level and one of those reasons are because they leave college to early. If you go back to great basketball eras like the 80’s and 90’s, you will see that the talent level was great. Why? Mainly because you had players staying for two years or more (with the exception of the high school phenoms like Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, etc), which allowed them to develop their talent and be more than ready for the NBA. Players in 80’s and 90’s also had a better idea of whether they were ready for the NBA, this generation doesn’t. That’s not to say that players in 80’s and 90’s didn’t still have struggles once they were in the NBA but the NBA wasn’t watered down because of those struggles like they are now.
Making College Basketball Players Stay In College for Two Years
Which leads us back to Silver’s idea that players should only enter the NBA Draft, at the age of 20 or if they have completed their sophomore year of college. It was just last year that Tracy McGrady expressed to USA Today, a similar idea that college players should go to school for two years:
“I actually think they should implement having these guys go to school for two years,” McGrady said. “What is it, one year now? At least go to school for two years because the league is so young. I think we need to build our league up. I mean, I hate to say it, but the talent in this league is pretty down.”
Making players stay in college for at least two years, could potentially be beneficial for both college basketball and the NBA. It helps college basketball to be more competitive by keeping talented players in the system for an additional year and it helps the make the NBA better, because the talent is being spread around more and the players are more ready for the NBA once they get there.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great if a freshman player has a phenomenal season but I think it’s even better when they come back for their sophomore season. Mainly because they are consistently challenging themselves to become better players and leaders. By coming back to school for a second year, players are learning how to face adversity that they didn’t maybe face in their freshman year, they are forced to change their game or improve their game because now more teams have a better idea on how to defend them after their freshman year. Going back for second year, can even help with the maturity level and ability to lead, which goes back to my point of facing adversity or different competition that they didn’t face before.
While many people like this idea of making college players stay for two years, there are also some concerns that come with this possible rule change. One of the first concerns being that the NBA would once again be forcing certain young phenoms to stay in college longer than they need to. A perfect example, are players like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, those are players who could have entered the draft after high school and probably been successful off the bat just like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were but unfortunately the rules didn’t let allow them to enter right after high school, so they had no choice but to go to college for a year. Now an argument could be made that the one year college help them to make them the players they are today, but others could say that it was a waste of time because they were NBA ready and didn’t benefit. Which once again, leads to the concerns of Silver’s idea, because he was to implement this rule immediately for the 2014 NBA Draft, a player like Jabari Parker, who many consider to be NBA ready, would have to stay for another year, which leaves the question, would this move be beneficial to all?
Another concern people have with making players come back for a second year is the fact that they could get injured which could hurt their NBA draft stock or possibly end their career. While that is very logical concern, I rather a player get hurt in college than in the NBA. Mainly because in college, you will still have a chance to come-back from the injury whether it be in your junior or senior year without the worry of contracts and roster concerns. It also gives the you a chance to adjust to your injury or injuries, because there is always a chance that you will have to re-create your game depending on the type of injury you suffered. Most importantly, you can still focus on their degree(s) which should be your back-up plan if your basketball career doesn’t pan out.
There is also the concern that a player’s draft stock can drop if his stats aren’t as impressive as his freshman year or if he struggles to in certain areas. Honestly, I think draft stock is great but at the end of the day, it goes back to what you do well and don’t do well and how your skill set fits a team.
Changes Can Be Made to the Age Limit but it Goes Back to the Players Decisions
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the NBA does to the age limit, until players start making better decisions when it comes to entering the NBA, a good amount of players will continue to struggle in the NBA. When you leave high school or college, the point is to be the best player you can possibly be when you have entered the draft. As a player your mind-set should be that I have learned and accomplished everything I can at this level and I am more than ready to compete at the NBA level. Half of the players who leave for the NBA, don’t even know their own skill level and skill set which is why they struggle in the NBA today. I’m not saying that each player who enters the draft should be perfect with no weaknesses because that’s not going to happen but as a player you need to know your skill set, your strengths, your weaknesses and where you fit in an NBA system.
Every player has weaknesses that they need to work on and doing so in-game action really helps. If players go to the NBA too early, they may not have the confidence or the opportunity to work on their weaknesses during the game. Basketball is a game of confidence and knowing your own skill set, some have the confidence and NBA-ready skill set in high school or after one year of college, so they can go to the NBA early and still develop and perform very well. Others may not have that and will need to work on their weaknesses on the college basketball stage before taking it to the big stage.
Once again, this goes back to knowing your skill set as a player and being aware of the decisions you make with your career. Some say that’s asking a lot because most of these young men are between the age of 18-21 but that doesn’t mean that they should take the decision to stay in college or go to the NBA early likely.
Regardless of whether the NBA changes the age limit to younger or older, there is no guarantee that all players will be great at the next level because let’s face it, some players are just not great players, some are good players and some will struggle their entire careers. Some are great college players but not great professional players, then you always have those players who are specifically supposed to be role players in the NBA.
If I had it my way, I would say the best way to go, may be the old way because it allows 18-year-old players to either jump straight to the professional ranks or go to college. I am not naive to think that if they change the age limit to younger or older, all will be well in the NBA, but I do think you will see better games, better competition and better talent which equals for a better overall NBA experience for everyone.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit