There are numerous questions surrounding what the guidelines regarding eligibility rules for the NBA draft are going to look like in the future. The league released a memo indicating that eligibility rules currently in place could shift as early as 2021.
The possible changes may occur as the league looks over player development factors as well as the corruption investigation going on in college basketball.
Zach Lowe of ESPN has a great story about the memo. League sources are saying that the memo itself is meant to signal the possible alteration of the “one-and-done” rule, although that rule is not explicitly mentioned in the memo.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends in 2024, but the league and the players union could agree to end the “one-and-done” rule before the CBA expires.
The rule stipulates that in order to be eligible for the draft, a player must be 19 years old and one year removed from the graduation of their high school class.
The term “one-and-done” originates from players who fulfill the eligibility requirement by playing college basketball for one season and then declaring for the draft.
The vast majority of these players would have been drafted to the NBA right out of high school if not for that eligibility rule.
The memo advises teams to keep these possible changes in mind before trading away future draft picks leading up to and on the day of the 2018 NBA Draft.
The “one-and-done rule” was originally agreed to in 2005 and first went into effect for the 2006 NBA Draft. Then-Commissioner David Stern wanted NBA scouts out of high school gyms and was concerned that players drafted out of high school were not yet emotionally ready for the NBA.
It seems bizarre that adults who are talented enough to earn a professional wage in the NBA are denied that chance because of an arbitrary rule like this. A player can lose a year of income while being forced to attend college presumably for an added year of maturity.
To insinuate that 18-year-olds can’t handle the emotional grind of the NBA always seemed like a strange assumption.
Look at the numerous successful players who made the leap right out of high school: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, LeBron James, Dwight Howard.
People cite cases like Kwame Brown and Robert Swift to state that high schoolers aren’t equipped to handle the NBA at that young of an age, but it’s a strange argument considering that many players in their early 20s often don’t adjust well to the NBA lifestyle either.
Every player is different. It’s an overreach to ban all 18-year-olds from the NBA just because a few aren’t ready. That’s a risk the individual player must assess for themselves. Teams must also do their due diligence to determine if a guy can translate to the league.
The counter-argument people often use to try to defend the assertion that the “one-and-done rule” loses a player a year of NBA salary is that those players are still free to play in a professional league overseas for a year. Brandon Jennings is a notable example.
These players not forced to play college basketball. They just have to wait a year after they graduate high school before entering the NBA.
This argument falls into the trap of too closely equating overseas contracts to NBA rookie contracts, which is ridiculous.
For the 2017 NBA Draft, the baseline first-year salary was above $3 million for every pick 1-6. It was above $2 million for every pick 7-11. It was above $1 million for every pick 12-30.
If a player is talented enough declare for the NBA Draft right out of high school, they’re more than likely going to be drafted in the first round.
The best players in European leagues might make a couple million per season, and those totals are reserved for just the very best.
Most first round draft picks are already in better financial shape with the guaranteed 2-year contracts. The last pick of the first round will still get at least $2 million over those 2 years.
That’s not even including the team options that can be exercised in the 3rd year or 4th year of that contract. That’s a lot of money for a basketball prospect to miss out on because of this rule currently in place.
Imagine if that player were to get injured playing during that year after high school graduation while they could have already been in the NBA and earned that guaranteed money.
The NBA has long envisioned the G League evolving into an alternative route for prospects who don’t want to go to college or overseas, but even that falls short in addressing the problem of lost wages.
The league announced recently that maximum salaries in the G League will be raised to $35,000. That’s still well short of what the NBA gives first-round draft picks, though.
It’s a welcome sign that the NBA is considering getting rid of the rule requiring prospects to be 19 and a year removed from college.
If you’re an adult and talented enough for a team in the NBA to want you on their roster, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be allowed to earn that type of income.
Are some high schoolers not ready for the NBA? Absolutely, but that’s on the NBA teams to determine on draft night. To deny a prospect a year of making NBA money just isn’t right, especially when unpredictable life events can happen.
These players need the freedom to be able to earn the type of money that their skills and potential dictate. Hopefully, the draft eligibility rules eventually do allow players to enter the NBA Draft out of high school once again.