Sunday, June 25, 2017

Was this year’s NBA draft the last to be dominated by college freshmen?

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas head coach Bill Self watch the replay of a foul called on Jackson during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas head coach Bill Self watch the replay of a foul called on Jackson during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Last Thursday’s NBA Draft featured a record 16 freshmen being taken in the first round, with 11 of those coming in the lottery, a reality that easily shattered the previous record of eight freshmen lottery picks.

Former Kansas star Josh Jackson was one of those, going fourth to Phoenix, during a stretch in which nine of the first 10 picks were freshmen.

The one that wasn’t? Eighteen-year-old French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who, had he played college ball in the United States last season, also would have been a freshman.

Young talent dominating draft night is nothing new in the NBA. The draft has been trending this way for years, with team executives preferring to pick potential and invest in long-range visions over taking proven but older players from the college ranks.

However, according to basketball analysts Jay Bilas and Michael Wilbon, this latest surge of one-and-done selections might have been the beginning of the end.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently said that the one-and-done rule — which is currently defined by the 19-year-old age enforcement — is not working for either the NBA or college basketball.

Wilbon agreed whole-heartedly with that sentiment and said during the draft broadcast that the general feeling is that change is coming.

“They know who the best players are,” he said of NBA front offices. “They’ve known since third grade. The question is, for the business of college basketball and pro basketball, what’s going to happen moving forward? It seems like it’s going to be two years. So I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be talking about freshmen dominating the NBA Draft.”

The two-year time frame Wilbon mentioned was in reference to the idea of young players having the choice to turn pro directly out of high school or having to stay a minimum of two seasons in college before jumping to the NBA.

That is the model used by college baseball — with three years instead of two — and is the fix for which people in both basketball worlds long have clamored.

One such person is Kansas coach Bill Self, who said after Thursday’s draft that he, too, believed change could be on the horizon.

“I do think it’s moving in that direction,” Self said. “It’s got a lot of support from a lot of decision-makers and, of course, has the vast majority of support with college coaches to allow kids to go out of high school if, in fact, they can be drafted in a way that will provide them a career or at least an opportunity to have a head start at a career.”

The biggest uncertainty about the whole thing — a wrinkle that could delay any immediate progress — is how the NBA’s Developmental League (now the G-League) plays into the picture.

“I think that’s what my biggest concern is — how does the D-League affect high school kids being able to come out,” Self said. “You don’t want to (create) a situation where it minimizes the value of an education because everyone feels like, ‘Well, if I don’t make it (in the NBA), I can just go to the D-League.’ So that’ll be interesting how it all plays out. But I certainly think it’s moving in a very positive direction to do something with the age 19 rule.”

Perhaps the biggest factor in reaching a resolution is making a decision about how salaries would be handled in the Developmental League. For instance, if a player can leave high school and go make $75,000-$100,000 playing in the NBA’s minor league, that alone might, and likely would, entice more young players to skip college for the opportunity to start cashing checks.

Like Self, that fact also is Bilas’ biggest concern and he believes much more than an NBA rule change needs to happen to truly fix the situation.

“You’re still gonna see young players leaving college if college doesn’t address (player) compensation,” Bilas said.

While steps have been taken to move forward in that department, as well, pay-for-play debates remain as big a part of college athletics as anything out there.


Joe Ross 4 years, 3 months ago

Why shouldn't they be paid? I don't care if they're on scholarship. Football and basketball players help to generate MILLIONS in revenue annually for their universities. They can't do work study. The commitment they have to have to their sports are insane. And many of these kids won't go on to lucrative professional careers in sports, despite the fact they help to generate revenue at the collegiate level. Besides, it's not like the scholarships are real incentives anyhow. A lot of these are inner city youth with little to no prior academic success, and are ill-equipped to handle academic rigor. This is why they end up in sports management majors and the like. Their degree is not going to get them top jobs in most cases. Furthermore, paying players keeps things within public view and works to discourage improper benefits (NOTHING will eliminate IBs completely, but paying players would help athletes to overcome the temptation to accept impermissable gifts and what not).

Pay the kids who play in the revenue generating sports. They make it better for everybody. Students, fans, athletes in other sports, the Universities they play for, etc.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 3 months ago

But then you get into the messy matter of figuring out how much to pay the players. How much should a quarterback be paid vs. an offensive lineman, or a point guard vs. a small forward? And if you pay the athletes in the "revenue sports", the athletes in the non-revenue sports will start clamoring for a slice of the pie. And then there's the female student-athletes whose sports are not considered revenue sports (unless you play women's basketball at a place like Tennessee or Connecticut...?) who will begin complaining that they are denied equal treatment under Title IX.

Paying the players is a Pandora's Box we really don't need to open. It's not the NCAA system that is broken; it's the coaches and players who at some point decide they are above the rules and choose to break them. And if the players don't see the value in the free education they are getting, so much the worse for them.

Mike Greer 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't often agree with Bryce, but in this case I believe he has nailed some good points. My son was a "non-revenue generating" college athlete in Div. 1, and I can tell you, he wasn't happy with that arrangement because even without "pay" the revenue generating athletes got way more in scholarships, books, fees, room and board, etc. Think about how these student athletes are going to feel if the football and basketball players get paid.

Also, I think the Title IX comment makes this a non starter. Women have no football equivalent, this is one reason many universities have dropped a great number of men's sports, yet still have that sport for women, this is a serious inequality issue. If they had to pay women athletes the same as male athletes, they would have to drop all men's sports other than FB and BB to equal out the overall amount spent on men's and women's sports.

If high school basketball players opt to go straight to the NBA, even if it's the G-League, that's their option and their decision. What difference does it make if a player gets $200,000 for two years in the G-League or get's two years of college? Both put that player in the same position at the end of the two years.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 3 months ago

Yes. Title IX is "the elephant in the room", "the albatross around the neck", or whatever cliche you want to use. It's hurting universities and draining their bank accounts more than it is helping the young women who participate in college athletics. It needs to be done away with as being a burdensome regulation in a time when our economy is already burdened with too many regulations.

Mike Greer 4 years, 3 months ago

The problem with Title IX is football. There is no other collegiate sport that either costs as much or generates as much cash flow as football. If there were a way to take football out of the Title IX equation, I think you could make things work out, perhaps awkwardly, but it might be possible. With football in the mix, there is no chance.

As long as football remains part of Title IX, there is no way they are going to be able to pay collegiate athletes.

Robert Brock 4 years, 3 months ago

The decision-makers are the NBAPA members (the union). They established the present rule - that incoming players must be 19 years of age. It appears that they are not interested in changing that rule. Why should they? What will management do to "sweeten the pot" and get them to change the rule? The NBAPA doesn't care about the baseball rule or the hockey rule or the curling rule...

Tracey Graham 4 years, 3 months ago

As long as this current "one and done" rule is in effect, college freshmen will continue to dominate the draft...especially the lottery.

Here's my solution: (1) Allow high school players to be eligible for the NBA Draft, but do not allow them to sign with an agent until after the draft (agents are really not all that important until contracts come into play; the players can find ways to schedule workouts for teams without agents). (2) The NCAA gives each college teaam 1 additional scholarship each season that will be held open for HS players who declare for the draft. That gives the HS players the opportunity to go to college if they aren't selected in the draft at all (and possibly can be used on HS players who are taken in 2nd rd of draft if they don't sign w/pro team). (3) If a player does end up going to college, he must stay 2 years before becoming eligible for the NBA draft or to be signed by any NBA team as a FA (this is similar to the MLB rule, although I think that is 3 years). (4) The NCAA will allow college players to receive a stipend during their season (but not for the months in which their sport is not taking place) and to receive a small percentage of the money made off merch that uses their name or likeness (so, for example, a basketball player would receive a stipend for November through April (but not for May-Oct) & would get like 1% of the money made off a jersey with his name and/or photo on it. But if the jersey just is a generic team one without a player's name or picture, they would not receive a % of that). The stipends would be limited to a reasonable percentage of the income generated by that sport, so it's not like any student-athlete would be getting rich, but at least they would have some money coming in, similar to if they had a "real" part-time job during those months.

I know my solution isn't perfect, but I think it's an improvement over the current rule. Especially in terms of the "one and done" part. The whole "pay the student-athlete" thing is more complicated.

Robert Brock 4 years, 3 months ago

Tracey - why would the players union be interested in your proposal? What does it do for them?

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 3 months ago

Don't even go the baseball route, just make it 2 years regardless. The reason being is that there are so few HS players genuinely ready for the NBA at 18. It took Kobe almost 2 years to become a starter and it wasn't until years 3 and 4 that he became a star.

Physical and mental development (maturity) is so hit or miss with 18 year olds (17 in some cases on draft night) that the risk really isn't worth it in the majority of cases. How many of the HS players ended becoming stars with the team that drafted them compared to how either became stars elsewhere or flamed out entirely?

There's one huge difference between the NBA and MLB that differentiates drafting a HS kid and that's the minor league system in place. Baseball players work their way through a minor league system that has multiple levels of development whereas in the NBA, it's the NBA and if you get sent to the D-League, you're automatically labelled a bust and are usually out of the league not long after that.

Titus Canby 4 years, 3 months ago

First of all, why isn't the one-and-done rule working for the NBA? Any insight on that?

Secondly, if we're going to pay college players, let's make it a true business, which is what they're asking for:

1) Discontinue the charade of the "student athlete." They already have a profession, so they don't need to take classes.

2) Discontinue the scholarship. If we're paying them, they don't need it.

3) Discontinue free housing. Again, we're paying them, so they don't need it.

4) Negotiate salaries, just like any other job.

5) A player can be fired at any time for any reason. Just like any other job.

6) No limit on the number of "employees" you can have. If Kentucky wants to hire 50 players, they can. If we only want to hire 5, we can.

Seems simple to me. Welcome to the real world.

Mike Greer 4 years, 3 months ago

If I can paraphrase the NCAA commercial ". . . 95% of us are going pro in something other than sports . . . ". If that's the case, then why not just do away with scholarships altogether and field teams comprised of actual "student athletes", who want to participate in a collegiate sport? There is no reason in my opinion for the University of Kansas to host a semi-pro basketball team. I can just as easily watch and enjoy a team made up of Conner Teahans, Tyler Selfs, and Evan Mannings.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 3 months ago

We have enough trouble getting to the Final Four as it is; with a team of walk-ons, we have absolutely no shot at it. Allen Fieldhouse would go from sold out every game and raucous to a few thousand cheering politely.

Mike Greer 4 years, 3 months ago

Bryce, I'm not suggesting only KU not host a semi-pro team, I'm suggesting no university host a semi-pro team. All teams would be student athletes, not paid or scholarshiped. That's a level playing field and our chances of making the Final Four would be as good or better than they are now.

Robert Brock 4 years, 3 months ago

This thread is all about unicorns and pixy-dust.

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