NBA's G League makes monster move that could impact college basketball recruiting
While the future of college basketball recruiting as we know it may be changing as a result of what comes from the three-week federal trial in New York City, the NBA’s G League on Thursday announced a move that could change things even quicker.
Beginning with the 2019-20 season, the NBA’s minor league system formerly known as the D League, will offer “Select Contracts” worth $125,000 annually to a small group of athletes who are at least 18 years old but not yet eligible for the NBA Draft.
The prospects who are eligible for these six-figure contracts will be determined by a newly formed group of G League officials who will identify which elite players are eligible for the max contracts. Beyond that, the only requirement is that a player must be 18 by Sept. 15 of the season they would play and, in the case of prospects older than 18, cannot have gone through an NBA Draft in the past.
Cue the one-and-done culture to listen up. These contracts could be aimed specifically at them.
With testimony from the trial alleging that players like former KU forward Billy Preston, one-time Louisville commitment Brian Bowen and former Arizona star DeAndre Ayton were paid between $90,000 and $100,000 just to commit to the programs they did, it’s not hard to see how even more money — the $125,000 offered by the Select Contracts — could entice some prospects to forego college all together and instead start cashing checks while instantly creating an in to the NBA world.
The G League, in a Thursday release, is claiming that these new contracts are merely their answer to the calls for better development for players who might one day become factors in the NBA. But make no mistake about it, the timing here suggests that the G League — and the NBA as a result — are eager and willing to strike during an era of uncertainty for college basketball without creating wholesale rule changes at the NBA level.
“Select Contracts are an answer to the basketball community’s call for additional development options for elite players before they are eligible for the NBA,” said NBA G League President Malcolm Turner in a news release. “The supporting infrastructure surrounding these newly created Select Contracts is designed to provide a rich offering of basketball and life skills developmental tools for top young players to grow along their professional paths from high school to the pros.”
It’s hard to know today exactly what kind of impact these new contracts could have on the college game. Not all elite prospects are going to (a) be eligible for these new contracts or (b) desire to sign one. Some prospects — perhaps several — still will desire the college basketball pit stop, where they can receive top-tier coaching, immeasurable marketing opportunities (mostly via so many of their games being on national television and, of course, the NCAA Tournament) and a bridge between their high school lives and basketball as a full-time job.
But there’s no doubt that some will not. Heck, just this year, Darius Bazley, a five-star recruit ranked No. 18 in the 2018 class by Rivals.com, opted out of his commitment to Syracuse to jump straight to the G League. And that was before the creation of the Select Contracts and at a much lower annual salary. Bazley instead elected to sit out the entire year to prepare for the 2019 draft, but the move still spoke loudly.
The Select Contracts are merely the latest move in an ongoing effort by the G League to make their roster spots more attractive — read: more profitable — and improve the status of the league while also offering younger players currently prohibited from the joining the NBA until they turn 19 a path outside of college basketball.
In addition to higher salaries in general, the G League also recently has increased the number of two-way contracts it can offer, which not only adds money to a player’s potential earnings, but also creates a cleaner, easier path to playing time in the NBA.
It’s too early to speculate too much, either way, about what these new contracts might mean. But it’s not hard to imagine a player like former KU forward Cliff Alexander signing a Select Contract, taking the money and trying his hand in the G League before entering the draft and less likely that future Top 5 picks and multimillionaires Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson would go this route.
For the latter, the year at Kansas was as much about building a brand as it was the basketball.