NBA's G League makes monster move that could impact college basketball recruiting


G League logo

G League logo by Matt Tait

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, 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.


Brett McCabe 1 year ago

Thank you. Goodbye OAD and good riddance.

Suzi Marshall 1 year ago

If the NCAA allows players to sign 3rd party deals, an elite player would be crazy to not pick college, unless he really hates school. Why would an elite player sign a D-League $1XXk deal playing in front to nobody with no exposure, when he can get the same $100k from a shoe company to play in front of a packed house on national TV? Companies will get much better exposure sponsoring collegiate athletes. I can see the day when players will be earning millions on 3rd party deals while staying in college. How good a deal would it have been for Nike to pay Tiger Woods millions while he stayed in Stanford, with summers free to play in the majors, free to collect the prize money. The NCAA Golf Championship, with a 19 year old Tiger, would have HUGE ratings. Nike, Stanford, the NCAA would all be big winners.

Dane Pratt 1 year ago

They may not play in front of 16k screaming fans at AFH but they will be playing in front of the people who count. The NBA is not going to set up this league without paying attention.

Kenny George 1 year ago

College is by far the better training ground compared to the G-League. I have been to many G-League games and most of the players are washed up Euro League types or just guys willing to play for nothing. This will only create the potential for higher bidding prices for high school talent.

Matt Tait 1 year ago

I'm not disagreeing with you. I haven't actually been to a G League game. But I think the theory here is that higher salaries, at least in some small way, should create a league with better talent all around.

I still think the better path is college because of the impact of being on ESPN and playing in the tournament and playing for guys like K, Self, Izzo, etc.

But if you're looking to get paid and if — IFFFFF — the NCAA gets serious about cracking down on paying players and their families under the table, then this is a pretty good alternative.

We'll see how it plays out. Should be interesting at the very least.

Stephen Simmons 1 year ago

...and remember that $125k is just the tip of the iceberg. If Nike/Addidas/UA wants to throw another six figures at a kid to secure their position hoping to have the next Lebron in their shoes, that's fine too. Then cue the agents who might be willing to throw other incentives a kid for their representation, and now you're talking about some real money.

Imagine a Billy Preston situation, but completely above board. Go play in Souix Falls for a year (in front of 500 fans, but plenty of NBA scouts), earn $125k in salary, keep that car that got you in trouble, let Mom keep the shoe money, and probably bank even more on top of it...totally legal and above board.

I still think the G-league will have plenty players on their way out of the league trying to hang on, and Euros but it's a finite pool of opportunity, and tossing a dozen OADs into the mix will increase the overall level of play.

Kenny George 1 year ago

Thanks Matt. I think we both agree college is a better place for 18 year old kids to grow and learn as opposed to G-League.

Michael Maris 1 year ago

I guess it's coming down to the P5 Schools are this much closer to exiting the NCAA, and forming their own league with a League Commissioner over seeing all members.

Brian Skelly 1 year ago

 The irony to me is that we have a trial here implicating multiple schools with this pay-to-play issue,  and now it's announced that the going rate for a top high school pick to the G-League is 125k.    Sounds about the market was right after all.

Titus Canby 1 year ago

This is a great start. The OAD "rule" sucks, and doesn't seem legal to me, so I"m all in favor of this move. A kid who wants to pay for play should be able to, and not have to go to college to do so.

I understand this new Select Contract isn't perfect, but maybe it's a start in building more exposure for the G League down the road, and eventually get rid of the stupid *&^$-ing OAD.

Craig Carson 1 year ago

this will help, but it wont stop corruption alone..DeSousa wasnt projected as a OAD player and he appears to have received some level of benefits...even if they abolish the OAD entirely, all that means is that the top kids who dont opt for the NBA will become the new hot commodities....

Robert Brock 1 year ago

It would be fun to go to a G-League game. 300 fans. Distracted kids popping pockcorn bags, providing some sound. Most people in the stands looking at their phones...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.