I am the rarest of sports fans — a Kansas basketball fan who closely follows the NHL. With those strange characteristics, I have a unique view of how wrong the NBA’s age requirement is and how simple it is to fix.
I have enjoyed seeing Xavier Henry, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid play. With the proper solution, these players could get drafted when they are 18 AND STILL PLAY NCAA BASKETBALL.
Mark Cuban’s arrogance has caused a myopia in which he can’t see past the system used in the league that shares an arena with his team. Cuban was recently quoted as saying.
“I think what will end up happening — and this is my opinion, not that of the league — is if the colleges don’t change from the one-and-done, we’ll go after the one,” Cuban said.
The article also mentioned that “Cuban’s biggest concern about one-and-done prospects is that they’re often not mentally, emotionally and psychologically prepared for the NBA after spending only one season in a college environment.”
They aren’t and it’s the NBA’s fault. The one-and-done is in place BECAUSE OF THE NBA not the other way around. Without the silly age limit, NCAA basketball has fewer one-and-dones because they may go straight to the NBA.
The NBA sets the pace for what the NCAA does. If Cuban honestly wanted to solve the problem, there is a simple solution and it’s not forcing a kid to go to Canton, Ohio and play in front of 1,700 people.
Take the NHL’s lead and adopt their system.
A 17-year old hockey player can look forward to having several options.
A hockey player is eligible for the draft as long as they reach 18 by September 15 of their draft year. If they are 18 by September 15, an NHL team may draft that player. Then, as long as the player doesn’t sign with an agent, or accept money, the hockey player has several options:
1.) Sign an NHL contract. They may make the NHL roster — like Sidney Crosby, Nathan McKinnon or, wait for it, Seth Jones, the son of one of Cuban’s former players. Or, they may go to the AHL. AHL attendance per game is about double NBADL attendance per game.
2.) Go to the NCAA. If the player hasn’t signed with an agent, they may play NCAA hockey after being drafted — like Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie who played at North Dakota or Chris Kreider who played at Boston College.
3.) Go to Europe and play (few do)
Granted, some NHL drafted players continue to play Junior Hockey in Canada. If a player plays Junior Hockey in Canada they are ineglible for the NCAA.
The NHL team drafts the 18-year old player. The 18-year old player decides to play NCAA hockey. The NHL team retains that player’s rights throughout his NCAA career. Then, once the player gives up his NCAA eligibility, he may sign an entry-level contract and immediately play in the NHL. Chris Kreider is a good example.
On June 26, 2009, Kreider was a 17-year old hockey player at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass, who wouldn’t turn 18 for two more months. The New York Rangers drafted the 17-year old with the ninth overall pick. Kreider is a power forward and his 18-year old body wasn’t ready for the role he would play in the NHL. So, Kreider didn’t sign with an agent and decided to play at Boston College. Kreider played three seasons at Boston College. In the Spring of 2012, Kreider led the Eagles to a National Championship. Right after the Eagles won the National Championship, Kreider declared he wasn’t going to return to BC, signed with the Rangers and played in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games, without playing a single minute in the regular season.
The NBA could easily adopt this system. Let’s look at some hypothetical examples.
PLAYER A – Turns 18 in February 2013 and is, therefore, eligible for the 2013 NBA draft. He’s a smart kid. His father is a former NBA player. He doesn’t need the automatic payday the NBA provides and could really use a year or two to fill out his 6’8″ frame. The player gets drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. He consciously doesn’t sign with an agent and decides to go to Kansas University. The NBA team that owns his rights agrees. He leads the 2013-2014 Jayhawks to a Final Four appearance. Once the season is over, PLAYER A declares that he is not going to return to KU and immediately joins his NBA team for the final 10 games of the season. The player gains strength, maturity and basketball knowledge playing for Bill Self and the NBA team still has his talent on the roster in 2013-2014 season and all of the 2014 off-season to help him with strength, conditioning and the counseling to which Cuban refers. Think this is far-fetched? Phil Kessel played one year of NCAA hockey. Think it helped or hurt his career?
PLAYER B — Turns 18 on September 30, 2012 and is, therefore, ineligible for the 2012 NBA draft. He has also graduated from high school. Quite a conundrum — can’t turn pro, can’t return to his high school. So, the player signs with Syracuse. He plays one year for Jim Boeheim and gains the experience of playing for Boeheim, in front of 20,000+ fans and plays in the NCAA tournament. Kid is a star. Yet, he’s still skinny and could add some bulk. Earlier in the season, he missed three games because of the grind of his first college basketball season. In the 2013 NBA draft, he’s selected #27. The NBA team really doesn’t need him to fill a role in 2013-2014. He doesn’t sign with an agent and decides to return to Syracuse for another season. After that season, he still doesn’t feel like he’s ready. He joins his NBA team in the Spring of 2015, after playing three seasons of NCAA basketball. Think this is farfetched? TJ Oshie played three seasons of NCAA hockey after getting drafted as an 18-year old. Think it helped or hurt his career?
PLAYER C — is ready for the NBA. His father also played in the NBA. As an 18-year old, he is drafted with the 13th overall pick and immediately traded. He goes straight to his NBA team and later wins five rings. Worked out OK for Kobe as it has worked out OK for Crosby, McKinnon, Jones and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The NBA just needs to follow the NHL model. If Cuban truly believes a player would be better served in the NBADL, then drop the age restriction, draft 18-year olds and send them to the NBADL. However, players would be even better served if the system allowed them to keep their NCAA eligibility and have the choice to play NBA, NBADL or experience college life and receive great coaching from some of the World’s best coaches.
Which player gets more prepared for the NBA? One that is coached by Bill Self or Jim Boeheim or Coach K or Lon Kruger or Tom Crean or any of the other great coaches in the NCAA and plays in front of 15,000+ fans? Or, one playing for Nevada Smith in Hidalgo, Texas?
NBA owners need to drop their arrogance and understand that the NHL owners have a better system — and HAVE FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.