Apr 12, 2011, 12:35 PM EDT
While the age limit should be a side issue to the upcoming NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement — percentage of basketball related income is the real number to watch — it looks like it could be another little battleground.
Billy Hunter from the players union said that he didn’t think it was appropriate to keep an 18-year-old from being able to seek gainful employment. He wants one-and-done to be done.
Some owners want to make it two years, reports Marc Spears at Yahoo.
Several high-ranking NBA team executives told Yahoo! Sports they wouldn’t be surprised if the age limit in the new CBA is pushed to two years in college and 20 years old by the end of that calendar year. One NBA general manager says about two-thirds of teams are in favor of that change. The current CBA states that an American must be out of high school for at least one year and be 19 years old by the end of that calendar year before entering the draft.
The owners will sell this about how it is good for the college game, good for the NBA to have more established names and stars in the draft, how one-and-done didn’t work as they hoped. College basketball people will understandably think this is a good idea for their sport.
But it’s not about the sport — it’s about money. And the owners saving themselves from themselves.
The last NBA draft where high schoolers were allowed in, the Trail Blazers used the No. 6 pick on Martell Webster. Then they had to spend a couple years really developing him and it was his third season before he was really contributing as a starter and putting in 10 points a game. The Lakers took Andrew Bynum No. 10 and it was sort of the same thing. The Celtics took Gerald Green No. 18 in that draft and he is out of the league.
Drafting high school players is hard and expensive. First you have to pay scouts to get film and fly wherever to get a look at this kid. You’ve got to work them out. Then you’ve got to try and project how the kid is going to be in a couple years. It’s a more expensive effort than drafting college kids, and there is more risk on how they will pan out. If you think the risk is worth it and you draft a high schooler you’ve got to pay him millions while you develop his skills.
What the owners want is somebody else to develop this talent for them for free. And after a couple years of college you have an older-mature player and you have a better idea of how good, or not good, they are going to be. You make fewer mistakes.
So the owners win, college basketball wins — and the elite players get screwed.
No doubt, there is a real value in a college education and the college experience. But there is no reason to hold the Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire type players out of the league. If you’re good enough to go, you should be eligible for the draft. You should get paid. Some are mature enough to handle it. If Doc Rivers’ son Austin is good enough to go pro, he should have that option.
If you want to set up a baseball like system, where kids can go pro or they can go to college — but if you go to college you are there three years. That’s fine. But the age limit is arbitrary and about protecting owners and GMs at the expense of the young players. Players don’t really like it. The players union is giving that good lip service right now, but will they really fight for it or when push comes to shove would they be willing to trade the rights of future but not current union member get the current union members something they want?
Either you can play in the NBA or you can’t, but if you’re good enough you should be allowed on the court regardless of age. However, like the rest of this CBA, it is really about the owners setting up rules to protect themselves from themselves. And to make sure they save a few bucks in the process.
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