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Draft age limit, other “B-list” issues still to be resolved

Nov 26, 2011, 12:59 PM EDT

NBA And Players Representatives Meet To Discuss Possible Settlement Getty Images

There are still some big issues sitting out there unresolved in the NBA labor talks.

At what age can players declare for the NBA draft? Keep it at 19 (the one-and-dones) or move it to 20? Or 18? Then there are the specifics of the NBA drug testing policies. And the rules in the unlikely event of the league contracts a team. Plus the owners still have to finalize their revenue sharing plan.

That’s just the tip of iceberg of the B-list issues the lawyers for the NBA owners and players still have to hammer out. They may be secondary issues to how to divide up the money, but they impact the lives of players and future generations of NBA players.

These issues are not going to derail the framework of the NBA labor deal hammered out by NBA owners and players in the wee hours of Saturday morning in New York.

Neither side can afford to let that happen. The five-month NBA lockout that cost 480 games of this season has already tested the faith of NBA fans and risked alienating the fan base in the middle of the worst recession the nation has seen in more than 50 years. To go back on the handshake deal now, to offer a season then pull it back, would simply devastate the game in a way neither side can afford to do. What’s the point of arguing over how to divide the revenue pie if the pie gets much smaller?

But there are still plenty of issues on the table. And the sides don’t agree on them.

The NBA draft age limit will be the biggest. In early proposals the owners wanted to move it to age 20 — essentially two-and-dones. The players have said this is something they want to see moved back to age 18. Expect this to move to 20 or stay the same — this is a more important issue for owners. They do not want to go back to scouting high school players again, both for the expense of it and the unpredictability of the picks. The owners like the idea of more college ball during which time players can be evaluated, plus the NCAA hype machine can already start turning them into stars fans want to follow. Both good things for the owners. Which is why they want this more than the players want the issue moved back to age 18.

This will be one of the next issues on the table and could be decided before the weekend is over, according to a source near the talks.

Other issues include can the league start testing for human growth hormone with a blood test as Major League Baseball just agreed to? That will be a hard sell with players but would be welcomed by many fans.

Another key issue for fans will be the rules on assigning players to the D-League. In the old deal players could be sent down only for the first two years of their contracts and at full NBA salary. Owners want to be able to send players down for more years — up to five — and reduce their salary while down in the “minors.” More years is one thing but the salary reductions would be a very tough sell to the union.

Almost tied to that, should the NBA draft be expanded to a third round? The idea from owners — aside creating a little more draft buzz — is to find guys that they can send to the D-League and develop into NBA players over a few years. Already much of the second round is that way, do we need more?

The other big issue out there is not in the labor deal itself but will be key — the owners still need to finalize the revenue sharing plan amongst themselves. Proposals were put forward but the owners didn’t feel they could talk about revenue sharing until they saw how much they were getting back from the players. Now they know. But getting big markets to fork over more to small markets is always going to be contentious.

There are a host of other interesting little issues we will get to discuss just like those over the coming weeks.

Point is, while the NBA is on the verge of a labor deal there are a lot of issues still on the table. Negotiations will continue. And for guys like high school seniors with dreams of the NBA, those talks matter a lot.

  1. therealhtj - Nov 26, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Hey Kurt, any word on the stretch clause? There’ve been some conflicting reports on it. Is it only good on future deals or is it retroactive? Players shouldn’t care either way, right? They still get paid. How about for extensions that kick in this year? Will the stretch apply there.

    As for salaries, are they just going to be prorated based on the # of games played? Will max extensions kicking in this year be valued any differently based on the new BRI Split? I’m sure there’s an article forthcoming on this, but was wondering if you had a scoop on this.

  2. redbear18 - Nov 26, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    They should do something like the MLB for the draft. Let players enter the draft right out of high school. If they aren’t drafted or are unhappy with where they are drafted, allow them to go to college and re-enter the draft after their junior year if they want to. This way, the players who are ready to play get their chance right away, and the ones who aren’t go to college to develop their skills, and suddenly, we have whole drafts full of NBA-ready players in a couple years, plus higher quality of play and less heartbreak for college fans. Win-win, amirite?

    • 6thsense79 - Nov 26, 2011 at 3:55 PM

      But baseball isn’t a revenue producing college sport so that will never fly with the NCAA. They want their revenue producers in Football and Basketball under their thumb and no way will they do anything to help them evaluate if they’re ready for the pros right out of high school. I suspect even if the owners and players agree to your plan the NCAA would never sign off.

    • idontevenwannaknow - Nov 26, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      If that was the case, as in the MLB draft style, I’m sure that NBA teams will still reach to grab a player’s rights based on potential, and then we are in the same boat again, reaching for potential, hit or miss every year again. Give them a couple years of real world experience after they turn 18, get some extra tape on a player, draft more intelligently. Of course, if I was 18, full of potential, I would hate the 2 year rule, I’d want my money. I’m not trying to take anything out of anyone’s pocket, but extra information about a player, international or college would be welcomed by me. I understand each side, but a true special player would still get his money over the life of his career, while also shielding the huge monetary investment that NBA owners take on.

      Or, overhaul the NBADL, make it easier for teams to keep a players rights longer the longer he is in the NBADL. It would be a cheaper risk for employers while keeping the NCAA free from those players that would tarnish their school by taking money to play while in college.

      • tomshoe - Nov 27, 2011 at 8:27 AM

        That’s what I do in NBA 2K12 all the time. If I have to choose between equally overhyped/bad players, I go with the one with more potential all the time.

    • hail2tharedskins - Nov 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM

      idontevenwannaknow is right. The problem with drafting kids out of high school is that they end up getting drafted based on potential not readiness. I can’t think of a single player that was actually ready to play in the NBA out of high school besides LeBron James. Kobe wasn’t even ready. If you allow NBA teams to draft high school kids, the teams lucky enough to hold the top picks will allow reach based on potential as they are not likely to be in that draft position to grab that player again in a year or two. The only way to stop teams from drafting based on potential is with the age limit, personally I am for increasing the age limit. Its a win-win-win: fans win because they get to see a better talent in college and more refined skills in the pros, teams win because they are better able to evaluate a players skills, and the players win whether they realize it or not by being force to get an educatuation before they start living in the real world and earning a bunch of money they dont know how to manage. Personally, I believe the NBA should do like the NFL and require a player be 3 years removed from their high school graduating class.

  3. brentton32 - Nov 26, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    I like the idea of the baseball rule except I do not think the players that are drafted to a team they don’t like or go lower then expected should have to stay pro.

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