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Adam Silver makes his case for raising NBA age limit to 20

Feb 15, 2014, 9:41 PM EDT

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS — New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not an NBA revolutionary. He was David Stern’s right hand man for a decade, if he felt strongly about something it’s already been dealt with. However, there has been one consistent topic Silver has brought up in the two weeks he’s been in the big chair:

Raising the NBA age limit to 20.

Nobody — not NBA people, not colleges, not fans — likes the current one-and-done rule. It was a compromise that kept NBA scouts out of high school gyms, which was the owners’ goal at the time. What NBA owners really want is players to spend at least two years in college, and Silver works for the owners. He made his case for the higher age limit again on Saturday when he spoke to the media during NBA All-Star weekend.

“It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league,” Silver said. “And I know from a competitive standpoint that’s something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders as part of college programs.”

If one were cynical (and I am), one would suggest that the NBA owners like the idea of letting the colleges develop their players a little and build them up as big name stars — all not on the NBA owners’ dime. Let somebody else develop the product you want to sell. Of course, players who want to get paid could choose the D-League or Europe and get paid, but this remains a restriction of someone’s right to work. As a side note, look at the All-Star rosters this weekend and you see most of the guys came straight out of high school or were one-and-done.

One key argument in favor of it is teams would love players to mature a little more before they get to the league. College forces players to get to practice on time, think about nutrition, get to class keep up with their studies (at least in theory), do laundry and the like. The players also have to deal with authoritarian coaches (in college the coaches have the power, in the NBA it’s the players). College forced a lot of us to grow up and the NBA would prefer that the guys they draft know how to get to practice on time or manage their money a little better, rather than have the coaching staffs feel like they need to be baby sitters.

Silver said at several points Saturday that the NBA needs to be a steward of the game and he tied that into his age limit push.

“So I think from a college standpoint if those teams could have an opportunity to jell, to come together, if those players had the benefit to play for some of these great college coaches for longer periods of time, I think it would lead to stronger college basketball and stronger NBA ball as well,” Silver said.

Silver could only put the higher age limit in place as part of a negotiation with the NBA players’ union, which has been without an executive director for a year (Billy Hunter was ousted at the All-Star Game a year ago). So there have been no talks.

The players union might be willing to concede on the age limit (the guys in the union would like to keep their jobs with reduced young challengers) but they will want something else from the league. It’s a negotiation.

While the players’ union met and talked with potential candidates Saturday in New Orleans, it appears it may be a while before anyone is put in that executive director role. Until then issues such as the age limit or Human Growth Hormone testing (or a host of “B” list issues) are discussed in a serious way.

But when they are, know Silver will be pushing for a higher age limit.

  1. mackcarrington - Feb 15, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    While it might not have made much difference from a skill level, I have always thought that Kobe Bryant would approach the game a little different if he had spent a year or two under Coach K or a Dean Smith, or a Bobby Knight. I think he would have more of a “team” outlook of the game. Of course I can blow my own argument out of the water when I think of Allen Iverson or Carmelo Anthony. They had strong college coaches and still came into the league as “me first” players.
    I also think that maybe some players like LeBron are just inherently “team” players. He is definitely an exception in his approach to the game considering his skill level.

    • therealhtj - Feb 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Please don’t confuse this with anyone caring about the College Game, the individual players, or anything of the sort. It’s all about minimizing risk and keeping attention away from the real issues that plague the league.

      Even if you draft the worst bust in history #1 overall (may have happened this year), you’re on the hook for about 5mil/yr for 2 seasons because of the rookie scale. Sure you’d rather not waste time scouting High School games and basing your draft choices on such a limited sampling, it’s not the end of the world if you whiff on a draft pick.

      What kills teams today is bad veteran contracts and max salaries well out of whack with what now amounts to a hard cap for every team other than the Lakers and two NYC area teams, maybe Dallas too if Cuban feels they’re in contention. None of the other 26 would even sniff the luxury tax today much less the looming repeater penalties.

      The players union needs to wise up. There are 400+ guys who’s vote counts just as much as the max salaried guys. A max salary starts at 25% of the cap but the raises, especially ones based on old CBA deals, can push that number closer to 50% of the cap. Those 400 sheep need to vote that down. 25%, and never more for a single player.

      Next the guaranteed money. If you’ve got money tied up in a dude who has broken down (Nash) or just stopped caring (Eddy Curry), the team’s have got to have an out. Again, the majority of the union will find more, better paying jobs if they give up on their unyielding desire to hold on to those guarantees. I know guaranteed contracts sound great on paper, but the power is in those votes, and the majority of them will never luck into a guaranteed deal. What would you rather have as the typical NBA player – 5 minimum deals, or a season here or there at $4-$5 million in your prime?

      This will only improve the product. Hopefully ownership or the majority of the Players Union will have the resolve to make this happen. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely.

  2. meast2144 - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    I think it has been time to shore up the prospects. No one knows more than 3 players in any given draft. It has become a league of mediocre players. This Allstar weekend was hard to watch. These games have become so boring

  3. dolphindubs - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    As dumb on some levels as this may sound, why not make it that you have to have a degree to enter the NBA? Maybe a business management or communications degree? If I want to be a doctor, I have to go to med school. If I want to be a lawyer, I have to go to law school. Why not make a degree a requirement for the NBA?

    I understand sports is merely entertainment, but its just a thought.

    • jcmeyer10 - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:47 PM

      Then the NBA/NCAA would actually have to admit that the label of “student athlete” is mostly a farce.

    • detectivejimmymcnulty - Feb 16, 2014 at 2:22 AM

      I’ve always felt this way about all professional sports, but it’s just not feasible. Look at the degrees these kids are getting. Most are pretty much worthless.

  4. ProBasketballPundit - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    “Nobody — not NBA people, not colleges, not fans — likes the current one-and-done rule.”

    I love it. I’m not opposed to raising the age limit to 20 but the league has become a lot better since the limit was raised to 19. I don’t give a crap about college ball… if they don’t like the one-and-done players then let those guys go to Europe and play for a season.

  5. seattlesuperchronic - Feb 16, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    What David Stern did to my beloved Seattle Super Sonics was terrible, but he was a good commissioner, probably the best of this generation. This Silver dude has got a low bottom buster quality about him that I don’t trust.

    • 00maltliquor - Feb 16, 2014 at 12:44 AM

      I agree on that. I don’t trust him either. He seems too eager to throw his own personal stamp on the game and make a name for himself. I feel like he’s going to eff everything up.

    • seattlesuperchronic - Feb 16, 2014 at 2:37 AM

      I understand the thumbs downs I got, it’s never a popular stance to be pro David Stern. I still love you guys.

  6. 00maltliquor - Feb 16, 2014 at 12:41 AM


  7. detectivejimmymcnulty - Feb 16, 2014 at 2:21 AM

    If they want to raise the limit then they need a more MLB style format for the draft. A player CAN be drafted out of high school, but if he chooses not to sign he has to stay in college for 2 or 3 years.

    I don’t watch a lot of college basketball, but most of my family watches only college basketball. I think the NBA can attract more fans by having kids stay in school longer. For instance a school like UCLA has a huge fan base so if a kid stays 2 or 3 years in college then is drafted by a team like the Bucks, he’ll draw more attention to Milwaukee by bringing some of those UCLA fans following the player.

  8. ryanaammess - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    I wish the top 100 or so players would start a 10 team league. Quit putting money into the pockets of old white men with no talent or love for the game.

  9. jamesk2465 - Feb 16, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    I don’t like the idea only people it really benefits is the NCAA. Players like Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Harrison Barnes, and now Marcus smart are players who were guaranteed a top 1-8 pick that fell some due to injury or not improving on there freshman year. I think the reason is a lot of this Colleges have the players out of position when they should be learning the position they’re going to play in the NBA. Lastly, I think the level of competition is far better in the NBA so players can develop better oppose to playing against lesser talent.

  10. Eric Chase. - Feb 16, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    I can’t see how the nba is missing the obvious here. Let the NBDL groom them. Cultivate fans in outlying markets similarly to minor league baseball, and televise those games on NBA TV. Why let Julius randle incubate at UK, when he can do it for a DL team. Let kids be drafted by the league either after HS or after one year in college…with the grounds that they must spend one full year in the DL.

    • bkbell3 - Feb 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      Your going to risk a lebron,kobe,durant etc. getting hurt by some marginal D-league player trying to make a name for himself when players like those guys were already better than the majority of guys in the nba? Also why would you play in the D league for 30,000 per year when you could get much more in europe?

  11. scbaby2013 - Feb 16, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    @dolphindubs- I like that idea a lot. Getting a degree should be a requirement. In the real world if u want a better job u get a degree. Maybe we wouldn’t see a lot of athletes broke after their playing careers.

  12. 1509lucky - Feb 16, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    In other words,Coaches are tired of losing their Jobs due to having to develop Players who although not ready to okay,are still drafted by their Organizations.

  13. 1509lucky - Feb 16, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    @dolphindubs Let me get this Straight. You basically say these Guys are a Entertainers which mist of us will agree that they are,yet you want to hold them to a totally different standard then other Entertainers? If you can Sing and Dance and sell Millions of Records at 14,or you can Act on Television as a Child,why should we make Athletes who can compete at 18 get College degrees? It’s a High time we stop with the Double standards for our expectations of Young Athletes when we don’t have the same for other Young Entertainers. If Justin Beiber can make Millions as a Teenager then why deny Wiggins,Parker,Randle and the rest?

  14. atlbrave5 - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    PLEASE PEOPLE….do NOT be fooled by what you hear. This business about age limits and quality of the game is a farce!! In theory it is something that sounds great, but please don’t over look the reality. It all comes down to MONEY..the mighty dollar! The NCAA and the NBA is a product that runs off of your money! Their problem right now is not an age limit, it’s about both businesses capitalizing the most amount of money they can. These are not Doctors or Lawyers (@dolphindubs), these are entertainers. They play by a different set of rules!

    1. If the NBA wants a better product, then tell GM’s to STOP drafting players like Anthony Bennett and Kwame Brown!! These guys were drafted a decade a part with the #1 overall pick and teams are STILL making bad decisions. If you think a 17 year old kid out of HS is not ready for the NBA..DON’T DRAFT HIM!!

    2. What is the purpose of the NBDL?? Is this league just a tax write off for the NBA?? If a 17 year old wants to turn pro, BUT doesn’t want to go to college..then allow him to go to the NBDL and then get called up to the NBA…MLB does this to some degree…they also allow players to go back to college as well!

    3. Last but certainly not least..bad contracts are what kills the NBA product! The top level stars are making $50mil a year which is fine but then you have 40 year old over the hill players like Nash still pulling in $10mil a year..I think the Knicks are still paying several players salaries that are either on other teams are out of the league. Heck the METS are still paying Bobby Bonilla!! My point is figure out a better system to NOT over pay for rotten apples and oranges, promote the NBDL better and actually USE it…and stop drafting fat, lazy nobodies as #1 picks! How long someone stays in school or how old they are is irrelevant!

  15. Jeff - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    Should be higher than 20.

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