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Report: NBA’s increased age limit proposal includes higher-paying D-League

Apr 18, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

Adam Silver Adam Silver

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is pushing the idea of upping the NBA’s age limit, mostly because the people he works for — the NBA owners — want it. We can debate whether it is a good idea or a fair one, and we can certainly dispute the idea that teams draft better and have fewer busts when they see guys longer (studies say otherwise, or just look at Michael Olowokandi). Still the fact is the owners want it.

The other fact is to get the age limit increased is a negotiation, part of the CBA with the players. To get it the Silver and the owners are going to have to give the players union something it wants….

Like a better paying D-League?

That’s the idea the league may float once the talks do begin, reports Sean Deveney of the Sporting News in a fascinating read.

According to multiple sources, a proposed plan that is circulating now would see the age limit extended from its current position — one year after high school graduation — to three years, essentially barring most players from entering the NBA until they are 20 or 21.

The sources said that, in order to pave the way for raising the age limit, the league would be willing to expand salaries in the D-League, giving each team a salary cap and allowing executives with each team to sign players as they wish. Not only would that allow D-League teams to sign good young players, it would allow NBA clubs to size up young executives and player evaluators.

None of these talks can happen until the union hires an executive director. That will take a few more months. At least.

There are currently three player pay classifications in the D-League and the highest one is $28,000 a year for this past season. That’s the most you can make, many make $15,000 total. Which means even if you’re a top D-League player you need another source of income.

What the league will undoubtedly pitch is that if they play a decent rate that a high school player who doesn’t want to go to college can head to the D-League and make at least a reasonable sum ($40,000 or more), that there would be another option other than college. Basically the league will pitch it is creating more jobs for players.

First, the league will pitch three years so that after negotiations they can get down to two. That’s now negotiations work.

But my guess is the players union will want more than just that to let this happen. We don’t know who they will bring in as executive director, but I’m pretty sure he/she will not be easily bought off with shiny trinkets.

  1. deadeyedesign23 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    How about you just have the D-League act as an actual minor league and stop having the NCAA do it for you for free you pigs.

    • adamsjohn714 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Precisely. The NBA can snatch up the top tier talent and take a huge slice of that NCAA revenue. A stronger D-league is a valuable commodity.

    • sportsfan18 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      How about the NCAA being the free minor league for the NFL?

      • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        I think the NCAA-NFL model works for both. I’m not sure the NCAA-NBA model works for either party

      • deadeyedesign23 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        It’s a free minor league for both on the backs of 18 year old kids.

        Last year Alabama athletics turned a bigger profit than every NHL team and all but 5 NBA teams. It’s amazing what unpaid labor can do for your bottom line.

      • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        Oh, I don’t mean it works for the kids.

        I mean it works for both leagues. The NCAA gets top players to make them billions and the NFL gets at least a 3-year evaluation period along with very good player development.

  2. ranfan12 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Sounds reasonable. A lot of d-league players tend to split the costs when traveling since they have much less money. Never knew they didn’t have a salary cap,

    • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      If the highest pay classification is $28,000, then there is an artificial salary cap

      • Kurt Helin - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        There is an actual salary cap. It was $173,000 for the entire team last season, this season it is a little higher but I didn’t put it in because I couldn’t quickly get the exact number back from the people I emailed.

      • ranfan12 - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        Good point. Overlooked that

  3. sire2334 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    This seems like the most obvious way to go and have been wondering why it hasn’t been this way before.

    • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      I would think because the owners are cheap (shrewd). Why pay $40,000/player when Duke will do it for you?

      • sire2334 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:37 AM


      • bougin89 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        I think Duke makes a small profit on their basketball players. Or maybe millions.

  4. metalhead65 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    how about instead of a age limit they put a wage limit on rookies? just because you want to play in the NBA does not mean you should be given star money. make them prove they are worth it before they get mega millions.

    • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Do you mean make it lower than it already is?

      • sportsfan18 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        I think he means to do what the NFL did in their last agreement. The first couple of picks in the NFL draft went from receiving like $50 million in guarantees and contracts around $75 to $80 million down to like $22 to $24 million for the first pick in the draft now…

        The NFL still has a salary floor and a cap so the money must be spent on players but they don’t have to give tens of millions guaranteed to players like Jamarcus Russell who hadn’t proved anything.

        But the NBA first round picks don’t really get that much money, not like the way it was in the NFL before their new contract so I’m not really sure what he’s getting at…

      • xmen1906 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        2011-12 NBA Rookie Scale

        Pick First Year Salary Second Year Salary Third Year Salary
        1 $4,286,900 $4,479,800 $4,672,700
        2 $3,835,600 $4,008,200 $4,180,800
        3 $3,444,400 $3,599,400 $3,754,400
        4 $3,105,500 $3,245,200 $3,385,000
        5 $2,812,200 $2,938,700 $3,065,300

      • metalhead65 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        yes. I am sure it will be a hardship for those guys to struggle on a half million to a million a year but somehow I think they will survive.

      • therealhtj - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:44 PM

        Personally I’d rather see the rookies get market value contracts and washed up vets lose their guaranteed contracts, but neither is likely.

    • bougin89 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      The NBA already has “prove it” rookie contracts. IF(big IF) you get a star in the draft that star is really underpaid for 4 years. If you select a bust he’s paid cheaply and then teams can get rid of him after only 2 seasons.

      • metalhead65 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        thanks did not know that. then why have an age limit? if these guys don’t get drafted then they get real jobs and find out what it is like in the real world. just because they want to go pro does not mean they have to be drafted.

    • tved12 - Apr 18, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      Why don’t we let free enterprise work. If a team wants to pay an 18 year old a ton of money, why not let them?

      Should the league step in and stop teams like the Lakers from signing Kobe to a stupid contract? Why should they stop a team from doing it to a rookie then?

      • bougin89 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        Oh boy…

        The “teams” (owners) are the ones that negotiated the rookie wage scale in the CBA. They literally don’t “want” to pay 18 year olds a ton of money.

      • tved12 - Apr 20, 2014 at 9:45 PM

        You mean they don’t “want” to get stuck with the risk of a bust (Sebastian Telfair?). You think there’s not one owner in the league who would have drafted Wiggins in this last draft?

      • bougin89 - Apr 21, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Where free enterprise came into play is the agreement of the CBA. The owners literally wanted a rookie wage scale, the players union didn’t have to agree to it if it really hurt there cause but before the rookie wage scale too many rookies who didn’t end up being good players were overpaid. Yes, it worked for the players like Shaq, KG, etc. but for every player it doesn’t work out with they were stuck paying too much money. Veteran players are also in favor of the rookie wage scale because they don’t want to see busts taking up the money that theoretically could be going to proven players.

        As for the actual age limit I’m all for letting players come directly out of high school and into the pros. The rookie wage scale is a great thing for the NBA(and all other professional sports leagues really).

      • tved12 - Apr 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        And who was representing the high school prospects when the CBA was signed? Keep in mind, the players union has no reason to defend these guys, as they’re not part of the union yet.

      • bougin89 - Apr 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM

        As is their right. They’ve lost too much money on prospects that haven’t been ready hence why the owners(and really veteran players too) had not only a rookie wage scale in place but the age limit.

        It’s obvious to them they aren’t worth fighting for.

      • metalhead65 - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM

        because kobe had proven himself maybe? rookies have not done anything and do not deserve it. I would like to make the 20 bucks an hr. the machine operators make where I work but since I do nt know how to run one I can’t. should be the same in sports to. if you prove you are better then you get paid more.

      • tved12 - Apr 20, 2014 at 9:48 PM

        Where you work if they think you’re good enough they have the option of putting you on a machine, right? There’s nobody saying the can’t. If a team thinks somebody coming out of HS is going to be great they should be able to take a chance on them.

  5. teflond - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    I wonder why it is never mentioned that the D-League’s minimum age is only 18. The NBA lowered the requirement for the D-League after they put the 1 and done rule in.

  6. bellerophon30 - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    I’m still wondering why more players don’t do a Brandon Jennings and head to Europe. Surely there must be some shrewd Euro owners who would see the utility in it, and it would pay a lot more than the D-League. I know it didn’t work for Jeremy Tyler, not really, but that seemed to be more his doing than the various leagues he was playing (Japan and Israel if I remember correctly).

    • borderline1988 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Brandon Jennings didn’t necessarily have such a great time in Europe:

      College is way better for the top-tier talents. Think about it:
      1) More exposure to NBA teams
      2) You play more
      3) You play against slightly inferior talent, so you can shine and learn to become a focal point of an team, rather than being a guy off the bench playing against physical grown men in Europe
      4) You can build a national brand in college..there are players now signing endorsement deals the moment they’re drafted
      5) You get to play in your home country
      6) Generally you’ll have a better time in college than in Europe

      You are giving up $1 million of taxable income for a single year by going to college instead of Europe.
      For star players, it makes perfect sense to go to college first.

      • bellerophon30 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        I worded that pretty precisely, I didn’t say why doesn’t “every” five star go to Europe, I say why don’t more. John Wall, to name one, seemed to like college for his year, and I seem to remember got terrific grades. But not all of these guys is cut out for university, especially once Silver forces the age increase down the union’s throats. So if, say, Aaron Gordon has a choice between 2 years at Arizona or the same time at Real Madrid……is it really a better choice to pick college, where he won’t get paid and could conceivably get Mitch McGary’d?

        Of course the colleges could let him use his name to get endorsement money, but that will only happen at the sword tip of a successful lawsuit. Remember, these are the people who would have barred Missy Franklin (the Olympic champion swimmer) from profiting on her name whilst in high school, even if she’d suspended her endorsements while at Cal. Brandon Jennings, for all his flaws as a basketball player, did not do poorly at Roma, and he got to learn a different culture and get paid seven figures to boot. Hardly a failure.

        In the grand scheme I shouldn’t care either way, but life is all about options, and players should explore them. American soccer players do it all the time, and whether or not they succeed, they get an experience.

      • borderline1988 - Apr 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        But only the best talents will get any sort of playing time in a top Euro-club (before they turn 20 years old). Think about that…Brandon Jennings was one of the best high-school players in the country, and he wasn’t exactly starring in Europe; he was relegated to being a role player. How much playing time will a 17 or 18 year old kid get playing against grown men, and playing in a completely different system than high school ball?

        For Aaron Gordon – absolutely he should stay in college over going to Europe. Athletic forwards who don’t shoot and dribble well won’t get significant minutes in systems where setting screens and popping for jump shots is valued. Instead of his all-around defensive skills and motor being showcased to NBA scouts, he’s going to ride the pine for awhile in Europe. He’ll look better going against college players than Euro players, even if in the long run (i.e. 5 year window) he’ll learn more in Europe than in college.

        Soccer is absolutely no comparison, because the top leagues are all in Europe.

        I know that you think being in a new culture is cool and I agree…but for a 17 year old grinding away in a top-tier men’s professional basketball league, they aren’t as likely to see it that way. Those kids want fame, they want exposure, they want parties and girls, and they want NCAA tournaments. it’ll be more of a cultural shock to them than anything else.

        And it’s true that some guys do better in school than others, but fortunately, this is America, where being a poor student has never stopped a top basketball talent from getting scholarships and somehow passing all their classes.

        The option is there for any player, but mostly I’d advise to take 1 – 2 years in college, and then re-evaluate your NBA draft position. If you cannot make it to the NBA at that point, go to Europe for a few years, hone your skills, and then come back as a more mature player.

  7. weaselpuppy - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    The college kids are compensated in the form of a scholarship, room and board, tutoring and other fringes to the tune of $25 to $50K a year. That many (or most) are allowed to treat the classwork as non-existent or a bothersome detail says only that the system they are in is broken and has been for decades. That many (or most) don’t have the educational background to do the actual classwork is another indicator of the systemic failure.

    This doesn’t diminish the fact that their efforts are revenue generators, but often gets overshadowed or ignored in the discussion, as does this question;

    How best are we serving this group of young people? Most of them will never get a paycheck from basketball. The vast majority won’t. Those that do rarely have the life skills to retain what they earn as a foundation for success for their life. Of the 450 guys in the NBA, maybe 1/2 end up being able to make basketball a career and building block for the remaining 2/3 of their lives they have ahead of them after they stop playing. Add in the few successes overseas and we have a system that truly benefits a few hundred people and fails tens of thousands.

    Instead of worrying about paying them in college, or paying them more in the D-League, The Powers That Be should be more concerned with funding a mechanism that allows NCAA players that move on w/o a degree a chance to come back, on scholarship, to complete it, with whatever support system they need, be it at the NCAA facility they attended for basketball or any other of their choice (and ability to academically qualify for with say up to a year of tutoring to get them back into that mindset if they need).

    The NCAA continues to attract the best talent and fulfills their goal of developing young adults to succeed in and contribute to society. The schools have a sunk cost of operations by operating their classes….adding 1, 10 or 100 seats a year costs them marginally near nothing. The kids get a fair shake at what will be their far more likely outcome- a future w/o professional sports.

    The guys that have the ability to succeed in the NBA to the point of being stars or even long term non stars aren’t the issue. The issue is rebalancing the outcome for the 99% that the system now awash in money and conflict of interest fails.

  8. eugenesaxe1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Let kids enter the draft at 18, mandatory 2 years in D-League. Pay all 1st-year D-Leaguers the same, give them a raise the second year.

    • adamsjohn714 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Counter: Let kids do whatever the hell they want at 18. If they’re no good, don’t draft them.

      • duhwighthoward - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        18 years old, and you are a man. Age discrimination is illegal.
        Let them play.
        Remove salary restrictions on rookies.

        Most 18 year-olds aren’t that good at that point. They need time to develop, and by the time they do blossom, their rookie contract will be up. So all the risk is on the team drafting and signing them. This will lower the value of the draft and eliminate tanking.

        Investing in young talent will be more like baseball, where upon signing a player out of high school with a lot of potential, they will send him to the minor leagues to develop. Now the D-League will be more meaningful because of the big-money players and the fans it will attract. The next Kevin Durant is not playing in the D-League right now, but under this proposed system he will, and fans will want to see.

  9. mackcarrington - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    I’m old enough to remember when the NBA tried to keep Spencer Haywood out of the league.
    They pitched a fit and he still got in after his soph year in college. Back then they called it the “hardship rule”.
    The reason the owners want a age limit is to protect themselves from themselves. If they had enough sense to know when a 18 year old was NBA quality, they wouldn’t need to restrict them.

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