The NBA’s Opportunity to Fix Pro & College Basketball


A few weeks ago, during an episode of “The B.S. Report,” Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman discussed (half-heartedly) ideas in which to make college basketball players stay in school longer than just one season.

That discussion triggered a memory of a conversation I had in a dimly lit ice fishing shack a little more than a year ago with a buddy of mine. The finer points of that conversation were a little hazy (we had consumed a lion’s share of the light beer in Itasca County, Minnesota at that point) I remember clearly coming up with an idea that had the same goal as Simmons and Klosterman, but resulted in a much more logical conclusion (I think, or at least the way I remembered) and in effect came up with the method in which the NBA can fix NCAA Basketball‘s biggest problem (which would also solve an NBA problem).

By Peter Christian


It’s hard to argue that the NCAA has an issue when it comes to discerning between student-athletes and athletes who take up residence on the campus. For most sanctioned sports, the former makes up the majority. In Men’s College Basketball however, that isn’t quite the case.

Each year, a crop of extremely talented basketball players enter into the ranks of the collegiate level with the plan of attending school for a semester, playing one college basketball season then leaving school to enter the NBA Draft. This trend was a result of the NBA including a draft eligibility provision in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement stating a player could not be drafted unless he was 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft or a full year had elapsed since the player’s high school graduation.

That inclusion was a step to curtail the influx of players that were jumping from high school straight into the pros (h/t to Nelly) and making it increasingly harder to be an NBA GM (league GMs were already struggling at identifying prospects from the college game, add in recruiting less developed players playing in high school and it was a train wreck in waiting). It was only to help the league in weeding out potential busts and prevent wasted money. That was the ONLY reason.

Even if it was perceived as a decision to help college basketball in adding appeal or increasing the level of play, it wasn’t about that. In fact, if anything, it’s hurt the college game more that the “one and done” players are now a part of the game and the recruiting process.

On the professional side, the rule change didn’t have nearly the impact the NBA was hoping. NBA GMs still struggle with evaluating talent of young players and identifying how certain college basketball success will translate into NBA success.

Now however, the NBA has another crack at it. The 2005 CBA expires on July 1st, 2011 and when the NBA owners sit down and meet with the Players’ Union, they can take the next logical step in protecting the NBA front offices from themselves. Well, at least they can try.

Here’s how to do it:

First, extend the draft eligibility rules to state that in order to play in the NBA a player must be at least three years removed from their high school graduation. Second, make a provision that a player may enter the draft after one or two years of college play, but the player must play one season in the NBDL prior to joining the NBA team holding its draft rights. The provision will also allow for players to get a signing bonus based on where they were selected but their salary will be a D-League salary and once they are eligible for NBA play there is no guarantee that they make the NBA team.

That’s basically it.

Of course, there’d be a ton more legalese and fancy words thrown in to make it sound official but that’s the gist. A player that needs to make money for his family’s sake can make it, they just won’t make millions right away (just like they wouldn’t if they decided to go work at a box factory). A team can take a shot on the kid they think has a ton of untapped potential and the risk (and cost) is severely lessened.

Personally, I’d also add in the option for players to be drafted, receive no money, be able to attend mini-camps and train with the pro team but be able to return to school for another year (or two) like they could in year’s past while the team still holds their draft rights (similar to the NHL draft style except that the player still controls which year he is draft eligible).

Although, the NCAA would have to sign off on that system to ensure players who were drafted and attended the professional workouts were still eligible through their clearinghouses. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that last part happening.

It seems like a simple enough idea and concept that no one would be overly opposed, right? Even the Players Union should be in favor because it will prevent veterans from unfairly losing their jobs due to opportunities given to unproven prospects (who are guaranteed rosters spots).

So who says no?

No, really. Who?


  1. Thoma SAwyer says

    Another way is to rule that once a college coach gives a scholarship, that scholarship is gone for four years, whether the athlete is there or not. You would need to raise the limit to 15 or 16,and include rules about when the coach leaves, but the thrust would be to eliminate the one and done.

  2. Peter Christian says

    That would have to be an NCAA rule. If the NCAA was seriously concerned about preserving the “student” portion of the Student-Athlete, they’d make a scholarship offer a contract wherein it’s stated a player must pay back the scholarship if they leave the school to pursue the sport professionally. I’ve got more on this topic that will be posted next week.

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