College basketball is changing… and it’s changing fast.
The NCAA passed the one time transfer rule in April of 2021. About three months later, players were able to start earning money off their name, image and likeness (NIL). These two things have changed college sports for the foreseeable future. When it comes to college basketball, the ‘free agency’ these two policy changes have created has caused over 1,500 college basketball players to transfer each of the past two off-seasons.
However, another major change in college hoops is soon to come.
According to a report from The Athletic, the NBA and NBPA are working on finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement before the Dec. 15 deadline. One of the proposed rule changes is lowering the NBA Draft age restriction from 19 to 18 years old, and as soon as 2024. Doing this would mean basketball players would be allowed to enter the NBA Draft directly out of high school. The talks about this policy change are positive according to the report.
The NBA used to allow high school graduates to enter the NBA Draft. Players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard were all drafted out of high school, and all had/continue to have marvelous careers. However, in 2005 they changed the draft age limit to 19, and now 17 years later they want to change it back.
So what does this mean for college basketball? Here are 3 takeaways from the proposed end of the one-and-done era.
Less star talent in college
The names I listed above of players drafted out of high school are all on their way to hall of fame careers, and have all been arguably the best in the game at one time in their careers. What if we were able to watch those players in college for at least a year? Imagine if LeBron James committed to Ohio State and dominated the B1G; he would’ve most likely had the greatest one season in college basketball history.
Since the rule change in 2005, college basketball has benefitted from it by having some of the greatest talent ever seen in the sport. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis, and Zion Williamson – just to name a few – are players college basketball fans had the privilege of watching due to the age change.
If the age limit goes back to 18 years old, we would be seeing less players of this type of caliber. This past season, you could argue Paolo Banchero was the best freshman in college basketball, but he was unarguably the most NBA-ready freshman. His confidence, skill set and body at 18 all made up an NBA-caliber player. If he was able to enter the 2021 NBA Draft instead of going to Duke for a season, he may have not gotten picked 1st overall, but I guarantee a team would’ve taken a shot early.
However, the thing that saves college basketball in this space is NIL. With players being able to earn money, and lots of it, it will potentially keep high school graduates, who may or may not be NBA ready, coming to college. It’s already keeping star college talent of the same questions stay in school, like Oscar Tschiebwe and Drew Timme. So although future players like Banchero are likely to go to the draft based on their attributes that make them an NBA ready player at 18, NIL will keep other prospects in college
G-League Ignite no more?
In April of 2020, the NBA created their college basketball alternative: G-League Ignite. The program pays some of the top prospects up to $500,000 to come and train in NBA-like facilities and against NBA-like players. The benefit is that the caliber of training these prospects are receiving is better than the training they’d get in college. The negative is the low amount of exposure these players receive.
Former Ignite player Jalen Green, who the Rockets picked second in the 2021 NBA Draft, said if he played in college he would’ve been picked first overall. Not exactly good promotion for the G-League Ignite.
If high-school graduates are able to go straight to the NBA, along with NIL being prominent in the college space and the exposure of college basketball, the room for G-League Ignite to thrive is very slim. The NBA pays more and players obviously get the training they are looking for in something like Ignite. Along with that, NIL allows players to earn as much money as they can get. Nijel Pack, a transfer from K-State to Miami, signed a two-year $800,000 NIL deal. Pack isn’t what someone would call a star in college basketball, yet he’s earning $400,000 a year.
The G-League Ignite was initially a smart move by the NBA, but with furthered changes to college basketball, it could quickly die off.
NBA taking a risk on talent
Obviously, James, Bryant, Garnett, McGrady and Howard all turned out as amazing players in the NBA, but what about others that didn’t turn out so amazing?
Daryl Dawkins, Johnathan Bender, Darius Miles, Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, and Shaun Livingston. What two things do all these players have in common? They were all picked top five out of high school, and none made an NBA All-Star team. Now, that doesn’t mean they were failures as players. Livingston is a three-time champion and was a vital piece of the Warriors’ run from 2015-2019.
The point is that no matter the draft spot a team takes a high school player, or the talent that player has, it is always a huge risk. One year a team could pick Kobe Bryant at 13th overall, and then three years later a team can pick Bender with the 5th pick.
However, statistics matter to some, so here are a couple of quick stats to end. There have been 41 players selected out of high school in the history of the NBA. 9 of those players made an All-Star team and All-NBA team, which equates to 22%. 6 of those players have made, or will make, the NBA Hall of Fame, which equates to 15%. So, NBA teams when selecting high school prospects in the future have a greater than 1/5 chance of selecting an All-Star and All-NBA caliber player, and a 15% chance at selecting a Hall of Famer. Those are pretty good odds that a lot of NBA teams are going to want to take.
“From Our Haus to Yours!”