As another wild and entertaining college basketball season starts to wind down, NBA Draft chatter will continue to pickup and a new crop “one and done” college players will start declaring their intentions to enter the NBA Draft. (If you want to see where the analysts think players will wind up, check out the NBA Mock Draft Database)
This has been the song and dance for the country’s most talented 18 and 19 year olds for the past decade, ever since the NBA made high school players ineligible to enter the NBA Draft in 2006. 10 years have passed and it is time for the NBA to review this rule and consider whether to change it moving forward.
“One and Done” By The Numbers
According to an NCAA Report from March of 2015, there were about 8 “one and done” players drafted each year on average from 2006 to 2014. There were 12 college freshman who were drafted in the 2015 NBA Draft and according to current mock drafts there could be as many as 10 to 15 players who will be drafted this year depending on who decides to enter the draft and forego their sophomore season.
Although on average, only 13% of the players drafted are “one and done” players, anywhere from 30% to 50% of the top 10 picks are usually players of this variety.
Here is my breakdown of the good and the bad about the current rule and what the NBA should enact moving forward.
There is no denying the fact that most of the elite one and done players who have gone in the top 5 of the draft, including Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant have turned into stars. There are very few disappointments like Greg Oden who went 1st in 2007 for instance, and that was more injury related.
When viewing the rule and the outcome of it from that vernacular the one and done rule has been a huge success for the NBA, having a full year of getting to scout these prospects playing against a higher level of competition has allowed for teams to be able to make more informed decisions on players, therefore drafting more efficiently.
The risk of a talented young prospect failing on the NBA level is much lower with a year of college coaching, playing experience and added maturity before entering the NBA. Drafting players straight from high school was a crap shoot, although some players were physically ready for the NBA right out of high school like LeBron James or Kevin Garnett, very few if any are truly mentally ready. For every LeBron or Kobe there is a Lenny Cook or Corleone Smith.
Forcing these players to attend a year of college or play overseas like Brandon Jennings has many benefits but there are some negative complications for this rule as well.
First and foremost, no athlete should be denied a year of high-level earning potential if they are afforded the opportunity. That infringes on their rights and can be damaging to these athletes when their window to make this level of income is very limited. Although these numbers are slightly lower on average for a player talented enough to be considered a high draft pick for the NBA at a high school age, the average career of an NBA player is 4.8 years. That means the NBA is currently denying potentially 20% of the possible earning potential of a young man presented with the rare opportunity to be drafted out of high school. Many of these players come from low income families and can utilize the money to help support their family and provide a better life. This a free country and any player of this caliber should have the option to choose to enter the NBA Draft and take advantage of their earning potential as soon as it is available to them and avoid playing a year of college basketball where they are exploited for their talents and not compensated outside of scholarships, which let’s face isn’t that beneficial considering many stay just one year.
This current set up is also bad for the college product and the whole concept of the student-athlete. Most of these high caliber “one and done” players show up to class for a semester and do just enough to stay eligible. Ben Simmons, who has already declared from the draft and was a known “one and done” player from the beginning, was reprimanded by LSU this season for skipping class in February. This on the surface seems warranted, but when you consider the circumstances around his college enrollment it’s pretty ludicrous. Having the most talented players in the college game only attend for one year makes it harder for top level programs to coach and develop these players and the players around them. With all of the upheaval and roster turnover from year to year, it waters down the college game from what it was 20 years ago. It also makes it harder for fans of the game to stay up to date with the game’s stars and best players. It is also a big reason why many fans these days don’t pay close attention to the sport until mid March. In general, the current system weakens the college product and makes a mockery of the whole student athlete experience.
The NBA should look to emulate a system similar to what Major League Baseball has in place in regards to draft eligibility. I along with many others propose that the NBA allow players to enter the NBA Draft out of high school with certain parameters, or have to be two years removed from high school to enter.
The NBA’s new rule that allows prospective draft prospects to get analysis from a panel of GM’s and scouts on their expected draft position should they enter (without hiring an agent and officially entering the draft) is genius and can perfectly align with this model. The NBA should allow high school players if they desire to view their scouting reports from top level scouts, front office personnel and and advisors and be given a draft grade and hypothetical draft position. This will give them an opportunity to decide whether to forego college and declare for the NBA Draft.
For players that decide to attend college, they must play two years of collegiate basketball or pro basketball in some other professional league that will accept them before being eligible to enter in the NBA Draft. This extra year of physical, mental and fundamental development will make a huge difference and greatly benefit not only the athlete in most cases, but the institution they attend and and college basketball in general.
Finishing half of their bachelor’s degree and be in an institution for two years isn’t as damaging to the (fledgling) idea of the student athlete and allows programs to have more continuity.
This way everybody wins. Rights and earning potential aren’t restricted and the college game is improved as a result.
It’s time for the NBA to axe the “one and done” rule for good.