In recent months, weeks, and even days we’ve heard a lot about the minimum age requirement for the NBA and whether or not it should be changed. Some notable testimonies as of late have come from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and SMU Head Coach Larry Brown.
One says the NCAA shouldn’t exist and the other says college is best for an aspiring draft pick. Can you guess which is which? Of course you can. So which one is right? Does it even matter? Let’s take a look.
According to Cuban, the best place to develop a high school stand-out is to do it in the NBA D-League. There, you can develop his basketball skills and make him take ‘life skills’ classes to develop his maturity, all while he is being paid to play the game he has chosen as his career. This sounds like a pretty good idea. Not only is the NBA in no way responsible for the success of the NCAA, they do have the ability to grow their own D-League this way. Imagine what the D-League could be if it had Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and the other expected “one and done” college players this year. More relevant TV slots, more exposure for the teams, expansion of the league, revenue from sponsors, and the list of potential advantages for the NBA goes on and on. And if one of the kids is tearing it up down there? You can bring him up to the Big Leagues, much like a minor league system. It is a great way to allow an eighteen year old ADULT to decide to join the workforce at the legal age and still develop his game and learn without forcing him to go to college if education is not his priority. Let’s be honest, if he doesn’t want to be in school anyways, what are the odds he plans on graduating or even going to class?
On the flip side, Larry Brown points out that there is no better way to develop a player than division one college basketball. The coaching is top-notch and the education he can receive is second to none. This is also another great point. A student on a college campus can learn immense life lessons that one who hasn’t experienced that lifestyle can only imagine. The friendships that can be made, experiences and memories will last a lifetime. Brown says coaches hold kids accountable and make them go to class, we can pretend they all do that. Also, college basketball offers the greatest exposure a kid could want coming out of high school with his sights set on the NBA. Imagine if all of the college kids had to stay two or three years, what a product the NCAA would have.
So which one is right? Both. Both avenues could be great ways for the NBA to get more polished players into their game and if they were to raise the age limit and make both choices available for those players, the NBA can make their product better.
Does it matter? Not at all. The reason we have the “one and done” rule in the first place is because the NBA Players Union would only allow a ‘nineteen years old and one year removed from high school’ age limit. Even if the NBA and the commissioner wanted to raise the age limit (which they clearly do), they would have to get the Union to sit down and negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which isn’t going to happen.
Bottom Line: It will take more than a couple “one and done” busts, tanking franchises, or kids going overseas to change the rule. The NBA will have to have the perfect idea to present, where everyone can ultimately feed their wallet, which isn’t likely. But hey, that’s why we like sports right? We get to talk about it, even when it significantly doesn’t matter.