The NBA passed a revised version of the collective bargaining agreement, which means that the league will avoid a lockout at least until 2024. However, one of the more controversial decisions was to leave the one-and-done college rule untouched.
The one-and-done rule mandates that to be eligible to enter the NBA draft, a player must be one year removed from high school. This typically forces otherwise unwilling participants to go to college for one year.
The idea is that the NBA wants older and more developed players coming to the league. College basketball benefits from seeing these players in college. We’ve seen this in previous years, with prospects like Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons drawing massive crowds.
However, the one-and-done makes a mockery of the collegiate system and the NBA should look into abolishing it.
Before the rule came into effect in 2005, very few high schoolers actually skipped college for the draft. Between 2000 and 2005, NBA teams selected just 22 high schoolers and 13 freshmen in the first round. Eight of the high schoolers came in one outlier draft in 2004. Otherwise, the league added fewer than three high schoolers a year in the first round.
However, that number has skyrocketed since the one-and-done rule went into effect. Between 2011 and 2016, NBA teams picked 53 freshmen in the first round. That’s nearly nine a year. We’ve reached a point where players are not only leaving school early. Instead, they are going to school knowing that they will leave early no matter the outcome.
Take Simmons for example. The rule required a year at LSU, even though many draft experts said NBA teams would pick him in the top three in 2015. Since Simmons knew his college experience would last just a year, he reportedly didn’t attend classes. Even though he failed almost across the board, it didn’t matter. Simmons was on academic probation his second semester, but was still eligible to play basketball. He dropped out of classes the moment his basketball career ended.
Simmons’ college career was a waste of everyone’s time. LSU benefitted from having a full arena. However, it affected the program’s academic reputation, hurt head coach Johnny Jones when his team couldn’t win and held back a year of Simmons’ earning potential.
The worst part is knowing Simmons’ situation was the best-case scenario. Others like Greg Oden got hurt and lost a year of earning potential. Players like Marquis Teague and Xavier Henry potentially lost out on significant money by not waiting until they were more developed to try for the league.
While one-and-done hurts the players in the short and long run, it also drastically hurts college basketball. Fans don’t get enough time to build relationships with one-and-done players. It’s harder to market the game to casual fans. Save for Kentucky, which can continuously draw in new superstars, the quality of play also suffers dramatically with so little continuity across the sport.
The solution is one that the NBA players’ association proposed: a zero-or-two rule, similar to what MLB institutes. If a player is ready to jump to the NBA out of high school, he should be allowed to do so. But if he decides to go to college, a player should stay for at least two seasons.
If Simmons or LeBron James is ready to jump straight from high school to the NBA, they should have the right to do it. Unlike football, where not being physically ready can be a safety issue, young players like Kevin Garnett, Amare’ Stoudemire and Kobe Bryant have proven some high school players are ready.
However, if a kid decides to attend college, he should at least unpack his bags and be part of the culture. It makes it much more difficult for a college coach to build a program when he has to plug in new players every year. This puts more of an emphasis on player development and coaching than recruiting and acquiring pure talent. It also forces athletes to take part in academics to stay eligible to play.
In this system, some players have the ability to capitalize on early earning potential. Others actually get to reap the benefits of college basketball. Both the NBA and college basketball would benefit, and both leagues would instantly become healthier.
The NBA left the door open to discuss this rule in the next few years. For every basketball fan’s sake, the professional league should act quickly.