NBA commissioner Adam Silver

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Baffoe: About Time 'One-And-Done' Goes Away

The NBA appears ready to allow high schoolers to go straight to the pros again.

Tim Baffoe
July 11, 2018 - 1:18 pm
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(670 The Score) It took more than a decade of watching people operate in a bureaucratically created purgatory, but a bad rule seems to be finally near its end.

On Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke on ditching the unfair one-and-done rule for player eligibility. At present, any potential NBA player must have played at least one year of college or international basketball before being eligible to be drafted, essentially eliminating eligibility for 18-year-olds.

"My personal view is that we’re ready to make that change," Silver told USA Today. "It won’t come immediately, but... when I weighed the pros and cons – (and) given that (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and her (NCAA) commission has recommended to the NBA that those one-and-done players now come directly into the league and, in essence, the college community is saying ‘We do not want those players anymore,’ I mean that sort of tips the scale in my mind that we should be taking a serious look at lowering our age to 18."

That NCAA commission accomplished nothing of value for the most part regarding actually fixing college basketball’s problems. But it did have the saving grace of suggesting that at least 18-year-olds shouldn’t be forced into an exploitative internship for a year before getting paid (legally).

The NBA was fine with the one-and-done rule since its inception in 2006 because why wouldn’t a pro league want its future players to get seasoning in an unaffiliated minor league at no cost to the NBA itself? The NFL takes it even further, mandating that players must be three years removed from high school. College sports is theoretically a free training ground to these leagues. It’s also unfair and contributing to the anti-free market of American sports.

An eventual NBA player being forced into college service has become increasingly useless as far as pro ball is concerned. There's little tangible to be gained for the NBA or a player like the Suns’ DeAndre Ayton as he dominates the Pac-12 for a season while obviously ready for professional ball. Silver noted as much in an interview last year regarding 76ers star Ben Simmons, who admitted to ceasing going to classes while hardly going through the motions as a "student-athlete" at LSU.

"I don’t blame him," Silver said, referencing a documentary on Simmons and his criticisms of the NCAA that was particularly embarrassing for anyone promoting the sanctity of college sports. "He’s essentially saying, ‘Why am I here? I don’t even want to be here. I’m forced to be here.’ His team didn’t make the tournament, and he was still the first pick in the NBA draft.

"I worry about potential stunted development in the most important years in these players’ careers."

But as progressive of a league it may be compared to the other major sports, the NBA’s major interest is the bottom line. It has the revamped G League that as of late has teams investing more into developing young players there, evident with Gatorade committing a lot of money to be the "G" ito replace the previously named Development League. Ninety percent of NBA teams have an affiliate, and the league drew 1.6 million in attendance this past season along with having TV and streaming broadcast deals that an increasing number of viewers are interested in.

Adding players with more recognizable names would certainly help the bottom line there. And that may be increasingly necessary.

"The college coaches and athletic directors I hear from, they're not happy with the current system," Silver said last year. "And I know our teams aren't happy either, in part because they don't necessarily think the players who are coming into the league are getting the kind of training they would expect to see among top draft picks in the league."

The NCAA is a cartel, with men’s basketball being one of its strongest arms. College coaches are mostly looking out for themselves, so winning with their proven systems certainly trumps getting a player NBA-ready. Of what use then is so much of the eventual draft lottery having to risk that stunted growth Silver acknowledged?

Ironing this out with the players’ union is the next hurdle, which should be minor based on Silver’s tone of late and the union likely in favor of fairer labor rights extended to young players who are legally adults regardless.

"We did discuss that, both with the labor relations committee and with the board, and ... the sense was we should be engaging with the Players Association on the minimum age to come into the NBA, and we presented the pros and cons of going from 19 to 18, in conjunction with that presentation we discussed a lot about the development of younger players prior to them coming into the professional ranks," Silver said Tuesday. "We’ve had several discussions with both the NCAA and USA Basketball about engaging with them, with players, beginning roughly at 14 years old, and especially with those elite players (who) we know statistically have a high likelihood, when they’re identified at that age, of being top tier players, of coming into the league. So I think the next step will be to sit down with the Players Association."

There’s a polite inclusion of the NCAA in his words, but pleasing them doesn’t seem to be much of a concern to Silver. Nor should it be. The NCAA has been making gobs of money off of should-be NBA players for more than a decade.

Let your own evolving minor league do that, if not the NBA itself. Whether it’s about dollars or conscience, at least an obvious wrong seems to be getting fixed.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.​​​​​​

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