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Bernstein: New G-League Plan Has Conflicts

Select contracts will offer $125,000 but also create inherent conflicts.

October 18, 2018 - 2:28 pm
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(670 The Score) I'm all for anything that provides aspiring professional athletes an alternative to indentured servitude at the hands of the free-labor cartel that is the NCAA. Doing away with the NBA's ridiculous one-and-done rule for draft eligibility will be a start, but even with indications from both the league and the union that they share such a desire, it wouldn't happen until the class of 2022.

So in steps the NBA's developmental G League, offering "select contracts" starting in 2019 to 18-year-olds not yet draft eligible who would rather not pretend to be college students. They would be paid $125,000, allowed to hire agents and pursue outside endorsement deals, then could be drafted.

It seems like it makes sense, until we examine closer the actual implementation balanced against the realities of one year of work at a big-time college program.

The first issue is how to incorporate the player onto a team that's already affiliated with an NBA franchise and being used primarily to develop talent in which it's invested. Why would a team care about burnishing the game and draft status of some kid who's highly unlikely to belong to them later, giving him minutes at the expense of some already on two-way contracts and vying for NBA roster spots? There's also the fact that this 18-year-old would be making four times more than the average player in the league, who's also seven years older. That's asking for resentment, internally.

It might make more sense to create one team of just select players, running a program like a European-style academy that could take players as young as 15 and maintain a top team that represents it by competing in the G League. Just call it NBA Select and avoid the cross-pollination with other franchises' specific developmental plans.

Curious also is why a top player would choose the lifestyle. Puddle-jumping from Grand Rapids to Fort Wayne to Rio Grande Valley and eating at odd hours in airport food courts ahead of or after some game that nobody sees is a far cry from Cameron Indoor Stadium in prime time and then chartering back to a luxury dorm. And regarding the eligibility for side deals, a shoe company's money is also better spent illegally to funnel the same talent to an oft-televised and already sponsored school than it is putting its gear on a minor leaguer who is largely out of sight and yet to make a name for himself of any real value. And we know some of the one-and-dones are already well-paid in their own right, having their cake and eating it too.

Anybody with enough talent could simply take neither path, choosing to work on his game privately for the one season. Uncommitted to a college or a team, he'd then be free to hire an agent and get whatever deals he could anyway. If these kids wanted, they could even come together to form their own exhibition league that finds a venue and broadcast partner and cuts all kinds of arrangement for its own sponsorships. Any of the large agencies could do this unilaterally, or they could work together to showcase clients by underwriting a platform created from whole cloth that doesn't owe anything to the NCAA or NBA.

It's nice that the G League came up with this, but just a little forward thinking and calculated risk could allow players to own their respective immediate futures with considerably more freedom.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​​​​​​​

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