Big news broke yesterday, as the National Basketball Association has finally taken a step forward in finding a way to fix the mess that they created years ago with their eligibility rules.
Beginning in the summer of 2019, the NBA G-League will allow 18-year old players fresh out of high school to sign what are being called “Select Contracts” worth $125,000 to play for the league during their one year in-between high school and their eligibility for the NBA Draft. The goal behind this is to essentially give top-ranked high school seniors an option outside of the NCAA, playing overseas, and the JBL to achieve their dreams of playing professionally. The idea, of course, is not only to provide players with an option that allows them to get paid, but to have them play in an NBA-type environment and also provide access to numerous off-court development programs that could help them in their transition to the league.
This announcement is a product of the Commission of College Basketball’s firm stance that they made this past April about what needs to change immediately with amateur basketball. Commission chair Condoleeza Rice told the Associated Press in the spring, “One-and-done has to go, one way or another.”
This new change to the game in theory sounds like a great idea until the NBA is actually able to officially change the age-limit of when players can declare for the draft. However, there are a lot of to unpack with what this means for the NCAA, as well as the players that would potentially enter said system:
- Will the G-League provide enough exposure to athletes on a national level? Currently, the G-League doesn’t get a great deal of publicity, and so the benefits of playing in the NCAA could outweigh the alternative.
- Will this actually stop the current issue in the NCAA with players receiving money under the table? Seeing how the FBI is cracking down on hard on that particular situation, one would think that it at least provides the financial means to keep players from going that route. However, we may never know the answer to this question.
- Will this actually be a good way to get players drafted? Currently, the G-League is filled with players that have at least one year of college basketball experience, and potentially that many more years of both NBA and G-League experience. It could hurt players if they show that they can’t keep up against the rest of the league, but at the same time, being good against tougher competition will give players an edge over NCAA players in the draft. It’s a similar risk to college ball, however, to our knowledge there aren’t three more years to prove your worth.
- Will owners actually like this process? Players will be offered contracts by G-League teams that are affiliated with NBA teams. Will the owner of the Chicago Bulls appreciate having a player excel with the Windy City Bulls, only for them to be drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves? It could become a frustrating ordeal for owners very, very quickly.
- Finally, will this option be available to all players, or just the top-ranked prospects? The verbiage used in the announcement suggests that the availability of this option may be limited in scope. If this is true, the number of players that could go this route could be very, very small.
There are many, many questions that will likely be left unanswered until after the first year of this new process is complete, but the big question for college basketball is: how will this impact NCAA basketball? The short-answer is: probably not much.
Prior to the implementation of the one-and-done rule, elite high school players were afforded the option to enter the NBA Draft if they chose to do so. This meant that 18-year old kids were able to make substantially more money than the $125,000 being offered by the G-League, and that is before you consider the fact that they could make money off of their likeness, endorsements, etc. With this new system available for high schoolers, there will undoubtedly be players that decide to go that route. However, it’s extremely hard to imagine that the NCAA product will be impacted in a way that fans and schools will notice beyond what the product was prior to the OAD era. Not to mention, Lavar Ball has been out there implementing his own league in which swerves around the one and done rule anyway. This will just be a NBA-official way to do it.
As we make our way to next summer, we should expect the NBA to provide more information about this new offering within the coming months. This could provide an interesting twist for the 2019 class, as there are top-tier recruits still uncommitted and very much available to take this option. Props to the NBA for applying a band-aid to what has been a pretty big issue, and hopefully the real fix will arrive in 2022.