The best college basketball teams from around the country will take the court today to kick off the NCAA Tournament. Every college basketball fan in the nation wants to know who will move on in their brackets, but what no one seems to be asking is whether or not some players whose end goal is to play in the NBA should even be in college at all right now.
When the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement was renewed in 2005, it included major changes to the rules for who was eligible to enter the league. Previously, players had been allowed to enter the NBA directly out of high school, an option that was used by many current players, including All-Stars such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Kevin Garnett.
Under the new rules, a player must be 19 at some point during the year of the draft, and a full NBA season has to have passed since they graduated from high school. This created a new type of college basketball player: the “one and done”, an individual who uses his time between graduation and eligibility to play a single year in the NCAA before leaving for the NBA.
This new path that many NBA hopefuls have taken has drawn criticism from a number of people, who say that it benefits neither the NBA nor the players themselves. “The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN. “So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.”
The D-League is the shortened name for the NBA Developmental League, a place for basketball players who are not ready for the NBA but are no longer able to play in college. According to Cuban, the D-League shouldn’t just be a place for players not good enough for the NBA, but also an alternative for those who know they’re not going to stay in college.
Cuban has a point. If a player is serious about making basketball their profession, then college is not the place for them to get their training. In the D-League, a player’s entire focus will be centered around basketball and improving their skills without having to worry about other things.
College does allow graduated high schoolers to play at a higher level, but in an environment that is filled with nothing but distractions. In addition to having to think about schoolwork, there are plenty of other aspects of college that get in the way of their practice. Between meeting new people, participating in school groups, and partying, there is no way that college is more beneficial than a place like the D-League.
USF sophomore Ian Sanger feels that the D-League really is the best place for these types of players.
“I think it’s a good idea, it allows them to be in a professional environment that makes them better players and allows them to get paid which they should be, especially since they only go to school for two years so they aren’t getting any benefit from that,” Sanger said.
It would be unlikely that USF would be affected if it becomes possible for players to forego college in favor of the developmental league, as the Dons very rarely have highly touted NBA prospects.
There is also the argument that players should have to get some form of higher education before moving on to the big leagues. It’s not uncommon to hear from a college that their student athletes are students first and athletes second, but how can that be valid when they are only required to stay there for a year? If the issue really had to do with giving these young men an education, then they would be required to stay long enough to get some kind of degree.
Currently, the only group that benefits from the current rules is NCAA itself. Today’s system ensures that players who would otherwise move on to the NBA will play at least a year in college, increasing both viewer ratings and revenue.
The current CBA will expire in 2021 but either the players or owners can opt out in favor of negotiating a new one as early as 2017. When that does happen something should be put in place to encourage players who are serious about a future in sports to go to the place most likely to give it to them: the NBA Developmental League.