The NBA should avoid raising the NBA Draft’s age limit

 

FROM THE AP: Adam Silver thinks the so-called ‘one-and-done’ rule will be modified — somehow — before too long. “My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said. “As I’ve said before, our position, at least our formal position, going into bargaining was that we wanted to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20.'”

The idea of raising the minimum age is only one of different options being considered. In my mind, that would be a big mistake. Here’s why:

(1) College is not the best place to develop your skills

Silver pointed out that the young rookies that enter the league aren’t ready for the NBA. That’s never been more obvious than this year, which featured one of the worst rookie classes in recent memory.

Clearly, the 19-year-olds like Brandon Ingram were in way over their heads. But you know who else struggled? Basically everyone. Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield. Providence junior Kris Dunn. These college players, even the best of the best and the ones who dominated in college, couldn’t translate their skills to the NBA right away.

Part of the problem with college, from a purely basketball perspective, is that it’s still “amateur” athletics. (At least, in theory). These kids can’t focus all their attention on developing their skills. They actually have to go to classes. Their practice time, and their time spent with the coaching staff, is legally restricted by the NCAA.

While the NCAA has bbig-name Hall of Fame coaches, they don’t actually get to do much coaching. Kansas’ Bill Self remarked that his staff didn’t try to refine star Josh Jackson’s shooting mechanics, simply because they didn’t have enough time to follow through on it like an NBA professional team could.

That’s a problem. When a young player like Jackson can’t work on the one aspect of his game that actually needs work, then you wonder what the point of going to college is at all.

Now, there’s no doubt — a 21-year-old coming out of college is going to be better than the same kid at 19 coming out of college. However, the nature of college basketball does not allow that kid to achieve the maximum level of development from those ages like a professional staff could. The improvement’s much more minor. Worse yet, bad habits could be developed that are never fixed. If your goal is create the best basketball players around, you have to create a system than allows them to be as good as possible, as soon as possible.

(2) There are other adjustments we can make

The NBA has made some strides to help the transition for these raw players. They’re expanding the D/G-League, and working on two-way contracts that allow teams to shuffle them back and forth more easily without a financial or roster burden as a result. Those are good steps in the right direction.

Another step would be encouraging the NCAA to change their rules in order to mirror the NBA. College has already reduced their shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, but they can keep trimming that even more.

More importantly, the NCAA should extend their three-point line. The last time they did that was 2007, when they moved the line back an extra foot. Still, the NCAA three-point line is THREE FEET shorter than the NBA arc (on average).

As the NBA continues to place more and more value on shooting and the three-point bomb, young players need to get up to speed on that as soon as possible. That short three-point line in college isn’t helping. Someone like Brandon Ingram shot over 40% from three in college — in the NBA, that translated to under 30%. If Ingram had been working with a system more closely related to the NBA, perhaps his learning curve wouldn’t be so great.

(3) At some point, morality matters

These have been practical, pragmatic concerns for the state of the game. Of course, our society isn’t constructed solely to create the best basketball players. Every now and then, we should try to do what’s right. But even through that lens, the age limit is wrong.

There are two collegiate sports that make billions of dollars — football and basketball. There are two sports that have age limits — football and basketball. Do we think that’s a coincidence?

In the United States, you should be free to forge your own path as soon as you’re 18. You can go to work at the local drug store. You can quit school and join the circus. You can join the army and risk your fucking life. But you can’t play basketball? Give me a break.

There are some professions that do require additional degrees (doctors, lawyers, etc) but that’s because they require that training in order to do their job. A 19-year-old LeBron James does not need any more training in order to play professional basketball. It’s an artificial limit, clearly installed for the financial gains of the current powers that be.

Alternatively, you can make the argument that going to college is “what’s best” for these kids. In 99% of cases, that’s true. But this is America, people. If my 19-year-old cousin came to me and said, “I just met this amazing girl last week — we’re going to get married!” I’d think it’s a bad idea. I’d discourage him from doing it. At the same time, there’s nothing I could do to outlaw it. We can not legislate decision making, nor should we. That’s part of the joy, and pain, of being in a free society.

 

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