Just like winter, the end of one-and-done is coming.
I don’t long for the cold weather, but the NBA’s inevitable shift will warm my heart.
Commissioner Adam Silver is a sharp guy. He’s smart enough to acknowledge the flaws in a system where premier talent uses the NCAA as a 35-game waiting room. Although improving college basketball isn’t his concern, he realizes his league would benefit from a different structure, too.
However, unlike many who bemoan the exodus of freshmen signing contracts for NBA riches, Silver recognizes the inherent unfairness of asking elite players to delay their paydays while coaches, administrators and the NCAA rake in millions upon millions of dollars.
“Of course, the issue for the top college kids is whether they should be paid,” Silver said Monday on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” show. “It may be the case at this point, given the amount of money that is generated by their performances, that we as the NBA have to take a serious look at paying them.”
Two-way contracts constituted a step. For the first time, each NBA team this season can carry two roster spots for players in the G League. Depending on how much time they spend with their NBA team, those players can earn up to $250,000.
Yes, a scholarship might be worth more. But it doesn’t replace lint in your pockets.
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a stretch where they operated like a minor-league franchise designed to develop talent. The Golden State Warriors won 73 games in 2015-16; the Sixers won a total of 75 games over the past four seasons, stockpiling a bevy of blue-chip, one-and-done prospects.
Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016) were No. 1 overall picks. Jahlil Okafor (2015) and Joel Embiid (2013) were picked third overall. But Silver made an interesting observation. While Okafor and Embid interned with bluebloods, Duke and Kansas, respectively, neither Fultz (Washington) nor Simmons (LSU) reached the NCAA tournament during their lone collegiate season.
“I don’t think enough people are talking about that,” Silver said. “That seems to be a sea change in the development of players coming into the NBA. I think it’s become common knowledge now that these so-called one-and-done players, are, maybe understandably, almost entirely focused on where they are going to go in the draft lottery.”
Silver pointed out something else that might have slipped under the radar. I always thought the so-called scourge of freshmen fleeing for the NBA was overblown by critics. Only a handful of players fell in that category, roughly eight per draft according to the commissioner.
But a funny thing happened last year after the NBA’s new TV contract increased by about 180 percent and salaries soared accordingly. Silver said the number of one-and-done candidates spiked as well, rising to 16.
Go figure. Marginal NBA players receiving $15 million per year enticed more youngsters to take a shot at pro ball. The sooner they get in, the quicker to their second contract.
“I think something has to change,” Silver said. “It’s clearly not working for the college game. The top college coaches have said that several times. I think from our standpoint, if the players in that one year of college aren’t getting the kind of development we’d like to see them get coming into the NBA, aren’t playing in the NCAA tournament, aren’t competing against top-notch competition, I think we have to take a step back and figure out whether we’re better off taking those players at a younger age and working on their training and development full time.”
It’s the right thing to do. The G League won’t provide the same marketing and exposure that players enjoy in college, particularly during March Madness. But it will give them a head start on being a pro, on and off the court. They’ll run NBA sets, use NBA concepts and receive NBA coaching.
Eventually, those that desire to should get those benefits directly out of high school, just like many musicians, baseball players, singers, golfers, actors, tennis players, etc. Preternatural hoopsters should be able to drop the pretense of caring about college. They should simply get on with their lives, without mandatory layovers at Who-Cares-Where U.
“The stakes are so high in terms of their place in the draft lottery and the stakes are so high terms of the amount of money they can make over a long NBA career as a star player,” Silver said. “That’s sort of front and center of what they’re focused on as college players.”
He said the league and union will discuss eliminating or altering the rule that requires players to be a year out of high school before entering the NBA. A revision can take effect under the current labor agreement without being collectively bargained.
It’s time. With every franchise destined to have its own G League team, the NBA can take over the training and development of its talent pool, paying the players instead of keeping the money to itself like the NCAA. Silver said serious consideration will be given to increasing the G League’s paltry wages ($19,000-$25,000).
“We have to look at paying them much better,” he said. “Those are all things we’re looking at. It’s clear a change will come.”
The coming change will be welcomed.
• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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