Maybe I'm Just Dreaming
by: Mirei Matsuda
("The Infamous J-Girl")
As another NBA draft has come and gone, the picture becomes a little clearer on those players who may have declared themselves NBA ready a little prematurely. Every year, this number increases as youngsters from all over listen to more and more bad advice from members of their "inner circle." Something needs to be done, not for the good of the college game, or for the good of the pro game, but for the good of the (mostly) teenagers facing these decisions. As the title suggests, I have no idea if anything I am about to propose would work or even make a difference. It is merely designed to stimulate some thought on the subject.
First, I have heard some people calling for a minimum age requirement for the NBA similar to that of the NFL. Personally, I do not believe this is necessary simply because unlike football or (for the most part) baseball, some of these guys are ready for the NBA, both emotionally and physically. Kevin Garnett and most recently LeBron James are prime examples. It would have been a shame to keep these guys out of the league simply because they weren't old enough. Don't get me wrong, I do believe they should be at least 18 or have graduated from high school, but I don't believe they should have to wait two or three years after their class graduates before being draft eligible.
In baseball, a kid can be drafted out of high school and still end up signing with and playing for a school, why not basketball? As long as they do not sign with an agent or receive any benefits, what's the big deal? Here is my suggestion, make anyone who has signed with a school ineligible for the draft, that way coaches will know that if they have signed a kid, he will make it to campus. Next, allow those who have not signed with an agent to be eligible for the draft. Once the draft has taken place, the player could then choose whether or not they should sign with the pro team that drafts them or go to school and work on their game while they get a free education. Imagine the recruiting frenzy that this would create! Say two or three guys a year decide that they could improve their draft status by playing college ball, coaches with scholarships would be scrambling to grab these guys! You could even throw in a rule that says if you are drafted but go to college instead; the team that drafts you keeps your rights for a set period of time (similar to baseball). This may deter some of the "one and done" guys from going to school at all. On the other hand, it may also encourage someone who was not satisfied with their draft status to stay in school for three or four years and then try the draft again.
My next suggestion is probably the most far-fetched as any but I'm going to throw it out there anyway. I would like to see a more utilized developmental or minor league system for those athletes that may not be ready for the NBA (but think that they are) and have no interest in going to college out of high school. You could even have a portion of their salary set aside as a college fund just in case they do decide to someday go to school.
I believe these changes would have not just a positive effect on the players but on the college and pro games as well. The college game would benefit from having more athletes staying three or four years. We all know how much fun it was to watch our upperclassmen dominated Cats play the last two years. The pro game would benefit from having NBA ready athletes fill their entire roster instead of burying some teenager on the bench while paying him millions because of his "tremendous upside." Of course, all of this would hinge on mutual agreements between the NCAA and the NBA and we know how likely that is.
As I said before, maybe I'm just dreaming.