According to Brian Windhorst, Adam Silver has been looking at making adjustments to improve the league’s relationship with high school players “for some time,” but in light of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, Silver has been convinced that he needs to move faster with implementing some of these concepts.
Late-to-the-party blog or not, it looks like high schoolers are getting the chance to skip the waste of time they call the NCAA. While it’s great for fans of college basketball to get elite players in the tournament, the school spirit gets less effective when you know the kid is only on campus for 6 months. I really don’t understand how recruiters can come into a living room and talk about a university’s “commitment to academics” when both parties know that academics are the last reason a one and done prospect is picking a college. With the AAU circuit stronger than ever, and prospect development starting in grade school, the landscape has drastically changed for kids with an eye on the pros.
Even high schools are being treated like AAU teams. Schools like Sierra Canyon, Montverde and IMG are becoming new spots for high schoolers to team up, rivaling the established NBA farm school of Oak Hill Academy. Kids are moving across the country to play at the few elite schools that would offer the chance at both a national title and exposure.
So, with talent obviously becoming better as we move through the years, it makes sense for these developed high schoolers to get a chance at the NBA earlier, right? Well, let’s look at a couple of the top incoming prospects:
RJ Barrett: Duke (Montverde Academy)
Zion Williamson: Duke (Spartanburg Day School)
Barrett is the consensus #1 pick, and will probably be NBA ready by years end to at least be a serviceable starter out of the gate. This is an example of an NBA talent out of high school.
But we all know about Zion’s question marks:
What position will he play?
Is he just Julius Randle with hops?
Can he do anything consistent other than dunk?
Now, imagine if he was able to come out of high school. Chances are a team would take him in the top 5-10 based on that trap word of “potential”. So you’re wasting 2-3 years “developing” this raw talent into something useful; now he’s eligible for an extension and you still don’t know what he’s worth. Don’t give him the extension? Restricted FA it is. Don’t get an offer to match? Risk losing him after Year 4 when he’s unrestricted. Maybe he balls out on the second half of that contract, which would be ideal, but now he’s worth more than what you’re able to pay him, pissed that you didn’t extend him because that makes it seem like you don’t want him, he signs elsewhere, and you have 2 years of production to show for your coveted top pick. You see how this could be detrimental? You want to waste your top 5 pick developing a player for another team??
Daniel Gafford of Arkansas decided to come back to school to develop his game, improve his draft stock and maybe take another shot at a deep run in the tournament. This is the anomaly now. Seldom do you see prospects come back to develop at college rather than develop while making money. But this is why this is better for the NBA. Rather than waste a pick on a prospect that might not contribute right away, you’re paying the prospect when he’s ready, making that rookie contract money actually worth something.
A less experienced workforce creates a worse product, any business would much rather hold onto a veteran employee rather than train new ones. It just makes sense. So Mike, what’s the solution since you just wanna shit on everyone’s parade?
Well, here’s an idea:
Straight from high school players play in the G-League for at least a year
It’s simple: the G-League is being underutilized as a farm system. 2-way contracts are a step in the right direction, but why not let the top prospects ball out in the minors? I’d actually feel like watching the Iowa Wolves if someone like Jehvon Quinerly is running point against Zion Williamson’s Maine Red Claws. But beyond the newfound marketability, it allows players to get paid to develop while they still aren’t NBA ready. (Of course Lavar tried this, but we see how that’s working)
Whether it’s one year or two, allowing teams to get another year out of their rookie contract ensures that they are getting a more developed high school player when they’re ready to get called up. This also takes care of the stupid NCAA. No longer do colleges have to shell out money under the table, vacating championships just because they wanted to sweeten the pot and lean prospects their way. Obviously, players are still able to take the college route, if they prefer getting developed by a great college coach. But this cuts out the monopoly that the NCAA has grown, forcing kids to build their own product while not getting paid for a talent that is very lucrative.
Again, this might have flaws. But I don’t see anything unmanageable about this theory. If you do, let me know at email@example.com.