By: Blake Probert
Last week the NBA announced new “high dollar” G League contracts for elite prospects. On the heels of that news word has trickled out that talks to put an end to the One and Done rule are stalled between the league and the Players Association as both sides are dug in over some key issues.
In my less than humble opinion, no “magic bullet” exists for this problem. One of the three major players (the NCAA, the NBA and the players) will have to lose out for the benefit of the other two. For the moment, its looks as though a solution that attempts to ameliorate the situation for all parties is the goal.
I have to say that I’m happy the new Elite Level Prospect G League contracts exist. A player who is at least 18 years of age now has the option to skip college, earn a cool $125K and have immediate access to an NBA developmental structure that is likely to better prepare them for life in the league both on and off the court. However, I fail to see how it’s appealing enough to draw true, top level talent away from the NCAA.
As sweet as it might be to be a member of the Maine Red Claws and make six figures for a year, it probably doesn’t top life as a star at a high level college program. The exposure is much greater, training programs are proven to be adequate and you’re still getting gobs of cash and other perks under the table…because college sports are corrupt and gross.
Legitimately elite, lottery level prospects will run the risk of losing headlines to rivals who choose to remain “amateurs” playing nationally televised games. Lesser known, role player types will miss their chance to pop off in tournament games and watch their stock rise. Players of each caliber will still be 18 year olds competing with grown ass men, and could struggle more for it. The G League contract is a kernel of the much larger, sensible long term solution that needs to be implemented. For now, it’s an untested path, and therefore very risky for true NBA level talent.
In terms of the Players Association and the NBA’s negotiation to end the one-and-done rule, argument is all about access to information. The Players Association is essentially fighting to make sure players can maintain some of the leverage they have coming into the league.
The NBA would like players medical records to be shared with all 30 teams prior to the draft. The league also wants to set a mandatory list of activities all players must go through during the NBA Draft Combine. The idea behind both is that teams would be able to build a more complete profile on every player and ultimately make better, more well informed selections.
What’s the harm you ask? Well, significant leverage is stripped away from players involved in the draft process in this scenario. Say you have nightmares about being drafted into a tire fire organization like the Sacramento Kings…I know I do. Instead of giving all your info over to the Kings’ ahem “braintrust,” you might wish to withhold it. A not-so-passive-aggressive message to the organization that you’d like to not waste your first contract there. They’re still perfectly capable of drafting you, but they are forced to do so with much less information than they’d like to have on such a valuable asset.
To everyone scoffing that players should just be happy to play a game for a living, I bet you picked your own career path. Not only that, but I bet it doesn’t require the kind of highly valuable, all world skill being a professional athlete does. If you got drafted to handle fry duty at your local Arby’s instead of whatever gig you have now, you’d probably want a little more control over the process, too.
The Players Association and the league will likely compromise on these issues. Personally, I think sharing medical records and not making the combine activities mandatory makes the most sense. The medical staff for teams will be able to determine health risks to players, the threat level they pose, and develop plans to treat them. Their ability to help a player could be part of the wooing process. Players might risk falling draft stock, but they could work with teams to take a more proactive approach to problematic conditions, potentially preventing major issues, prolonging careers and increasing earning potential. They’d also maintain their ability to not hear teams out and let their desires not to play somewhere be known when the combine rolled around.
The one-and-done rule is on it’s way out for sure, but what the landscape afterward looks like remains uncertain. Personally, I’m not pleased that terrible, no good college basketball has any role in this process….you may have noticed a not-so-thinly veiled anti-NCAA streak running through this post. I’ve got a lot of disrespect to throw college basketball’s way, but that will require a post all its own.