NBA Lockout Speculation: Two-and-Through All But Certain?Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2011
Today the RTC preseason All-America Team was announced, and it contains three sophomores on its first team who could have been viable 1-and-done prospects last spring had the NBA’s labor situation not been so tenuous. Those players are Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes. The second team has two more — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb and Baylor’s Perry Jones, III. The third team has two players who may declare for the NBA Draft after this, their freshman, season — Duke’s Austin Rivers and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.
It’s no secret that the top talent in college basketball these days tends to skew younger, as our inclusion of seven freshmen and sophomores to our three preseason All-America teams clearly exhibits. In a different year assuming those five sophomores were already in the NBA, we might have included more freshmen such as Connecticut’s Andre Drummond or Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash on our list. But we didn’t have to, and the reason for this is that the pool of talent is deeper this season than it has been for the last five years, in the same way that the last half-decade was more talented than the prep-to-pros era of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Now, imagine if the following players were also back: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, Kansas’ Josh Selby. You see where we’re going with this. And the NBA brass, always thinking about its own worldwide marketing of star players and its bottom line, does too. According to Chad Ford over at ESPN Insider, one of the few areas of consensus among the key folks in the ongoing NBA owner and labor negotiations is that 1-and-done is likely on its last legs. Two-and-Through appears to be the new standard. From Ford’s piece:
Now the NBA is pushing for a minimum age limit of 20 and a two-year waiting period after a prospect’s high school class graduates. And parties on both the NBA and NCAA sides view such a change as an entirely positive development. Ideally, if NBA commissioner David Stern could get away with it, he would mirror the NFL’s draft rules, push that age limit up to 21 and require players to be in college for a minimum of three years before declaring for the NBA. The players are pushing back on these attempts and have argued for having no restrictions on draft eligibility. But virtually everyone in the know believes the league likely will get at least some escalation of the entry age limit.
Some escalation… which means since we’re currently at 1 yr/19 age limit, we’re more than likely looking at a 2 yr/20 age limit going forward. The players may be pushing back, but this isn’t nearly as much a sticking point for them as the issue of how to split league revenues totaling billions of dollars. Why would veterans care when a rookie will become a millionaire — 19 or 20? — they really don’t.
We’ve been on record around here for several years suggesting rather strongly that the two-year age limit (versus no limit or even an MLB three-year model) is what is in the best interests of the game of college basketball. While not ideal from a pie-in-the-sky mentality (four years, anyone?), a two-year age limit makes the most sense to everyone involved.
Players – two years away from home allows young players to learn to become young men, from both a personal but also a basketball perspective. By virtue of having to live on their own with a modicum of discipline in place, they can grow into productive adults in a structured environment for a couple of years rather than being thrust into a situation that many, especially those without strong social support systems, are not prepared to handle at that age.
College Coaches – As Ford alludes to in his article, two years allows the coaches more discretion in how they handle star talent. A Josh Selby isn’t in a position to cause a ruckus by ditching school immediately after the season and bailing on the team banquet — that is, if he expects to play during his sophomore season.
According to a number of sources on the NBA side of the conversation, college coaches are overwhelmingly in favor of a mandatory second year in college. It’s a huge recruiting relief to know that the blue-chip prospect they pursued is with them for more than one season so they can develop more continuity. It also gives college coaches more control over the players. They aren’t forced to play freshmen right away. They have time with them; they can teach and even discipline without hurting the players’ future pro prospects.
NBA GMs – the GMs are protected from themselves in the sense that they won’t draft a Jackie Butler or Kwame Brown based on AAU tapes and a few individual workouts. Players will have to show some legitimate skill in real collegiate competition in order to hear their name called on NBA Draft night. After two seasons, it’s not terribly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Nor do they revel sticking their neck out for players who dominate AAU and McDonald’s All-American games. It’s easier to scout a player in a known system, against known players, in a known conference, they’ve found. Furthermore, a year or two in school seems to weed out the pretenders from the real thing. “You can hide a high school player in a number of ways,” one veteran NBA GM said. “The high school coaches, the agents, they could play a lot of games in an effort to hide a young guy’s weakness. But in college, you can’t hide. Mistakes are still made. But they’re made because of bad scouting not because of a lack of information. The more you see a player play against known competition, the more information you have to make correct choices.”
Finally, it’s an easier product for the NCAA to sell. The NBA really passed its problem of marketing rookies on to the NCAA, which introduces the players to the nation via March Madness and a number of high-profile early-season tournaments. The NCAA markets its game more by school than by players, but, as we’ve seen this year, the college game can get more traction and generate more excitement when it has returning stars to show off.
Us, the Fans – more talent across all classes quite simply makes the game better in the long run. With a two-year rule in place, maybe 80-90% of stars leave at that point, but there will always be a few who like college life enough to stay three or even four seasons. The one-year rule barely gives players enough time to get accustomed to doing their own laundry, much less consider college more than a simple layover on the way to NBA riches. With more stars on teams at any given time, fans will also have a better chance to see something magical occur. When you’re watching UNC at Kentucky in early December, a regular season contest as anticipated as any game in a number f years, keep in mind that if the NBA does the correct thing here, games like that will once again become the norm.