By Charles Glover, Jr.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is down to its final 4 teams vying for the NBA Championship for this season. Meanwhile, Tuesday marked the beginning of the next season as the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery, giving them the chance to pick first in the draft in consecutive years. While the draft lottery creates a modicum of suspense for NBA fans, the league would be better suited making major changes to the NBA Draft that would make the teams better for the long run, analysts say.
The advent of the NBA Draft Lottery was meant to be a deterrent to teams intentionally losing so that they could have the number one pick in the draft. The main impetus for the change was consecutive years where the Houston Rockets (1983 & 84) seemingly tanked in order to land two highly touted prospects, Ralph Sampson in 1983 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984. The change was necessary but the overreaction to institute a draft lottery allowed for a routine in which the worst teams do not receive the best players.
Contrasting this with the National Football League (NFL) model that aligns the top pick with worst record, with the exception of consecutive years, one can see why there tends to consistently be a problem with the distribution of talent in the NBA. The draft lottery system raises questions about the legitimacy of the process as conspiracy theories are constantly attached to this system. All of these issues make the questions about who should be eligible to be drafted seem minor, yet the age of the draftees continues to be an issue that’s front and center.
The hoopla surrounding this year’s draft class was focused on talented underclassmen like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle. These young men were all freshmen when they declared for the draft. They are the latest in a consistent string of talented youngsters who spend just one year removed from their graduating high school class before declaring for the NBA draft, as is currently required by the NBA. Many are opposed to this ‘one and done’ rule in theory, yet there is more excitement surrounding this draft class than there has been in several years.
Numerous opponents to the NBA’s ‘one and done’ rule make many unsubstantiated claims as to the certain improvement of the quality of the NCAA and NBA if the the rule goes away.
ESPN president John Skipper described the rule on age limits:
“The single worst violation of student-athlete relationships,” Skipper also said: “I have no quarrel with kids wanting to go play basketball. I think they should have to stay a couple or three years.”
Skipper is among the many who believe the indentured servitude that is collegiate sports is a better fit for the very athlete who will generate billions annually for televisions networks, advertisers, institutions, and franchises. Interestingly, Skipper is against these college players being paid.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has received greater attention from his handling of the Donald Sterling mess than for his initial agenda, which has been to change the ‘one and done’ rule.
“I’ve been a proponent of raising the age [limit] from 19 to 20 because I think it would make a better league,” announced Silver in a conference call with sports editors in April. With no data to back these assertions, Silver has repeatedly stated the importance of raising the age limit.
Inquiring minds should ask: What financial benefit would the league see if this were to occur? The simple answer is, without any other changes, an increase in the age limit would drastically reduce the average players’ earning potential. Players are far less likely to receive maximum contracts after the age of 30 and a change of the ‘one and done’ rule automatically pushes every player closer to 30 by the time of their second free agency contract. Meanwhile, there is no salary cap for coaches and executives.
As is stands, the millionaire executives paid to evaluate, draft, train, and coach the players have unlimited earning potential, with a longer period of time to do their job. However, players would have their earning potential limited and have to spend more of their physical prime playing for free. Many supporters of the ‘one and done’ rule think about current athletes and the luxurious lifestyle they are afforded.
They forget about the hundreds of athletes that came before them who were completely taken advantage of. They do not consider that these current NBA rules are already restrictive, considering how dependent the sport is on selling its superstars. NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson points out:
“Colleges are greedy, They want to keep them [kids] in school because it helps them – it helps the coach, it helps the winning percentage.”
The NCAA’s motive is clear, keeping talent that produces billions annually for as long as possible makes sense for business. However, the NBA seems to be confused by claiming to want to put the best product on the floor. But this year’s draft class illustrates that a great number of the best players available are 19, not 20 or older. So why wouldn’t the NBA want them? Actually they do. They just realize that so many of their executives are so poor at developing these youngsters when they come into the league that they hope to get more finished products. Unfortunately for them, there is no business immune to the pitfalls of poor management, which is the NBA’s biggest problem, not age limits as the league tries to suggest..–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.