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Friday, April 15, 2005

NBA draft Age Limit (My Two Cents) 

We keep hearing a lot about NBA commissioner David Stern's plan to put an age limit on the NBA draft, restricting it to only players who are at least 20 years old. I must say that this is not a good idea, and not because Jermaine O'Neal thinks the motivation behind it is race. I do believe that the league is concerned with quality of play (and rightfully so), but barring the best high school players won't change this. Last time I checked, the objective of the NBA was to get the best players in the world in one league. Do they really want to stop the next LeBron James from transcending the game at the highest level? Furthermore, what about overseas players? Many of them, such as Peja Stojakovic, began playing professionally in their native country at age 16. Are they put under the same restrictions as high schoolers here?

It has been said that an age requirement would be a boon for the college game. But would it really? You think recruiting scandals are bad now; wait until the absolute best players are up for grabs since they would have no choice but to attend college. The term "student-athlete" is already a laughable oxymoron; you can expect more stories such as Lamar Odom, whose last semester GPA at Rhode Island was a healthy 0.00. Also, the NCAA tournament would suffer greatly; the most captivating aspects of the tourney are all of the upsets during the first 4 days and rooting for the "mid-major" Cinderella stories in the later rounds. Outside of the occasional Larry Bird, the best players almost always choose the same schools from major conferences, thereby reducing the chances of major upsets. Granted, this is the opinion of a longtime Gonzaga fan, but the concern should be real for the NCAA.

And would this age limit really help the individual player? I don't doubt that a lot of high schoolers could have used some college seasoning to refine their games ( i.e. Kwame Brown), but what about kids who attended for a year or two and proved to be too good for the college game? This policy would not just prevent high-schoolers from entering the draft; college freshmen (and some sophs) would also be barred. Why make a Carmelo Anthony stay when he's certainly ready for the next level? And let's face it: with that much guaranteed money available, declaring early is a sound decision financially. These kids can always go back to college if they wish, and they could avoid living like a typical quasi-homeless college student in the process.

What basketball needs to do is take a good hard look at baseball's policy on the draft. High schoolers are eligible, but if they don't sign with an MLB team and choose the college route, they are bound to the college game for at least 3 years (except JC players, who can be drafted after 2 years, a la Mike Piazza). Yes, baseball is helped by the presence of minor leagues, but let's face it: this is one policy that baseball figured out a long time ago that works well for everyone. When was the last time you heard someone complaining about baseball players being too young for the majors or that college baseball players don't stay in school? The NBA should adopt a similar policy and do more to promote its half-assed "developmental" league. Just a thought.

Comments:
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