One and Done is Dumb

By: Chris DuPrau @ChrisDuPrau

Let’s imagine a scenario.

You are the best computer programmer in your high school.  You write code for fun and play games that allow you to break down code to hack in to things.  You have already created the code for certain apps that will revolutionize how we use smart phones.  Google is salivating over you.  Apple is ready to give you a corner office.  You are about to be 18 make mid to high 6 figures and will change the world for ever. 

But, you can’t work yet.

There is a rule that says anyone who works at a tech company must spend one year in college.  It’s a stupid rule, but the other options you have are a bit riskier, and you are almost assured of achieving all your dreams after spending some time on a campus.  So, you enroll in college, you meet some friends and you take some classes.  Yes, you are learning some stuff, but even you are not sure that it as valuable as what you would be learning with on the job training.  Still, it’s only a few months.  What could go wrong?

Well, something went wrong.  While at a frat party, you got into a fight and got a bad hand injury.  You are, for the most part, okay, but your hands were what connected you to the computer.  It’s what allowed you to be the best of the best.  You’ll probably still be able to get a job in the tech industry, but, at least for now, you won’t be starting at where you would have.  You’re going to have to show the company that you can still be what you would have been, and even though you believe you can get back to where you were, deep in the recesses of your brain, you are not positive you can. 

This scenario would never happen in the tech industry, or most industries here in America.  If you are awesome at something, you can do it.  In some cases, you don’t even need to finish high school much less go to college.  If you are great, you will be allowed to show your greatness.  Just not in the NBA.

The NBA since 2006 has forced all players who want to be drafted to be at least one year removed from graduating high school.  This rule gives young men who want to play in the NBA 3 options:

Option 1 – Go to college for at least a year

Option 2 – Go play overseas

Option 3 – Go to the NBA Developmental League the NBDL

The reason for this is that the NBA believes that these young men need time to develop, mature and prepare themselves both mentally and physically for the NBA.  In theory this makes sense.  When I was 18, I would not have been ready to make millions of dollars, deal with groupies, the rigors of travel and the idea of being a full-fledged adult.  Unlike a lot of star freshmen in college basketball, I was not one of the best people in the world at anything!  Some of these guys are!  The key word there is SOME. 

The real reason the NBA has this rule is not to protect the young men, or even to help college basketball.  It is because the NCAA screws people who get an agent and NBA GM’s are bad at evaluating talent. 

The modern high school to the pro’s movement began in 1995 with the drafting of Kevin Garnett by the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Kobe Bryant was drafted the following year by the Hornets (and then traded to the Lakers) and Jermaine O’Neal. Then Tracy McGrady was taken by the Raptors in ’97.  Three of them are future Hall of Famers, and O’Neal is a multi-time all star who also had the best punch from the Malice at the Palace, aka the Wombo Combo

After these initial picks, things went off the rails

1998 – Al Harrington 25, Rashard Lewis 32, Korleone Young 40

1999 – Jonathan Bender 5, Leon Smith 25

2000 – Darius Miles 3, DaShawn Stevenson 23,

2001 – Kwame Brown 1, Tyson Chandler 2, Eddie Curry 4, DaSanga Diop 8

2002 – Amar’e Stoudemire 9

2003 – Lebron James 1, Travis Outlaw 23, Ndudi Ebi 26, Kendrick Perkins 27, James Lang 48

2004 – Dwight Howard 1, Shaun Livingston 4, Robert Swift 12, Sebastian Telfair 13, Al Jefferson 15, Josh Smith 17, J.R. Smith 18,

2005 – Martell Webster 6, Andrew Bynum 10, Gerald Green 18, C.J. Miles 34, Monta Ellis 40, Lou Williams 45, Andray Blatch 49, Amir Johnson 56

We can break down this list of players into a few categories:

  1. Lebron – He gets his own damn category, because he’s freaking Lebron
  2. Totally Should have been taken – Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Shaun Livingston (was really good before he got hurt), Josh Smith, J.R. Smith (He’s crazy, but can play) Andrew Bynum (was good until he wasn’t), Monta Ellis, Lou Williams, Rashard Lewis, Al Jefferson
  3. Became solid NBA players but could have used some time in college – Travis Outlaw, Kendrick Perkins, DaSanga Diop, Andray Blatch, Amir Johnson, Gerald Green, C.J. Miles, DaShawn Stevenson
  4. Flamed out because of immaturity – Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, Eddie Curry (flamed out due to eating), Darius Miles, Martell Webster, Sebastian Telfair, Al Harrington
  5. Never heard of them – Korleone Young, Leon Smith, Ndudi Ebi, James Lang
  6. Killed a Franchise – Kwame Brown
  7. Robert Swift – I knew this was a bust when it happened.  Look at his images on Google

So being generous we will call this a 50% success rate.  Some players turned out really good, some turned out good although not always for the team that drafted them, and some turned into hot garbage.  It is tough to judge a high school player and be able to project how they will do against grown men in the NBA.  Even if you picked the right person, they still often took a few years to develop.  Then, when a team finally started to get the fruits of their draft pick, they would leave in free agency as both Jermaine O’Neal and Tracy McGrady did.  Due to the randomness of it all, the NBA decided to give themselves a little cover and say that future players had to wait at least a year after they graduated to enter the NBA Draft.  This would allow NBA GM’s some extra time to scout them in their free minor league…the NCAA.

It is due to this policy that Zion Williamson is playing at Duke today.  Zion is the biggest basketball prospect since Lebron and the most intriguing college player since Durant.  He is a man playing with boys, and he is playing with boys because of the one and done rule.  Zion is almost assuredly going to be the first pick in the draft next year, but he probably would have been a top 3 pick last year.  He is not increasing his earning potential that much by playing at Duke, but he can’t go right to the NBA.  As a college basketball fan, I have really enjoyed having him playing on campuses this year, but I’m selfish.  I know this guy should be in the NBA right now.  I mean what if he got hurt…oh wait…he almost did.  30 some odd seconds into the biggest college basketball game of the year (UNC vs Duke) this happened:

He freaking made a shoe blow up!  I’ve watched basketball since I was 8, and I’ve NEVER seen that.  Now it turned out to be only a knee sprain, but what if it was something worse?  If he were to tear an ACL or something, that could affect the way he plays the rest of his life, effect his future earnings, effect his family for generations.  All while playing in a game HE WASN’T GETTING PAID TO PLAY IN!  Zion is playing in this game because he didn’t have a choice.  I take that back.  He was given a choice.  He could choose to play overseas, play in NBDL or play for a big-time college basketball program.  Just not in the NBA.  None of those choices would have paid him as much as being a top 3 pick in the draft would have paid him last year. 

Young men should not be punished because the NBA doesn’t know how to evaluate them.  They also shouldn’t be punished for wanting to follow their dream and play in the NBA.  There are easy solutions to this issue that will both protect the NBA, protect the NCAA and most importantly protect the players.

Step 1 – Anyone can declare for the NBA draft. 

Declaring doesn’t mean you’re going, it just means you can be drafted.

Step 2 – Form a draft committee

Once a player declares for a draft their name goes to a committee.  That committee made up of people with no team affiliation will talk with scouts, teams, coaches and determine if this person is likely to get drafted.  The player will then be given all of this information.  If they are likely to get drafted, then they probably stay in the draft.  If it is decided that they would most likely go undrafted or will be a late pick, they will now know and can decide if they want to stay in the draft or commit to a college.  This will allow them to decide if they want to risk going undrafted and having their athletic future be left up in the air (NBDL, overseas).

Step 3 – College for 2 years

As a college basketball fan, the worst part about one and done is that you don’t get to know the players on certain teams.  The connection we used to have watching players grow is gone. MLB has a rule that if a player goes to college they must stay there for 3 years.  That seems long, so let’s make it 2.  This will give the player time to develop and experience college.  One and done kids legitimately go to school for a semester.  If they know they are leaving after their freshmen year, all of they have to do is be eligible after the first semester.  Once those finals are done in December, they don’t have to go to class again.  A semester doesn’t give someone a college experience, but if they have to be their 2 years, that means they have to actually be a college athlete for 3 semesters minimum.  Plus, it would give college basketball fans a chance to actually develop a connection with a top player before he leaves. 

This plan is not perfect, but it gives the player a choice, let’s them know their options and is a hell of a lot better than the one in place now.  The NBA is already talking about getting rid of one and done in the next few years.  I love college basketball, but I want players who actually want to be there, not ones that are being forced. 

Keep on Keepin’ on

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