By Tank Spencer
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says he’s open to rule changes in the league and among them is the draft eligibility requirement. Currently players must be 19 before being able to enter the draft, which typically means one year after high school. Silver said before this weekend’s All-Star game that he supports raising that age restriction to 20. That’s a mistake. In fact, the NBA having a sweeping restriction in place is the wrong move altogether.
I believe the NBA would be better off with an age restriction much like baseball. There should be an avenue for the elite to join the NBA right out of high school if they want. I don’t believe any organization should tell players they can’t cash a paycheck right away if their talent will allow it. I would like to see high school seniors allowed to enter the NBA draft, but once they go to college, overseas or the NBDL, they are ineligible for two years.
This rule will ensure that the next Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Kevin Garnett doesn’t have to “waste” valuable marketing time in college AND that colleges who get commitments from student-athletes can rely on them sticking around for a while. As a college basketball fan, I can’t stand the one-and-done allowance. It ruins any continuity or cohesion of teams. I still don’t consider guys like Joe Forte, Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright as Tar Heels – at least not true ones.
Most players that jump from high school to the NBA are never successful. From 1998-2005, when the 19 year-old age restriction was instituted, 26 guys made the jump and were rarely heard from again (some never). In that time frame only 9 players who entered the draft without going to college became All-Stars or at least go-to players. I’m not saying college would have made them better, but at least they would have had more time to mature as players and men.
Here are my all-time American HS to pro ball teams:
PG - Monta Ellis
SG - Kobe Bryant
SF - LeBron James
PF - Moses Malone *Played in ABA 2 years prior to NBA
C - Dwight Howard
PG - Brandon Jennings *Played in Italy 1 year instead of college before entering the NBA draft
SG - Tracy McGrady
SF – Rashard Lewis
PF - Kevin Garnett
C - Jermaine O’Neal