Steve Kerr writes about upping the age to 20 here. He gives all the reasons why a second year in college would be beneficial. That's great, but he avoids addressing non-qualifiers and how the D-league fits in. He uses Kevin Garnett as an example of a young guy who produced a little as a rookie and could have used a year in college. But Garnett did not qualify for college. How does he fit in? Does he go to the D-league? Is the D-league ready to support a kid that young?
Kerr’s assessment of straight-to-the-NBA guys like Garnett is flawed. He compares the rookie seasons of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan to those of Garnett, Kobe, Howard & LeBron, concluding Garnett & Bryant “needed the extra playing time” they would’ve gotten in college to develop and “LeBron and Howard were thrust into unfair positions as saviors of lottery teams, and after seeing how their careers have unfolded, maybe those burdens affected them more than we realized.”
This is the wrong way of looking assessing the situation.
If the question is “what’s best for Kevin Garnett’s development, going straight to the NBA or going to college?,”* looking at his rookie stats tells us nearly nothing, as we don’t know what they would’ve been had he gone to college. Kerr tries to use rookie seasons of college-goers Bird, Johnson & Jordan as proxies, but this is nonsense. Instead, Kerr should look later at Garnett’s career.
Take Bird for example. Larry Bird at age 23 after three years in college put up a 20.5 PER and 11.2 Win Shares. Kerr compares that to Garnett’s 15.8 PER & 4.4 Win Shares as a 19 year old after zero years in college, and concludes that Garnett would’ve been better served going to college. What Kerr should do instead is look at Garnett at a comparable point in his own journey. Doing so, we see that Garnett at age 21 with two NBA seasons behind him put up a 20.4 PER and 9.6 Win Shares, which compares well with Bird at 23 with three years of college behind him. And Garnett's career from then on compares favorably to Bird’s.
It isn’t exactly a great insight to note that a 23 year old player with three years of college experience outperformed a 19 year old straight out of high school. And it tells us nothing about which path (college vs. NBA) is better for a player’s development -- it merely suggests that having three extra years of development time is better than not having them. Hardly groundbreaking stuff, and not at all relevant to an assessment of whether those three years would be better spent in college or the NBA.
Finally, Kerr suggests -- and I’ve seen this suggested elsewhere in this debate -- that Garnett and Bryant weren’t ready for the NBA and should’ve gone to college. But they were both, at 18/19 years old, league-average players. That’s really good! (For comparison: Garnett’s 15.8 rookie PER was better than the PERs of all but 5 of this year’s rookies, all of whom -- obviously -- are older and more experienced than he was.) Both made second-team all-Rookie team. I would contend that if you’re capable of being an average NBA at 19 years old, you’re ready (from a basketball standpoint) for the League. And both went on to have inner-circle Hall of Fame careers. So it’s awfully hard to buy the notion that their longterm development was stunted.
Though Kerr suggests the players would’ve been better served by developing in college, his piece is really written from the perspective of the league, so his broader point is that it isn’t in the league’s interest to pay for development that could occur on someone else’s dime, and that the quality of basketball in the league would be higher if it didn’t have still-developing teenagers dragging it down. But Bryant, Garnett, James and Howard are terrible examples that undermine his point: All four were league-average or better performers as rookies. That means their presence in the league didn’t lower the quality of play -- it raised the quality of play, assuming teams behaved rationally and gave them PT at the expense of below-average players.
The kids that don't want to go to college get drafted by the NBA teams, and do their development on a minor league type team, financed by the NBA team that drafted them, sort of the way it is done in baseball and hockey. It generally answers a lot of the problems of player development for the NBA. and likewise solves problems colleges face with the one and done meme. Somewhere there are smart people that could get together on this, and work out all of the wrinkles.
What are the real consequences to the player for his breach of his contract? What are the actual, provable damages to the university? And even if the school goes to the trouble (and takes the PR hit) of actually filing a lawsuit against Knight, and then can somehow prove actual damages, doesn't Knight just write a check and move on?
What am I missing here?
should do away with freshmen eligibility.
And put the college Presidents on notice that athletes must be student-athletes.
Might force the NBA to come to its senses regarding one and done.
Athletes who have no interest in being students would have to opt to for a year in Europe or something unless the rule was changed.
BTW there is no way to force players to stay in school for 3 years. What if they flunk out?
Would put the college back in college athletics.
As an aside, as far as the restrictions the player would face from the NBA once he goes pro, those are going to exist whenever the player joins the league, so not sure how that's relevant here. No, he can't go back and play college ball again, but that of course has been the NCAA's rule forever.
But the other way around, seems like not so much. If the kid leaves early, how is Duke damaged financially by a kid declining to accept the university's gift of $60,000?
What I was trying to say was that in your proposed scenario, were the kid decides to go pro early and breaks his scholarship contract in order to do so, I don't see how the university is financially damaged by that -- it's just the kid declining to continue to accept a continuing gift -- tuition, room, board, books, etc. -- but that seems to be all it is.
On the other hand, if in a different scenario, let's just say hypothetically that after one year of play, the school decides to renege on the scholarship contract, and said to the kid, "we don't want you at this university anymore, we're revoking your scholarship, you're out of here," then I could see the player being financially damaged by that, as he'd no longer be receiving the free tuition, room, board, books, etc. that he contracted for, and that would be a loss to him of $60K for each of the years remaining on the contract.
I think Duke can be said to be "financially damaged" if the "contractual" player bolts to the NBA before the 3+ year contract. He/she might owe Duke $120,000+ if they leave before their junior year. Good policy for any University. It will happen only if the NCAA grows some and actually believes their promos/TV ads.
I'm waiting for someone to propose a system which is better for the players than the current one. All the discussed scenarios are based on the premise that the players somehow owe the schools more than they're already giving them (which for early entrants is NBA-level talent).
The other issue I have with the player contract idea is that it gives an enormous advantage to the powerhouse schools who can afford to essentially pay their players. Mid-major teams can't do that, so you're taking away the parity that makes college ball so great.