Within the cozy confines of sports, few rules have created more animosity over the last decade as the NBA’s one-and-done rule. It’s helped usher in a new era of basketball for both the NBA and the NCAA. Certain programs have embraced the new challenges this rule created; some of those that have leaned in have reaped great rewards.
Others, well, haven’t fared so well.
The one-and-done rule has spawned countless think pieces; just like with the millennial generation, everyone has a take for this topic. I’m mostly benign to the rule, for whatever it’s worth. I think players should be allowed to enter the NBA whenever they so chose. At the same point, a rule is a rule; we can debate its merits, but it seems unnecessary and fruitless to draw strong emotions over its implementation. Reversing the rule, however — well, that’s a different conversation, and one we should absolutely look into.
Speaking of which: Within the last week, the subject has gained steam once again. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver brought up the topic twice ahead of Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals, saying he didn’t think the rule was working for anybody. This is an earnest man who doesn’t mince words; it’s clearly an issue he and the league are looking into again.
I’d quickly warn caution for college basketball purists who think the removal of the rule would send “amateur” hoops back to the glory age of 1980s. Patrick Ewing and his sweat-soaked gray t-shirt aren’t walking through that door. In fact, a rule change could further deplete the talent pool in college basketball.
Don’t change that dial
As much as people complain about the current state of college basketball, the sport itself is still wildly popular. If the product has actually been altered in the past decade, it’s not to the point of getting folks to change the channel.
NCAA Tournament coverage went up significantly this year. According to the NCAA, the tournament snagged a 7.2/15 average rating/share. That is a 13 percent increase over the 2016 tournament.
The championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga showed a 21 percent increase over last season, with a 14.5/24 Rating/Share. This was the third-highest-rated championship game since the 2005 tournament. According to Nielsen, 23 million people watched the title game on CBS.
Back in 2015, when Duke defeated Wisconsin, over 28 million people tuned in. Let’s not forget: That Duke team featured three one-and-done players.
Rise of the G League
The NBA’s developmental league — which is now known as the G League — has incorrectly been a source of bemusement for the last decade. This is greatly misplaced; the league is grounds for player development. It’s a laboratory for NBA teams to try out new systems and strategy. Everyone gawked when the Houston Rockets shot 2,795,556 (rough estimate) three-pointers this season. This, however, is something the Rockets franchise has tested for years with its developmental affiliate, the Rio Grand Vipers.
At the start of the 2017-18 basketball season, 26 of the 30 NBA teams will have their own G League affiliate. It won’t take long for the final four teams to make the jump, too. Washington and New Orleans have laid out plans to have operational affiliates by 2018.
There’s never been more money and interest in the NBA’s development league. Golden State’s affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors (where former NC State star Scott Wood played this past year), had 17,500 people show up to a game this season — an attendance record.
And as interest in the league grows concurrently with its improving resources, a new, important development has also occurred: two-way contracts.
This is something I wrote about back in April. The NBA’s newest ratified CBA has created new rosters spots in the professional ranks. Starting next season, the league will allow teams two additional roster spots that can be dedicated to two-way contracts.
These are deals that will allow franchises to control the rights to specific players and increase overall roster size to 17 players — 13 of which can dress for each game. Players on two-way contracts can float back and forth between the parent club and G-League affiliate. Their pay will adjust accordingly, too. When those players are in the NBA, they will make the standard minimum salary. When they spend time in the G-League, they will make between $50,000-75,000, which is tens of thousands of dollars more than the average salary.
It’s only a matter of time before teams, personnel people and players see the G League has the best route to go. They can get paid decent money and start the process of matriculating into pro ball surrounded by the best coaching and training the world has to offer for their craft.
A modest proposal
One of the proposed solutions for the one-and-done policy is a rule that would allow players to enter the NBA after high school — an abolishment of the one-and-done rule. Tom Ziller put together a succinct breakdown of this over at SB Nation.
Those who advocate for college athletics would probably want some assurances, too. So, if a player decided to attend college and play basketball at a university, those athletes would have to stick around for two years, minimum.
This proposal makes sense. It wouldn’t restrict prep stars from entering the workforce in a career they want to pursue — most importantly. Players who want to attend college, however, would be on campus for twice as long, which could be a boon for basketball programs. NBA teams that acquire players out of high school would have a built-in training ground for prep players. If franchises drafted players from colleges, then they would get them with at least another year of valuable experience under their belts.
College basketball fans would have the opportunity to see these guys play more for their favorite teams, too. This shouldn’t have anything to do with the equation, and again, I’d caution here to be careful what you wish for. The best players in college hoops, on an annual basis, are those one-year prodigies. Remove them from the arena of college ball, and perhaps some of the intrigue erodes — where a player will commit, rivalries, matchups, etc. It would chemically change the sport.
Maybe that’s for the best. Either way, we will have to wait and see.
I’m not sure if the one-and-done rule has been a net positive for college basketball, but it has certainly made the sport more interesting.