As we saw last night, the NBA’s one-and-done problem cuts both ways. Not only are teams getting inexperienced players, but many of those same players find themselves without any alternative once they start to slide in the draft.
The obvious solution here is for colleges to just let under-drafted players return to school, but the NCAA has a multi-billion dollar ponzi scheme dependent on their slave labor, so anything that puts that at risk is out of the question. Once a player joins the draft class, his amateur status is voided. So what if a player could join the draft conditionally, without voiding their eligibility?
Here’s my proposal: if a freshman wants to make the leap into the NBA, they must be drafted in the lottery. If a sophomore does, they must be drafted in the first round. Juniors and seniors are free to to join the NBA regardless of draft slot. If a player is not drafted in their designated range, then they are immediately pulled out of the draft pool.
This allows superstar freshman like Ben Simmons into the draft as soon as they’d like without putting players like Skal Labissiere and Deyonta Davis into situations where they are drafted into bad situations. Remember, these guys are not only losing guaranteed money on their contracts, but opportunity. Teams are far more willing to grant minutes and forgive mistakes the eighth pick than they are to the 28th. If a freshman is drafted in the lottery, they’d likely get every opportunity to succeed. Afterwards it gets dicey.
This program ensures that teams get to draft the college players that are most ready to make an impact and places a higher value on scouting. If there’s a freshman other teams are overlooking that your team thinks could go in the top-five next year, then you have to put your money where you mouth is and take him in the lottery rather than sitting back and letting him drop.
If the NCAA had a shred of human decency we could simply allow players to hire agents without risking their eligibility, but as that is out of the question because, again, slave labor, the NBA itself could represent underclassmen who seek early entry. NBA representatives could schedule workouts and deduct travel expenses from their eventual contracts. Either that, or the players could be represented by their college coaches, as both Davis and Labissiere functionally were last night. Tom Izzo and John Calipari were the ones making calls for their players. Maybe they could guide them through the entire process.
It just doesn’t make sense to force a prospect to risk the entire trajectory of their career on one decision. The league should try to give prospects who aren’t sure things a chance to improve their game some more, and it should also look for any opportunity possible to allow teams to further scout fringe prospects. This system helps everyone involved, even the NCAA, as the colleges would get some of their talent back for another year of exploitation without risking their economic model.