Ladies and gentlemen, we now know how to develop young NBA players while solving the problem of compensation–we develop the D-League.
I’ll try to be short today.
Much has been discussed about lowering and raising the draft eligibility age. Do high schoolers have the right to play in the NBA? Should they? Should we demand players have more seasoning before entering the league? Is that the responsibility of the player or the drafting team? We have a lot of questions to answer, but like I said–I’ll be short today.
What if we decided to fix the NBA Draft process once and for all?
Idea: In an effort to appease both sides of this debate, what if we raised the age limit to 20, but allowed ineligible high school and international players to declare for the NBA Draft and develop in the NBA D-League?
Work with me here. In theory, this idea cannot be properly implemented until each NBA franchise wholly owns and manages a D-League franchise of its own. In this scenario, franchises would be able to draft a prospect, but the prospect (if not eligible right away) is required to play with the team’s minor league affiliate in order to develop and season until the right time comes.
As a side-note, let’s assume here that by this point, D-League salaries are considerably more lucrative than they currently are (an inevitability with the continued growth of the NBA), so D-League players, while not necessarily living in NBA-styled max-level penthouses, aren’t exactly steeped in poverty either. Under this plan, a prospect’s draft rights could be moved around the league (like any unsigned draft pick’s rights) via trade throughout the D-League, but only if traded to another NBA team.
What are the benefits of this idea?
Prospects are able to develop in an NBA-ready environment without being exploited by higher education institutions here in the United States. Prospects are taught how to be professionals in an expanded version of the Rookie Transition Program. Prospects are also able to develop under the watchful eye of the franchises that initially drafted them, until they are ready to contribute at a high level.
As a result, players aren’t forced to subject themselves to an outdated collegiate athletic system that only aims to enrich itself, and can instead focus on the very craft they’ve consciously dedicated their lives to. I would imagine that this balanced approach might be able to appease both sides of the debate, while growing the league on both ends.
Interest in D-League franchises will spike exponentially, and the NBA’s footprint in non-NBA markets will continue to grow with increased attention now dedicated to exciting new talents. D-League markets will be able to get an exclusive glimpse at the NBA’s future prodigies, and parts of the country too far away from NBA venues will be able to fall in love with the game of basketball all over again with competitive play.
Any better ideas? Let’s talk about them.