Are Underdeveloped College Players Hurting the NBA?
*Photo via AP
Are College Players That Leave School Early for the NBA Draft Actually Hurting the NBA Brand?
Every young basketball players dream is to reach the NBA at some point in their careers. It takes years of practice and dedication in order to achieve that lofty goal, however as a society we have seemed to look passed the fact that some of these young players aren't quite ready for the big stage. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that some of these young players, such as Jhalil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, don't belong on an NBA floor. I am merely stating that they should both stay in college and take those extra few years to hone their skills. Both players are extremely talented and extremely raw at the same time. The argument that I get from most people is that these players should go make the money, rather than risk the chance of injury while staying in college. This particular argument would make sense if we were talking about college football players, but I don't see how it fits when discussing college basketball players. Career threatening injuries in basketball don't happen very often. While the game may be physical at times, it is not very violent at all.
How does all of this hurt the NBA brand? The answer is quite simple. A lot of these young players who leave college too soon lack the basketball knowledge to adjust quickly to the NBA game. Do these players necessarily lack the physical tools to be successful? No. But there is much more to the game of basketball other than being physically gifted. When I watch some of these games I notice the basketball IQ of individual players has decreased dramatically. There is much more 1 on 1 play and bad shots taken than there are good possessions. I have spoken to numerous acquaintances who have told me that they would prefer watching college basketball over the NBA nowadays because it is more 'team orientated' basketball. The NBA may be more exciting to watch because of the amazing athletes that grace the court with their presence every night, but is the quality where it should be? The same teams are in the hunt for a lottery pick year in and year out because the players they drafted previously weren't quite ready to take on such a prominent role. Not only may this stunt the growth of a particular player, it may also cause an enormous amount of pressure on this individual to turn a franchise around. Are there exceptions? Of course there are. Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant are players who were thrown into the fire with limited experience and had great success. However, players like this don't come around too often and young players need to understand that it's not that easy. Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, 15 of those 30 have a record below the .500 mark. There is far too much mediocrity in the game and I believe it is a direct correlation to prospects not being ready. These young kids would be wise to stay in school, get an education, and develop their basketball skills. They will be much better prepared when they enter the NBA and the NBA brand will grow that much stronger.
There are two possible solutions to this problem. The first solution would be using the NBA developmental league as a minor league system, where drafted players can acclimate themselves in an NBA environment. Not only would this attribute to the development of players, but it would also generate more revenue for the NBA, as people would flock to see these young prospects. There would obviously be some contract issues that need to be resolved, but I truly believe this idea is worth a look. The second possible solution to this problem would be to adopt the NHL and MLB policy of drafting a player and holding the rights to that specific player instead of forcing them up to play immediately. For example, under this policy the Knicks would draft Jhalil Okafor, while allowing him to stay at Duke to develop his game. Instead of having to live with the growing pains from a top prospect they can become more polished as a player and be that much more ready to contribute when they are called up. Also, these players would be able to stay in school and get an education. Many people nowadays seem to forget that notion and it’s a serious problem in my eyes. Professional careers do not have a long lifeline and its imperative that these young kids think about their long term future rather than thinking about a few years making millions.