Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hoops: The 19-year old debate

I have read all the back-and-forth debate on the 19-year old age-limit. There are plenty of valid points on both sides of the argument. Yes, a handful of players go the prep-school route and avoid the hard work of college. Some may even go overseas for a year and earn a decent buck. But guess what - that's a good thing too. Not for those players, but for colleges. If a kid is so NBA obsessed that he is willing to skip out on the college experience, he's better off NOT being in college, particulary with the new APR requirements.

In my view, the overall impact to the college game will be a positive one in the short-term and a negative one in the long-term. Why? In the short-term, the majority of top-ranked kids will go ahead and want the college experience. Why else would Greg Oden go ahead and commit to Ohio State. He's a man-child and by many people's doomsday predictions would go the prep route. He's not. He's the #1 kid in his class by a long way, and he's going to college. So for the short-term I see the age-limit helping get more high school kids into college.

Now here's the trick. If you can get the kids to college, the odds of them being "one-and-done" is dramatically low. Dramatically. Can you guess how many "one-and-done" players there have been in the past 5 drafts? What do you think? Maybe 25? 30?........................... Try 10...... Two per year on average.

Let's take a look at the one-and-done players the last 3 drafts?:

2005 (draft position)
#2........Marvin Williams (UNC)

#7.......Luol Deng (Duke)
#14.....Kris Humphries (Minnesota)
#43.....Trevor Ariza (UCLA)

#3...... Carmello Anthony (Syracuse)
#4...... Chris Bosh (Georgia Tech)

I could go on. I think in 2001 and 2002 there were also only 2 one-and-done players each year. The bottom-line is this - if you can get them to college, the odds are they'll be there more than one season. Leaving as a freshman is actually fairly rare. Why? Playing against a higher level of competition exposes players. Their "potential" usually has nowhere to go but down if they are a top high school prospect. That's why so many high schoolers get picked. Talk to Randolph Morris about the benefits of playing for Kentucky for one season. He WOULD be riding the pine on some NBA bench had he put his name in the hat for last year's draft. Just ask Andrew Bynum...... If Bynum plays at UConn next season, he probably doesn't even start (a la Marvin Williams). Heck, had Marvin Williams started for UNC, he may not have been the #2 overall pick. He rode the UNC train - and definitely is a player - but #2? Not so sure............. The truly super-Lebron-types will end up one-and-done (like Oden), but the reality is that there just aren't that many players in that category. Certainly far less than NBA teams are picking on draft day.

So anything that gets more top players to college will help the college game. The real question - will the age-limit really get more top players to college? My belief is that it will. It already has. Oden will play for Ohio State instead of being the #1 pick in the 2006 draft. He's not going to Europe and he's not going to the NBADL. Speaking of that........

In the beginning of this rant, I said that in the long-term I didn't see the age-limit as a benefit. Why? David Stern and his vision of the NBADL as a farm-system for budding talent. Once he truly gets that program clicking, more and more kids will try their hand at the NBADL as their ticket to the next level. Why wouldn't they? They can pursue their dream full-time, and if it doesn't work out, they can go to the school of their choice, get their degree (not a freebie though) and join the rest of us working slobs. Of course, Stern has some development work to do in order to make that vision a reality.

He has already started. In case you missed it, while the age-limit for the draft was moving to 19-years old, the age-limit for the NBADL was moved from 20 to 18. Are you seeing what's going on here? Do not think for one second that David Stern cares about the state of the college game. He is protecting his own franchise. So will the NCAA respond? Will they attempt a similar restriction in hoops like they have in beesball - once you commit, you have to be 3 years removed from your senior season before entering the draft? That is one of the few things in the NCAA's control. Will they do it? Doubt it - especially because it is endorsed by Dick Vitale.

I guess we will see what happens. Stay tuned..........