Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Your stud high school senior dreams of the NBA. What do you tell him? College? D-League? And what do you say to those who want to raise the age limit?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: College. Easy choice. And here’s how I say it: “Get someone to fund your fallback preparation while still pursuing your dream. You’re not ready yet for the working world, especially one that shreds through wannabes the way the pro sports meritocracy does. If you’re talented enough and get good enough after, yes, at least two years, you might actually be able to give a fair return on the dollars someone will be pushing at you. In the meantime, learn as much as you can in and out of the classroom. Grow up as a player and as an adult. Scrape together a few bucks – your school of choice will have boosters, right? – for an insurance policy on future earnings, if possible, to guard against a major injury. Oh, and go easy on Twitter and Facebook – that stuff can come back to haunt you.”
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I still believe there is value in even a limited exposure to a college environment. If and when the NBA D-League raises salaries, guarantees signing bonuses and therefore raises the overall talent level, then my thinking could change. Raising the age limit would definitely help the colleges and would also help the NBA teams on not having to guess so much on potential. But last I checked, this is America with a free-market system and an individual should be able to reap the best price he can get for his talent with no arbitrary restrictions.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Go to college, young man. Go play for a marquee coach at a big-name school in front of body-painted student bodies jumping up and down and hollering like mad in hallowed venues across the country. Go get some March Madness and enjoy the camaraderie (even if it is just for one year). The D-League? To play in front of 1,500 people (on a good night) in some cold city via third-rate travel? Nah. As for the age limit, raise it.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Depends on the person. Going to college, even if just for one academic year, is a great experience, and not just in basketball terms. That should always be the first choice. But some people cannot keep up academically. They should not be put in a situation that creates more difficulty, for the student and the school. (And that’s to say nothing of the larger issue of taking away an enrollment spot from someone who can genuinely put it to good use.) The D-League is a worthwhile option. I am against raising the age limit. I get the NBA wanting to protect its product, but getting prospects into the system sooner, not later, will help.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Go to college, enjoy the experience, go to class, and earn some credits toward the degree that you will eventually earn. I’d have to see the full data on one-and-doners (vs. players with more experience) to determine if it’s still too early to be making decisions on them, but Anthony Bennett might be the poster boy for raising the limit.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I wish the NBA Draft straight out of high school was still an option. I’m in favor of any high school graduate being given the freedom to make his own choice, good or bad, about their own future. Because it’s un-American to think of anyone of legal age not being able to choose their own path. But for the best of the very best, I have to agree that going the professional route makes the most sense to me. With all of the constraints that come with collegiate basketball, the idea that a guy could work for free, even for six to eight months, when he could hit the professional ranks immediately just doesn’t make sense. I know people love college hoops. I do, too. But if we’re not going to give kids the option of entering the NBA Draft out of high school and we’re not going to require kids to stay in college for three years (so they could actually mature, surrender themselves to the process in college and prepare themselves for life after basketball in some form or fashion), they need to be allowed to make the same decisions all high school graduates are allowed to make. There’s no guarantee a guy makes it to and lasts in the NBA based solely on whether they attended school or toiled in the D-League.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: Son, I know you think you’re ready to play in the NBA right away, and you maybe even think you’re good enough to play professionally overseas as well. But before you decide, I left a few movies on your Netflix queue that I want you to watch. Yeah, those top three: Hoop Dreams, Lenny Cooke, and the 30 for 30 film, Broke. So go ahead and watch those, and then when you’re done, come on back and talk to me and we’ll sit down and figure out where you’re going to attend college. Well, at least for one year.
Simon Legg, NBA Australia: College. I just like the idea of exposing a young player to crowds and big TV audiences early so they’re not overwhelmed when they come into the league. The NBA can be so daunting for a young player. I’m definitely for raising the age limit and removing the whole ‘one and done’ system. I’d like it to be raised to 21 so we can have young adults with three years in college entering the league consistently.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I actually liked the way that Mark Cuban touched on the subject. To me, a proper education is crucial besides being developed as a basketball talent. Because once you come to the NBA you’re simply more than just an athlete, you’re an ambassador of the league and a role model for possibly millions of kids. And if you don’t make it, you should be prepared to be successful otherwise. As of now, colleges appear to be better suited to provide education and character-building than the D-League. However, those capacities aren’t put to use properly, as Cuban rightfully criticized. And the D-League does have the chance to grow into a true personal development league, too. Concerning the age limit: I don’t have a clear preference, as long as education is taken seriously, even in a one-and-done scenario.
XiBin Yang, NBA China: I prefer that kids stay in college. Playing basketball is just one possible way of making a living. That’s not the whole thing of life. You’ve got to take your talent into account. Spending more years in college could make a player more mature, both mentally and physically. There’re more issues than that on the table, and it’s not just a basketball affair. Raising the age limit is a good move, but it seemed not so smart to prevent all kids from joining the pro league earlier. Maybe the league could take some measures to value each player, whether this player has got the ability to stay in the league. If you’ve got the talent, and ready for all things, you get the permit.