Lou Williams. Tyson Chandler. Tracy McGrady. Kevin Garnett. LeBron James. Kobe Bryant. Just to name a few.
Each player on this list jumped from high school to the NBA, and each one also carved out a decent career.
Enter the one-and-done era. Starting with the 2006 NBA draft, players were required to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school in order to be considered eligible for the draft.
The latest manifestation of the one-and-done rule recently got University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller into hot water, with an FBI investigation alleging that he discussed a $100,000 payment to secure the recruitment of one of the top recruits of the 2017 class, Deandre Ayton.
Miller and Arizona have subsequently denied these claims. But even if Miller is innocent, the issue of illegal compensation in recruitment is still a rampant problem ─ the FBI report named more than 20 elite college programs that broke recruiting rules. This issue could possibly be alleviated if there wasn’t as much competition for players who would only play at the NCAA level for one year.
The NBA has justified the one-and-done rule for many years as one that makes sure its players have some form of college education and some real-world living experience.
Fair enough, considering there have a been a number of players who went bankrupt ─ some of whom came to the NBA straight from high school, such as Darius Miles, Eddy Curry and Shawn Kemp. Kemp actually did attend college but he just didn’t play NCAA basketball, suggesting that this correlation of money mismanagement with prep-to-pro players is rather weak.
For those players who have done their one year of college, however, it’s hard to expect that they learned anything equivalent to a year of NBA income. Ben Simmons, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick, dropped out of Louisiana State University in mid-March, as soon as his team’s season ended and even admitted that he rarely went to class.
Supporters of the one-and-done rule have also argued that college gives players a chance to build their bodies in preparation for the NBA. While this season has shown that this idea works well for a player like Kyle Kuzma ─ who spent four years at Utah ─ I doubt that anybody would be foolish enough to say that the bodies of Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Greg Oden were immediately ready for the NBA after one year in college.
Better yet, I doubt anybody told LeBron James that he wasn’t ready for the NBA when he finished high school in 2003. If body development and injury caution are such big concerns, the NBA has a development league where players can strengthen their bodies and skills to a level arguably far greater than that which comes from NCAA-imposed practice time limits.
Reverting to the pre-2006 model would be a better option than the one-and-done rule. If necessary, players could spend a year in the G-League and have greater freedom to train, along with no NCAA-imposed GPA requirements. Or if the NBA is so convinced that it needs its athletes to be well educated, they can mandate more than one year of separation from high school graduation, as the NFL and MLB do.
The bottom line is that the current rule is unfair for players who are willing to take a chance on themselves. Not only do top players lose the opportunity at another year of bankroll in their athletic prime, they also stand to gain very little during their one year in college.
The NBA needs to seriously review the last 12 years of one-and-dones and see if it has helped their basketball product at all, compared to the prep-to-pro era before that. If not, hopefully it can adopt a solution better for its players and the league as a whole.