The NBA Should Draft And Follow
Left: Davon Jefferson left USC after one season, was not drafted, and now plays in Israel. He would have been better off with draft and follow.
Right: Corey Joseph left Texas after one season, was drafted at the end of the first round by San Antonio, and is now in the D-League. San Antonio would have been better off with draft and follow.
Yes: this is not a coincidence. But if my desire to see the NBA adopt a different draft model than one-and-done is naked self-interest, at least I'm not alone in my disdain. Mark Cuban is the latest person to sound off on the NBA's increasingly unpopular one-and-done rule. The normally shy and reserved Cuban:
Stern said Tuesday that he'd like to add a year to the rule. Cuban wants to take it a step further, requiring players to wait three years after their high school class graduates to become draft-eligible.
"I just think there's every good reason to do it, which is obviously why we didn't do it," Cuban said sarcastically, adding that Kentucky fans were the only people who like the one-and-done concept.
I think Kentucky fans would be okay with three years of Anthony Davis as well. Anthony Davis? Not so much.
While two or three years would make more sense than the current system, it's the difference between the current BCS system and a revised one that has three semi-finals. There's no reason for Anthony Davis to play college basketball anymore. There probably wasn't ever a reason. Football gets away with its model because the nature of the game makes age restrictions plausible. Basketball doesn't have that, so restrictions against high school kids entering the draft are unjustifiable.
That tenuous legal footing is a major issue. The other main problem with the draft today is uncertainty. Players get told they'll go somewhere by people with a vested interest in having the kid enter the draft, and these predictions often turn out to be wildly wrong. Meanwhile NBA teams are forced into making decisions about players when they say they're ready instead of when the NBA does. The current system is a high-stakes pull on a slot machine. It should go away.
Draft And Follow
Here's a model that eliminates the Lenny Cookes of the world, allows the Lebrons to pass go immediately, and guarantees every player exiting school will do so with enough money to go bankrupt spectacularly when their career is not as lucrative as they planned:
All players are automatically draft eligible coming out of high school. Euros might still have to apply, but I don't think anyone has a huge problem with the way Europeans get drafted. Players who are passed over out of high school remain eligible for drafts after their freshmen and sophomore years.
This would not impact anyone's eligibility. Hockey follows this model. The NCAA does not take your eligibility unless you opt in to a draft.
NBA teams retain rights until the summer after the player's eligibility expires. This has created some issues with NHL teams not wanting to chance a player hitting free agency after his senior year but that shouldn't be a problem in this model because…
An NBA team signing a draft pick commits to carrying the player on the roster until the year after his NCAA eligibility would have expired. Signing a kid out of high school means you are giving him a guaranteed five-year contract. After his freshman year, four years, etc. Signing a graduated senior does not require offering a guarantee.
Americans who go to the D-League or Europe are bound by the same rules.
The draft expands to five rounds. Since everyone's getting drafted out of high school miss rates will be higher and the extra rounds are warranted. Also, NBA fans will then have more players to follow in college.
The NCAA tweaks its rules to allow drafted players to participate in the NBA's summer league at the league's expense. This helps everyone make good decisions.
OPTIONAL: NBA teams can sign their picks to a pre-contract that gives them a significant amount of money without compromising their eligibility. This bit is a pipe dream, but it would go a long way towards cleaning up the seamier aspects of the NCAA model.
This Benefits Everyone
The NBA gets more time to make decisions on who to offer contracts to. They get the same publicity benefits for their players, if not more since a cottage industry that tracks draft picks will crop up. Trades will be less focused on cap numbers since each team will have a bunch of chips to send back and forth that do not exist now.
College players leaving school are doing so for guaranteed money and not the D-League. College teams keep players around longer and can plan for the future better by keeping in contact with the teams that have drafted their players.
The NCAA gets more eyeballs on college basketball from interested NBA fans and people who like the increased level of play. And no one has to tell LeBron James he can't get paid to play basketball out of high school.