Darius Morris and Jack Johnson
The Bylaw Blog has developed a recurring theme of late: by placing greater restrictions on the folk it has control over it cedes territory to people it doesn't. A prime example is when the NCAA banned college coaches from attending AAU events. AAU events didn't stop collecting players or happening, and coaches got more distant from the players they were trying to recruit. This provides greater influence for middlemen, and in college basketball these days lots of middlemen want to get paid, yo.
Here's another example, one year after ACC coaches successfully lobbied the NCAA to move the draft withdrawal date up 40 days:
A year later, here we are again. The ACC's coaches drafted a new proposal, one that moves the early-entry deadline all the way up to the day before the beginning of the spring signing period. In 2011, that date -- April 12 -- would have passed us by weeks ago. It would have given underclassman prospects exactly eight days after the national title game to decide whether they wanted to go pro or stay in school for another year. It would have -- I mean, it will; I'm still having trouble with the idea that this is actually happening -- forced players with millions of dollars on the line to make life-altering decisions in the matter of a few days with minimal information on which to make them.
Why move the date? April 10th is the day before basketball's late signing period. Now coaches will know how many spots they have open when that period opens. Except they wont. Bylaw Blog:
In attempting to control the draft process, college coaches have lost all control of the draft process to the NBA. Instead of an NCAA deadline of May 8, the new deadline is not April 10, but still April 24, the NBA's deadline.
The NBA's shown no interest in helping college basketball, so the chances the change actually has any positive effect are slim. The net effect is to prevent a bunch of players from declaring and returning to school. But at least there's an alternate universe in which college coaches are happier.
Why not revamp? I've been bothering the Bylaw Blog about this on twitter, and now I'm going to bother you: you could sidestep all these issues by dumping the current NBA draft structure and replacing it with something closer to the MLB/hockey model. In those sports everyone is automatically put into the draft and thus retains their eligibility. In baseball there is a narrow window in which you have to sign or the team loses rights to the player; hockey teams retain rights to the player until they graduate.
The Bylaw Blog keeps shooting down these proposals like so:
Short draft, limited roster spots, lack of minor league make MLB model less workable for basketball. NBA should adopt MLS approach*.
That was the same reasoning given to me when I bothered him about hockey, but I think he's conflating the two models. The MLB model does encourage a bunch of players to sign way before they're ready to enter the major leagues and implementing it in basketball could see a bunch of college stars toiling away in the D-League, something no one wants. (If the NBA had any designs on making people care about the D-League they wouldn't have started forcing players to go to college.)
The hockey model doesn't necessarily have this issue. Since teams retain rights they can leave kids in school until they determine whether or not they want to sign them. Players do tend to sign before they are NHL-ready but that's because there is a ready-made minor league with a higher level of play that acts as an intermediary between the NHL and the league. There isn't in basketball and the D-league is never going to be one, so teams would almost want to keep their players in college until they thought they were ready.
If I woke up tomorrow and was David Stern this is what I'd do:
- Change the draft so that every recruit who signs a LOI is automatically entered.
- Extend the draft to three rounds.
- Rookie contracts are at least one year longer than the amount of eligibility you're giving up. (IE, straight out of high school: five years, junior: two years, senior: one year, but in that case you don't have the sign the guy so this is essentially zero years.) That roster spot cannot be reclaimed by cutting the player; contracts are not 100% guaranteed but have some floor (probably the league minimum) that is.
- Allow unsigned, drafted players to play in the summer league.
And then if I woke up the next day as the president of the NCAA I'd:
- Fume at my lack of power.
But if I woke up the next day as an NCAA president who could force choke anyone who disagreed with me I'd:
- Allow pro teams to pay for their players to attend rookie camps and assorted "should we sign you" activities.
In the specific case of someone near and dear to us who seems to be making an odd decision because of the current NBA draft structure, Darius Morris would have been in the draft out of high school and after his freshman year, but would have been passed over each time. This year he'd be taken at some point, could work out with his team a bit as long as he paid his own way (about which don't get me started, see fuming above), and then it would be up to the team and Morris to decide whether or not he was ready to make the leap. If the NBA team signed Morris immediately they'd be committing to having him on the roster for the next three years, so they'd have to think about it.
In this specific case and a lot of others the player would be far less likely to make a bad decision because he'd be talking directly with the team who held his rights. Similarly, NBA teams who draft a college player only to find out he needs more seasoning than they thought could save the roster spot and cash for someone else as they wait to see which of their prospects develop. Everyone would have more information via which to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, this seems diametrically opposed to the way things are going. Like Brionte Dunn and showing up on campus, I'll start getting my hopes up when people talking sense about how basketball recruiting goes down pass a legislative proposal and no sooner.
*[The MLS approach is to sign the player and then find a home for him, which doesn't seem workable because the NBA is not a single entity, unlike MLS. MLS is competing with leagues around the world for players, so there's a point to negotiating a contract with a league. The NBA isn't competing against anyone for anyone other that Josh Childress, so I'm not sure what the advantage of their structure is for basketball.]