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Tim Benz: Time is right for NBA to dump 1-and-done rule

July 12, 2018

When I read that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was gearing up to dump the league’s one-and-done requirement, I was thrilled.

Since 2005, the NBA has mandated that prospective draftees had to be at least 19 years old during the draft calendar year and at least one year removed from high school.

I don’t like it.

If an 18-year-old adult knows he is going to be a first-round draft choice and make guaranteed NBA money, he should be allowed to pursue that goal without risking injury playing for free in college. Or, if he chooses to bypass school, uproot himself for a year and play in Europe or the G-League for a fraction of what he would’ve made playing as a rookie at 18.

Not only that, but keeping a college basketball player eligible for just one year when he has no intention of staying in school beyond a few months of enrollment makes an even further mockery of the notion of “scholastic athletics.”

Of course, all that talk is really empty, politically correct altruism from an NBA point of view. In reality, the league just wants all the best talent available to them in every draft, all the time.

For a while, the one-and-done legislation seemed to make a lot of sense. Perhaps too many high school stars were giving up their college eligibility and making ill-informed choices about entering the draft.

Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News wrote this thought provoking piece about why the rule should stay on the books back in February. He made even more compelling arguments for it in our podcast.

As DeCourcy reminds us, just because the NBA is probably about to end the one-and-done rule in 2020, that doesn’t mean a lot of kids won’t do it, anyway.

He’s right. I’m sure there will be a quite a few players who are five-star-recruit high school seniors-to-be in the class of 2019 who will complete their college freshman seasons in March of 2020 and be the like DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley or Collin Sexton-types of this year.

So for people like me who are college basketball fans first, and NBA fans a distant second, the elimination of the one-and-done minimum won’t instantly cure the phenomenon in college hoops of not being able to know the roster without a scorecard.

Maybe now, though, four-star freshmen recruits will become “five-star” sophomores and juniors at college and familiarity may replace microwave fame on the marquee.

Coaches may also be able to better streamline their recruiting because they’ll have a better feel as to what their roster will look like two years down the road. They won’t have to bother flailing at the NBA-bound kids. Maybe prospects who would’ve been one-and-done players before will be inclined to stick around for at least two years because the following year’s superstars behind them will also be jumping in the draft.

I feel like it’s easier to pass on a 1-in-20 attempt to ink a surefire NBA lottery pick to your campus — or plan for that guy’s imminent departure if you do get him — than it is to be constantly surprised when you lose freshmen after just one year.

I’ll be provincial and point to my alma mater, Syracuse, which has seen that happen repeatedly with players such as Chris McCullough, Malachi Richardson, Donte Greene and Tyler Ennis.

McCullough is a good example of why the one-and-done rule is outdated, anyway. Part of the premise was that NBA general managers would be less blinded by pure size and potential and watch the player against experienced elite competition in college before projecting him as an NBA pick. But McCullough showed very little his freshman season, blew out his knee and became a late first-round pick, anyway.

It was a similar story with Michael Porter this year at Missouri. Mitchell Robinson never even played at Western Kentucky, and the Knicks took him in the second round.

Plus, it’s becoming more common to circumvent college. Darius Bazley may have started a trend by blowing off a potential one-and-done year, also at Syracuse, to go to the developmental G-League. Anfernee Simons used a post-grad year at IMG Academy before becoming the 24th overall pick with the Trailblazers.

DeCourcy’s most convincing case to keep the one-and-done rule on the books is that players will get good coaching in college and play against similar levels of competition. I’d agree and add that they’d compete in big time arenas and atmospheres on national TV and mature in the spotlight.

But the NBA is trending toward ignoring the benefits of a rule it set up for itself in the first place. The goal was to better inform scouts and general managers. Yet teams are still drafting on hunches, athleticism and potential regardless of the aid they tried to give themselves.

So what‘s the point of the rule?

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