Fixing the One-and-Done Epidemic

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 74-72. Courtesy photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 74-72. Courtesy photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the top college basketball players are faced with a tough decision once the season concludes. Do I take my chances and enter the NBA Draft or should I return to school for another year?

With the current state of college and professional basketball, a culture has been established by top prospects declaring for the draft after spending only one season at the collegiate level. But this culture of one-and-dones has severely damaged both the college game and the NBA.

For every Anthony Davis that comes out after one season and becomes a superstar, there is a Rodney White who never makes an impact in the league. Who is Rodney White? Exactly my point—nobody knows.

To shed some light, White spent one season dominating the Atlantic 10 Conference at Charlotte and parlayed his one successful season into becoming the No. 9 overall pick by the Detroit Pistons. He started only 21 games in his brief NBA career and is one of the biggest draft busts of recent memory.

Far too often, players bolt to the NBA after one season and never really materialize as solid pros because they never had the opportunity to fully develop. Young players need as much time on the court in actual games as they can get to gain experience and mold their games in order to earn a spot in an NBA rotation.

But only a select few players that leave college after one year are afforded the opportunity to grow on the court in the NBA, which inevitably leads them to never fully develop. It damages the league as teams spend high draft picks on these players, hoping to tap into that potential, but ultimately, most of those picks don’t end up how they hoped.

One of the best things about college sports is the electric atmosphere. A lot of times, what fuels that atmosphere are rivalries between schools and over time, particular players. But that does not happen anymore in college basketball because the best players only spend one season in college so the rivalries between players never really get a chance to evolve.

Unless the NBA changes it rules, we will never have the opportunity to witness a great college rivalry like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the ‘70s. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has bounced around the idea of changing the rule to where players must be two years removed from high school rather than one.

But there has to be a better way to fix this issue instead of just tacking on one more year until players can become eligible to declare for the draft. With all the discussion going on, especially after Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan made a controversial statement about Duke renting players, I developed my own proposal to change the rule to better enhance the college game and the professional game.

The idea is similar to how Major League Baseball handles its young prospects’ eligibility. In baseball, players can either choose to go to college and stay for a minimum of three years or go directly to the minor leagues straight out of high school.

There are a handful of undeniable talents every year that are just freakish athletes capable of making the jump from high school to the NBA such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. But sometimes, even those who clearly have the talent to succeed right away never pan out because they never had the opportunity to develop.

So here comes the twist in my proposal. Players would have the choice coming out of high school to enter the draft or go to college where they must stay for a minimum of three years. However, rather than jumping straight to the NBA out of high school, players that choose to forgo college and enter that draft out of high school, must spend at least one season the NBA Development League.

For years, the NBA has been trying to create buzz and draw attention to the D-League, which is similar to the minor leagues in baseball. But they have been unsuccessful because there are very few recognizable names in the D-League and even fewer that actually make it to the NBA and have a successful career.

With this proposal, the D-League would draw huge crowds and get much more publicity because some of the best young prospects would be playing year after year. Some might think that players would opt to just bite the bullet and spend three years in college rather than go to the D-League, but that would not be the case.

How many 18-year-old kids would turn down the opportunity to get paid handsomely to play basketball? Very few. But to prevent players that simply will never get picked from declaring for the draft out of high school, these players must receive a first-round grade from an advisory board consisting of scouts to declare, much like the NFL offers for players considering to declare early.

In this potential rule change, all sides win. More players would choose to stay in college for at least three years and develop their games. The elite prospects would still only have to wait one year to play in the NBA and the NBA would finally be able to create intrigue for its Development League.

The biggest winner in all this would be the fans. More rivalries will emerge in college basketball with players staying longer and they will have a new league to follow their favorite prospects in the NBA D-League. This proposal is a win-win for the NBA, college basketball and fans of both.