After Yet Another NCAA Pay for Play Scandal, the NBA is Exploring Creating a League to Develop (and Pay) Young Players

ESPNIn 2005, then-NBA commissioner David Stern celebrated a victory when he successfully created an age limit — a player had to be 19 years old or one year removed from his high school class graduation to be drafted — that accomplished his goal of removing pro scouts from high school gyms. Now, though, there is turbulence, as the underbelly in the youth and college basketball systems is being exposed. The NBA has watched it unfold. Seeing both a responsibility as the world’s leading basketball league and an opportunity to move in on valuable territory, the league is preparing to get involved again with elite high school basketball players, multiple sources told ESPN. Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver and several of his top advisers have been engaged in listening tours and information-gathering missions with an array of stakeholders for months. That has included formal meetings with the National Basketball Players Association about adjusting the so-called “one-and-done” age-limit rule. But Silver’s aim is much more comprehensive than simply re-opening the door for 18-year-olds to play in the NBA, sources said.

WHAT TOOK SO LONG? I gotta be honest, when I first heard that the NBA was seriously interested in a player development system alternative to the NCAA all I could think of was one thing.

Love him or hate him, LaVar Ball’s idea for a similar league was not the worst idea in the world. But, back to reality.

The NBA is the only major sport without a legitimate minor league system, which is ridiculous. Did you know not every NBA team actually has a G-League team? How is that even possible? If you’re going to require that players are at least a year removed from high school and the NCAA continues to be the money grubbing scheme that it is, it only makes sense to make the G-League a legitimate alternative to college. A place where players can get actual NBA level coaching and make a little coin without getting athletic directors and coaches everywhere investigated by the FBI.

How many of these 18 year old phenoms actually want to to go to Duke for 6 months? And notice I say 6 months and not a year because these guys ain’t showing up to half their classes trust me. So why do we continue the facade?

Well it seems like Adam Silver is working to create this alternative for young elite basketball players.

“A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.”

All of this sounds exactly like what major soccer programs have had in place in Europe for years. Create something like an academy where young players can train, learn, and most importantly get paid all while developing to play for the big league team one day. Makes sense right? Especially when compared to the shady aspects of NCAA basketball and the joke that is the G-League.

Later in this article though it is mentioned how the NBA was looking into establishing just those types of academies.

“Within the past year, league officials began canvassing teams on their ideas and interest in the NBA creating academies that would house and train dozens of the country’s elite high school basketball players, sources said. This academy concept has been floated for years, notably by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban…However, after discussions with teams and examining challenges and possible unintended consequences with establishing these operations in the U.S., the NBA has decided not to go down the academy path at this time, sources said.”

It seems like they have decided to go a different route and I can only think its because of some legality issues (since they have similar academies outside of the US) or simply theres a way to create this system for young players while also making money. As opposed to probably sinking capital into housing and training players at year round academies.

The G-League is ripe for improvement though.

“The NBA currently permits 18-year-olds in the G League, but the salaries are not competitive. Currently, G League players can earn a maximum of $26,000 per season. In recent years, prospects such as Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrance Ferguson played overseas and earned as much as $1 million while waiting to be eligible to be drafted — which they all were in the first round.”

Jesus christ, no wonder nobody wants to play there. You can make more money playing at UNC.

Currently if you’re playing in the G-League you are either rehabbing an injury or a scrub. Theres no in between. There are no prospects working their way up, and thats unfortunate. You could probably do a lot to limit the massive busts we see by giving guys some grooming in the G-League instead of either instantly succeeding at the NBA level or flopping. Because as we all know, not all 18-year old phenoms are created equal.

“The NBA is focusing on getting involved in two important periods in which they currently have minimal contact with prospects: the high school years and the time between high school graduation and when a young player is physically and emotionally ready to join the NBA.”

I don’t know about 18 year olds being “emotionally ready” for anything besides buying cigarettes and scratch tickets because I remember how out to lunch me and all my friends were at that age. BUT, if there is one sport where young guys are physically ready to jump into the league its without a doubt basketball.

Now how will this effect the NCAA? It makes billions of dollars off these exact types of young athletes. The NCAA will say all the right things publicly, but it will be interesting to see how bitterly they fight this behind closed doors.

“In recent days, influential voices such as former President Barack Obama and LeBron James, a vice president of the players’ union, have called for the NBA to expand its G League to give teenagers another option besides the NCAA route. NCAA president Mark Emmert has said repeatedly he doesn’t believe players should come to college if only to use it as a pit stop toward being in the NBA.

That is a bold faced lie from Mark Emmert. If legitimate top level talent abandons the NCAA then theres no reason for me to watch it. Despite what the NCAA wants you to believe, nobody watches college basketball because of the values and kids chasing their dreams with their classmates. This ain’t Hickory High. We watch it to see the young studs dominate a few months before they become NBA Lottery picks.

Not saying we’re going to see a flood of NBA ready superstar teenagers like we saw with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James etc. BUT if you’re not going to pay these guys and expect them to just eat shit for a year because David Stern put in an arbitrary rule a decade ago then you’re supremely naive. These guys are going to get paid what they’re worth one way or another. So if you’re the NBA why not strike now to get both the good will of helping young players develop and make a living, while also winning a potential land grab between the NCAA and overseas pro leagues. If the NBA doesn’t put a system in place someone will. Whether its the Australian National Basketball League or the LaVar Ball Big Baller Brand Basketball Association, someone will offer these young athletes what they’re looking for. Either way, one thing is clear; its time for change.

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