We're officially in NBA draft season as underclassmen declare and fans of lottery teams begin taking a shine to certain prospects. We're also a decade into the NBA age minimum. In the wake of the publication of Jonathan Abrams' book on the one-and-done era, Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller assess the current draft and development system and look for better solutions. FLANNERY: You had some thoughts on the age minimum after reading Jonathan Abrams' new book, and having read it myself, I wanted to explore this a little bit more. We both have our issues with the one-and-done rule, but I have to say that my opinion is evolving a bit. I have some empathy for some aspects of the NBA's position, namely keeping scouts and GMs out of high school gyms. I'm also not sure that the NBA life is a good one for 18-year-olds. I was struck by how many of the players in Abrams' telling wished they had either gone to college or agreed with the idea that coming straight out of high school was not in their best interests. That said. if the choice is an open enrollment policy or indentured servitude to the billion-dollar cash grab that is college basketball then I'm all for opening the doors back up to 18-year-olds. I just wish it wasn't such a stark choice. There's a lot to unpack here and I don't want us to run around in circles, so let's start here: Did anything in Abrams book cause you to alter your stance a little? I think it's fair to say we both approach this as hardliners. ZILLER: It's funny: though Abrams appears to be opposed to the one-and-done rule, and makes a convincing case against it, I too had my views moderated by reading it. I've been an anti-minimum hardliner since 2005, but like you I'm coming around to feel that the modern NBA isn't the best place for 18 and 19-year-olds to develop their skills. So few teams practice much during the season these days, and while top line players get fewer minutes, it's really tough to get young guys the game exposure they need. To me, it's in the NBA's interest to allow 18-year-olds who are capable of playing professional basketball to do so. I no longer think that must be done in the NBA itself. But sending the vast majority to play for free at academic institutions is not an acceptable solution, in my opinion. I think the D-League is the answer. FLANNERY: I'm not so sure about that one. The problem with the D-League is there are so few quality big men to go around that the game takes on a different dimension. There's also the dynamic of veteran players trying to get noticed balanced with the need to develop young players. Some teams are better at this than others and there's a small competitive advantage to be had for teams who are willing to invest time and resources. A scout suggested to me that there's also a real benefit for players performing under pressure situations against their peers in the college atmosphere, where games are televised and the crowds are engaged. That's anecdotal, of course, but I think there's something to that. The issue, again, is money. Neither operation pays a competitive wage.
Fixing the NBA age minimum is hard, but it must be done
SB Nation | Mar 22