If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA

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If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA  

Post#1 » by RealGM Articles » Fri Mar 2, 2018 1:05 am

We often think of basketball as a compartmentalized industry, neatly putting the different levels of basketball -- the NBA, the NCAA, overseas leagues, et al -- into different boxes where their problems exist independently of the other branches of the sport. In reality, there is an interconnectedness between those branches that often goes unnoticed. It’s why the problems facing the NCAA over the past year have caused an NBA megastar who was never forced into the Division I basketball experience to speak out.

The point LeBron James was trying to make was rather straightforward: the NCAA makes millions off its athletes only to return a fraction of those profits in return for a “free” education. And in past decades, James’ opinion would have been in the extreme minority. But according to a Washington Post poll from this past fall, only 52 percent of Americans still feel a scholarship is adequate compensation for athletes participating in revenue generating sports (there’s also a disturbing racial divide to that poll that should prompt an entirely different conversation). 

In light of the recent federal investigation enveloping the NCAA and subsequent findings that have caused issues, there’s been yet another call for reform for what is essentially the NBA’s minor league system. James was one of quite a few voices to come out saying things need to radically change. An alternative in his mind was creating a more robust G League that gave athletes an option to hone their craft somewhere outside the NCAA.

It’s an idea that certainly has merit, like a few others that have been kicked around this year. But before kicking around these ideas, it’s important to examine a fundamental flaw in the NBA’s relationship with the NCAA before move forward to finding solutions.

Money and Agendas

From the NBA’s perspective, the NCAA is just a cog in the machine, primarily acting as an entity in which the league outsources the development of potential employees. Yet in no way, shape or form is the NCAA complicit in this arrangement.

When it comes to individual programs, at the Division I level in particular, player development isn’t the goal, it is for those programs to win basketball games. And because of the money involved, it drives a certain dynamic. Assistant coaches do whatever it takes to pad their recruiting resumes in order to become head coaches. Head coaches win as many games as possible to land long, lucrative contracts from bigger schools with more resources.

Nowhere in that chain does the individual development of players for a higher level of the sport come into play. To be clear, that doesn’t mean every single NCAA coach puts themselves over a players long term future. It just means there is zero financial incentive to do so.

Coaches don’t get paid if a player develops a particular skill, learns how to perform in a certain role, or understands the more complex tactics that he will encounter in professional basketball. NCAA coaches get paid to win. Period.

Winning and development are not synonymous. Crucial skills and developmental time lost at the expense of winning. If a college coach is paid to win and needs points, he’s going to tell his star guard to shoot rather than risk losing games in order to help his player develop a skill set more suited to play alongside NBA superstars. Same thing goes for big man or wing with a shaky outside shot. It’s easier for a college coach to say “don’t shoot” rather than accept some extra losses as that player works to becoming a threat from the perimeter.

These are just a couple of examples of how winning now takes precedence over the long term good for the athlete. And that’s without getting into the thorny issue of college athletes risking mid-to-long term health setbacks in order to what’s best for their college program in the short term. Though not every college basketball player is destined to play professionally -- whether it’s in the NBA or overseas -- the setup to help the ones with a chance to do so is fundamentally broken. 

So to get what advocates for change like James want, there needs to be a solution that aligns the money and agendas. So what are those options? 

The Solutions?

The idea suggested by James to make the NBA’s development league akin to be baseball’s minor league system has a lot of merit. Instead of going to college, high school athletes could immediately earn money while honing their skills as professionals. For the player, this obviously seems like a better alternative for a whole host of reasons.

It would stop players whose primarily go is to earn money playing basketball from having to deal with the charade of staying eligible for an NCAA institution -- something that has incentivized coaches to break rules in the past (for the players who seriously want to pursue a degree, the college option would be a better fit). In addition to that, players wouldn’t be subjected to NCAA practice restrictions. Put in place to stop coaches from running their players into the ground (a very valid concern and yet another separate conversation that should be had), it essentially hurts athletes driven to succeed from getting in as much extra training from a qualified coach as they see fit. 

Along with a few other positives, the minor league system would be a vast improvement over what the NCAA has to offer. But given the current structure of the NBA, it still wouldn’t fully correct the money and agenda problem hindering the league’s current “farm system.” 

As of now, NBA teams are only able to protect a handful of players on their G League rosters. That means not every player on a minor league deal is being developed solely for the benefit for the NBA parent club. As of now, any non-affiliated G League player can be poached by any other team in the league for no compensation -- making it difficult to prioritize doing what’s best for the development of every player on a roster. On top of that, any promising young prospect who does not meet the NBA’s current draft requirements could be selected by any team the summer he becomes eligible. 

This is the same issue that would hinder the development of a true soccer-style academy. NBA franchises could effectively eliminate the controversial AAU circuit by setting up massive youth programs that are subsidized by the revenue the parent club generates. Something like this would require fundamental changes to the basketball industry, the NBA and even US child labor laws.

Because while this push for change is meant for the greater good, it’s important to remember the obvious and unforeseen effects such a drastic overhaul would have.

Unintended Consequences

Whether the NBA went with a minor league system similar to baseball, or a soccer academy-style approach, one thing would be clear: the NBA draft would never be the same.

For those who have long despised the draft, this would be welcome news. There would be quite a few positive results that would immediately come from eliminating the draft or drastically reducing the high-end talent its responsible for dispersing around the league. But before anti-drafters take to the streets, it’s important to remember just how embedded the draft is in the basketball world.

By pretty much any measure, the draft is a cottage industry instead the overarching NBA business landscape. Writers, independent trainers, agents and networks, like ESPN, all have a huge stake in the draft being a meaningful event. Just compare it to soccer and baseball.

In soccer, the draft doesn’t exist. So even in England’s Premier League, the most coverage young prospects receive is when they’re pushing on the doorstep of a senior team roster. Outside of occasional lists from larger publications, not much coverage is granted to players not located within a certain proximity of the first team (basically the starting lineup). Even local papers, like the Liverpool Echo that covers both Everton and Liverpool -- two historically important clubs in the Premier League -- offer very little in terms of tracking youth development.

In baseball, there is a draft but it hardly garners much attention. The MLB draft is only carried by the league’s own cable network. In 2016, the MLB draft drew an estimated 279,000 viewers for the first day (the only day that was televised). By comparison, the 2017 NBA draft lottery -- not even the draft itself -- drew 3.2 million viewers on ESPN.

While it’s hard to tell the exact ripple effect of what would happen if the NBA draft was diminished or outright eliminated, it’s quite clear it would cause some massive changes, even to fans. For the vast majority of NBA franchises, the draft is a large part of the discussion surrounding the team. This year alone, nearly one-third of the league is going to be tanking for the top pick in the draft, something that will merit quite a lot of attention.

Other shifts wouldn't be quite as noticeable, but will be just as consequential. The more youth-based an NBA developmental system gets, the more consequences come into play. If the NBA finds a way to create a soccer style academy model, discussions about the impact of single-sport training on young athletes, the regional advantages of certain franchises, and the fallout of kids failing to progress into the professional ranks will replace the current ones we’re having now.

Despite those potential issues, it’s increasingly clear that the NCAA’s place in the basketball landscape has become a cause for concern. And thanks to voices like James, we’re beginning to create a push for change and a dialogue around new options. Yet as this public discourse unfolds, it’s crucial to remember that when it comes to a developmental system in basketball, a perfect solution doesn’t exist. But a better one certainly does.  

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Re: If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA 

Post#2 » by sportsyard » Fri Mar 2, 2018 4:51 am

pay the athletes, but instead of giving it to them right away, put into trust. Lock it away and let it command and let them have it at 50. When some of these football players see their bodies give out, they will be taken care of
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Re: If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA 

Post#3 » by rafisher1 » Fri Mar 2, 2018 8:09 pm

There is more to being a professional at anything. One obviously needs competence in their profession along with the need to always get better, but they also need a rounded college level education to function in this world, especially when they will earn a lot of money and the creeps come out of the shadows to take it away from them, or they spend it foolishly.

An NBA could have the draft we have now, but with a lower age limit like 18 and multiple rounds. Let's say there are four rounds to the draft we have now, which would allow teams to draft 4 players each year. Then instead of having two-way contracts, simply have dual scale contracts for those drafted in say the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds. If they are playing and practicing in the G League, then they get paid that scale, and when they practice and play with the parent team, they get paid that scale. The players drafted in the first round would be treated as they are now whether playing with the G League team for development or the parent team. Teams could sign 2-4th round players to the parent roster at any time while keeping the parent team roster at 15 with the same rules as now.

As part of the compensation for the G League players, they would get their education paid for, and would be required to continue their education as part of their deal. We are all accustomed to college being a four year degree, but that isn't necessary. The G League players, like many part time students, can take many years to get their degree, or their certifications in vocational education.
Education not only prepares them for their after basketball life, but it also makes them better individuals, better citizens, and better able to deal with the NBA professional world.
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Re: If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA 

Post#4 » by kenwood3333 » Tue Mar 6, 2018 7:38 pm

Use the minor league to develop, cultivate and educate the next generation of young people to work in the industry. The stand out players can move on to play in the nba, others can work in capacities such as marketing, operation, advertising, training, broadcasting etc.. It will be a win win for the league and the people involved.
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Re: If The NBA Actually Figures Out An Alternative To The NCAA 

Post#5 » by Johnlac1 » Wed Mar 7, 2018 4:56 pm

Pro hockey and baseball have no problem without relying on college players. They have the junior hockey system and the minors for baseball.
Time to end the farce of college athletes using the system to get themselves a name after one year and then running off to the pros. Can't blame them....that's the way the system is currently set up. If you offered me a million bucks or so after one year of college, I'd leave too. And there can't be laws forbidding anyone to turn pro if they want too. Europe has players in their mid teens who join pro clubs
And college ball isn't needed for most players. James, Bryant, Garnett, and McGrady are players who didn't play a minute of college ball. Who is telling them they made a bad choice by turning pro out of high school?

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