Monke: New age minimum would help NBAFor as much grief as he gets, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern is onto something with his latest proposal to increase the league’s minimum age limit to 20.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
For as much grief as he gets, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern is onto something with his latest proposal to increase the league’s minimum age limit to 20.
This year’s already boring playoffs and strike-shortened season prove that the league needs to make some major changes in its philosophies if it wants to maintain any shred of relevancy in a sports world increasingly dominated by the National Football League and college football.
Stern and Steve Kerr, a world champion with the Chicago Bulls and the former president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns, have been vocal about their hopes of improving play in the league.
They see increasing the league’s age minimum as a step toward accomplishing that.
Currently, players must be 19 years old and one year removed from the graduation of their high school class to be eligible for early entry into the draft.
Stern, Kerr and others want to increase that minimum age to 20, a step toward eliminating college basketball’s “one-and-done” problem and give NBA teams at least one more year to evaluate the type of talent they’re bringing into the league.
Standing in Stern’s way is the NBA players association, which refuses to listen to proposals increasing the age minimum without major concessions in the rookie wage scale.
Translation: the players association wants rookie contracts to be shorter and more lucrative if they are “forced” to stay in school or overseas longer.
In this argument, keep in mind that no professional sports league has seen poor results with its age-minimum policies.
The NFL limits its draft to players who have been out of high school for three years. Many players who aren’t viewed as sure-fire prospects tend to play through their senior seasons.
NFL and college football have both thrived thanks to this rule.
In contrast, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League allow players to be drafted straight out of high school or after at least two years of college. Those leagues also have deep minor leagues that help separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. With a few notable exceptions, MLB or NHL teams generally don’t bring up rookies until they’re in their 20s.
As food for thought, here’s a theory:
The NBA minimum age needs to be at least 20 years old, as in each player must be 20 by Oct. 1 of the year he intends to begin playing in the league.
That date isn’t arbitrary either. It would ensure players are at least 20 years old when stepping onto an NBA court for the first time.
In addition, all American-born players who chose to play college basketball must commit to playing at least two seasons in college, or for either a minor-league team or at the international professional level before declaring for the NBA draft.
Foreign-born players must abide by the same age and playing requirement limitations. This would help limit the number of foreign flops that the NBA saw in the mid-2000s.
This plan would vastly improve the college game while also allowing those who are determined to play professionally immediately — mostly for the chance for a hefty paycheck —to do so in overseas leagues, which are as close to true minor leagues as the NBA is going to get.
Who wouldn’t want to watch this year’s Kentucky team go after another title against deep and maturing squads from North Carolina, Kansas and Connecticut? John Calipari sure would — and it would have saved him a ton of time spent recruiting.
Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings proved the international method can work just fine too. He played a year in Italy and vastly improved before being drafted by the Bucks. He’s now a rising star in the NBA.
Meanwhile, would-have-been lottery pick Jeremy Tyler showed how a hyped high school player could prove to have glaring holes when forced to play at levels below that of the NBA.
After four seasons abroad and in the NBDL, including a stint with the Dakota Wizards in Bismarck, the 6-foot-10 forward is finally showing that he has potential to be an NBA player and has moved into a starting role for the Golden State Warriors — all without some poor NBA team paying him lottery-pick money to have him come off the bench, score five points a game and “develop.”
In all honestly, Stern has had his missteps in the 26 years he has been NBA commissioner.
But, in this case, he’s just a boss trying to fix a problem there is no denying needs fixing.
His league is suffering financially thanks to under-producing players with bloated salaries, which has led a once-adoring fan base being turned off by the overall lack of quality and competitive of play.
The NBA’s age limit may not be the only part of the league that needs fixing. But it would be a good start.
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at email@example.com. Read his blog at monke.areavoices.com.