How We Saved the World, Again

Don't ask me how a post about Rep. Steve Cohen's age limit remarks, and Cohen himself, ended up on The Baseline. Oh, I forgot: Because that's where everything corporate and boring goes to die.

Anyway, this got myself and Joey talking about the rule, with me explaining to him the exemption/cap-and-trade system devised on last week's podcast. For those of you who didn't make it that far, Dan, Ken, special guest Kevin Pelton, and myself discussed the possibility of teams getting a voucher for, say, one preps-to-pro pick per decade. Break glass in case of LeBron James, in other words. They could be traded, too, so in theory one team could horde them in hopes of the next LeBron coming down.

This lead one of us to a very basic, but meaningful, breakthrough: Education is valuable. But you know who it has the most value for? People who don't have the opportunity to make millions right out of high school as professional athletes. What if, whenever a player wanted to go pro out of the 12th grade, they would designate a promising non-athlete to be tutored up and attend a four-year college—all at the expense of the team that drafted them? We're talking about peanuts for an NBA franchise, especially if the number of players making the jump were reduced through the aforementioned system.

It's not just that the "student-athlete" model is hypocritical, dated, and hopelessly flawed. It's that, if you want to talk about teens who could make the most difference in society if exposed to higher ed, basketball players are way at the bottom of the list. That's not to say that all athletes are stupid, or some don't have an appetite for learning. Just that, if you're going to pull that "education can change a life" cant with a one-and-done, you're insulting every potential doctor, lawyer, educator, whatever who isn't currently in a position to attend college.

The only losers here? Someone like Kevin Durant, who wants to both play ball and pursue a degree (over the summer). The question is, would he have the same educational option available to him if he tried to go to college as a preps-to-pro player? That would depend on a lot of things, and might be an actually realistic reason for the one-and-done to exist. Derrick Rose, though? Surely he's got some friend screwed over by city schools, and who might even be useful to him down the road if he gets a business degree.

Hell, if that happened, it might even help the NBA, too.

P.S.We are looking for research assistants for the new book, preferably in Seattle, Chicago, Boston, or New Haven. We will get you college credit and free shit. Holler at the gmail (freedarko at gmail dot com) if interested.

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At 6/05/2009 3:05 PM, Blogger Joey said...

I'm adding one thing: I would like to see this program include a payment-sharing model wherein the player going pro, the team drafting him, and the league each paid a third of the cost. It would give all of the league's three primary stakeholders an equal share in the program, and provide another platform for collaboration among them. There is a logical argument for teams to bear the full cost because they are the actors looking to circumvent the system, and they may have the most revenue to draw upon. However, if you set aside concerns about racism and the larger issue of freedom to contract and assume that an age requirement will exist in some capacity, the teams, the players, and the league are all, arguably, benefiting from an early entrant. As such, those parties should be partners in the funding of a college scholarship.

Incorporating the cap-and-trade model, this funding scheme would be applied to the first high-school entrant a team drafted. If, in a given decade, a team no longer had an exception to use, perhaps it could buy another by serving as the sole payer in creating one or two new scholarships per additional pick. The league and its teams would then be engaging in tremendous education-based philanthropy, and I don't think the system would get out of control because there aren't *that many* high schoolers who are worth upwards of potentially $60,000 a year just for the right to pay an 18-year-old millions of dollars.

At 6/05/2009 3:16 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

How about teams agreeing to pay for college if the pro career doesn't work out for a kid who gets drafted right out of HS? I'm pretty sure some baseball already do that. Xavier Henry's brother got drafted by the Yankees, but never panned out, so now the Yankees are paying for his college tuition. My main issue with the league here is the disengenousness of their stated motives. They act like the rule is all about the sanctity of education.
But it is really about using the NCAA to market young players and reducing risk for teams by turning highschool phenoms into "known quantities".

At 6/05/2009 3:27 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I like the concept behind this, but the "break in case of emergency" clause seems like it would hurt more than it helped.

The people I'd like to see championed in the preps to pro movement are necessarily the Lebron James of the world. Those players, even if they spent a disappointing year out of college are still likely going to be drafted very high (shades of Jrue Holiday/Brandon Jennings).

Those late first rounders/second rounders wouldn't benefit from your system, and the NBA would still pay them a hefty salary and open more doors to them in the future.

Who's going to look more appealing to D-League teams or Euro teams - someone who spent a year or two in college before flaming out, or someone drafted out of high school, kicked around the league a few years, and then finally got cut?

At 6/05/2009 4:16 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

Stern said it in his press conference yesterday: the age limit is a business decision, period. He said the league doesn't care if they go to college, Europe, or the D League. Just that they are a year removed from high school so they have more time to develop before coming into the NBA.

Now, does it bother Stern and the league that the most obvious and easiest route for the player is the NCAA, which provides plenty of free marketing prior to the player reaching the NBA? Of course not.

Something we said in the podcast is that a lot of this can get solved with a combination of the occasional exemption for the obvious LeBron-like prospect and turning the D League into a legitimate minor league system, where each team has an affiliate.

Also, with a real minor league we can expand the draft a couple of rounds. That would be kind of interesting, too.

At 6/05/2009 5:17 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

All good ideas, but there are tons of other great ideas out there that (I'm sure) have been passed around the league. I would assume that one thing the NBA doesn't want to do is get caught in the MLB trap where teams are shuffling prospects for star players just to save cash, with the league constantly forced to update the rules to keep the teams using the system the way they were meant to.

It seems to me that as much as the age limit is a stupid rule; it is just one stupid rule. If you institute a complex program than the flood gates will open for a litany of corrective rules that don't really make sense on their own and only serve to better the business side of the league.

Can seniors in high school go play in the D-league or Kenny Smith's league (PBA?) prior to entering the draft? Seems to me that could be the best decision, it would also help teams evaluate NBA worthy D-league talent from D-league superstars.

At 6/05/2009 5:29 PM, Blogger Joey said...

turtle--not disagreeing with you, but one thing which might make this particular rule different among the others is that it implicates some heavy peripheral issues that surround the league. the age requirement is something that in its implementation directly speaks to the questions of race and education which always lurk. rather than uncomfortably ignore them, the league could seize upon them and turn a potential negative into a positive by implementing a proactive solution. just as the lig committed to nba cares (which seems amorphous despite its ubiquity), it could, in essence, turn the bridge from high school to college into a focus. a college-scholarship program coupled with early entry into the nba could become a differentiating element for the league, as the united way partnership is for the nfl. i could see that being a wonderful pr move and something which would potentially draw in the casually contemptuous fan who rejects the nba as being a cause for certain societal blemishes, like the corruption of higher education.

At 6/05/2009 5:31 PM, Blogger Sam Rigby said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/05/2009 7:37 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Understood Joey. But the blade cuts both ways, it only takes one kid cheating or failing through his NBA scholarship, presumably because he'd rather be in the pros, to turn all those casual fans back against them. Memphis cheats for Derrick Rose just to get him in, imagine if a professional team got caught doing the same thing. And it could happen, because it already happens.

Also wouldn't NBA scholarships be just as vaguely racist as the age limits. Do some perceive it as "we in the NBA believe black kids don't go to college enough, lets 'teach them' a good example by making sure they go?"

I get behind you completely on the reasons to kill the age limit, just don't know how I feel about replacing it with something far more complex.

At 6/05/2009 7:44 PM, Blogger Joey said...

This program wouldn't send aspiring players to college. Rather, it would let a team draft one of them and then send someone else to college in his place, perhaps a friend of the high-school player who had shown academic promise and would benefit more from being in college than someone who just wants to play basketball. Sorry for that confusion.

The recipient of the scholarship created by a high-school player going pro could be of any race. What would be a good system for selecting scholarship recipients?

At 6/05/2009 8:03 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Ah I got you, I thought the non-athlete was referencing the baller in question not being allowed to play for the college the team sent him to.

I'm totally behind scholarships with that purpose, although I stand by the capand trade being complex. If you just opened it up to out of high-school again and had to give, say, 20% of the rookie contract to scholarships for disadvantaged teens in your teams area is that sufficient cost to keep teams from unwisely drafting obviously immature/unprepared high-schoolers in today's cost-minded NBA?

Full disclosure: my heavy investment in Evironmental Studies tells me that straight tax is always wiser than cap n' trade type stuff.

At 6/05/2009 8:58 PM, Blogger Sam Rigby said...

I like all of these ideas: the four year scholarship for a non-athlete student for each HS kid drafted would work...when you think about it, if the kid went to a private school, the team or team/league/player would be paying ~$200K, not a wild investment for people in this world, but not peanuts either. I’d love it if teams would pay for the player to go to college if they don't make it in the league. I'd like to see ALL NBA players get four years of higher ed paid for as part of their NBA contracts, be it undergrad or graduate in nature, if the player has finished their undergrad.

Actually, why isn't paying into a scholarship fund part of every initial contract in the NBA, first or second round? If they did it right, it'd probably be a tax right off and then post-basketball success would be on the onus of the players.

I LOVE the once-a-decade rule; it'd work really well because there aren't too many kids who would be worthy of the "break glass in case of emergency" clause each year; at a glance, the only kids teams MIGHT have considered braking the glass for: '06 (Oden, Durant), '07 (OJ, Beasley, Rose, maybe Gordon), '08 (Jennings, maybe Evans, maybe DeRozan), '09 (Wall, Derrick Favors, maybe Xavier Henry). It'd be no more than 3 or 4 kids each year, if that.

My question: how would draft eligibility work? Would all HS seniors be eligible and after the draft, everyone who didn't have a team use their once a decade exception wouldn't be eligible to be signed until the following draft?

The great thing about a system like this is that there'd be very few Ndudi Ebis or Korleone Youngs. Well done, sirs. Now if only we could get Shoals in the deputy commissioner spot.

At 6/06/2009 1:33 AM, Blogger Rebar said...

i wish ndudi ebi was good. that would be so epic. i wish ndudi ebi played for the warriors and was a 15-5-4 guy. dreams that will never be realized

At 6/06/2009 3:48 AM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

DJ Turtleface: No, there is a good argument that cap-and-trade is superior. See here. (harvard link)

At 6/06/2009 2:19 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Atlantic: Not that I want to argue about this here or on the internet in general, but:

That article barely argues that cap and trade is superior; its focus is mainly dismissing the claim that cap and trade will be liable to favoritism.

I'm not saying cap and trade is a bad policy, but carbon tax has external benefits like being simpler to adopt into a global system, increased predictability, more immediate effects, and far greater "average Joe" public transparency. Lots of stuff out there about it though, its an interesting win-win debate.

At 6/07/2009 7:19 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

A Demagnetized Ultramagentic MC's meets Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado"? You decide.


At 6/07/2009 6:30 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I cannot believe that any player would actually choose to go to college in this situation. I just don't see anybody giving up, what , $10 million dollars guaranteed (I might be a little high, but let's assume that they manage to hang on even a tiny bit, a la Kwame/Darko), so that they can go pretend to go to class and beat up on crappy college players.

Wouldn't any player sufficiently intellectually inclined realize how stupid of a financial move this is? Also, wouldn't they, like Kevin Durant, realize that they could go to school in the summer? What on earth is their motivation to not go directly to the NBA?

At 6/07/2009 7:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

My original point was that Kevin Durant might not have been able to get into UT otherwise. I don't know exactly what his academic situation was--I know he enjoys going to class, but I don't recall him being a Thaddeus Young-like star pupil. Can people with money go to college? Always. Does going to a school like UT or UNC carry a premium with it for some kids, or at least their families? It would be unfair of us to no at least entertain the notion.

At 6/08/2009 2:40 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

This is not really related to the main post, but Durant would've gone to UNC if the UNC admissions department hadn't raised some concerns about his grades. Ty Lawson confirmed it. Apparently, Durant's mother cried. That's not to say that he didn't enjoy going to class while at UT, but he was not a stellar student in high school.

At 6/09/2009 10:59 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Does it make me a bad person if I like the Ellerbe Becket shed?

At 6/09/2009 10:09 PM, Blogger Abe said...

Unrelated, but upon fact checking some Kobe trivia, there is some hilarity on his wikipedia page...

Kobe Bean Bryant[2] (born August 23, 1978(1978-08-23)), frequently referred to simply as Bean-O,

...After O'Neal's much relished departure( on Kobe's part)following the 2003–04 season, Bryant became the diva-demigod of the Lakers franchise. He barely led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.[3] In 2006, Bryant scored a career high 81 points against the lowly Toronto Raptors, the second highest number of points scored in a single game in NBA history,[4] second only to Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point performance. Many sports analysts criticized Bryant for running up the score and "attempting to flaunt is subpar talent against a patchwork Canadian team"[5]

...Bryant's current nickname is The Kitten.


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