The Endless Debate: The One and Done Rule

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One of the most talked about frustrations, the one and done rule, has been a hot topic of debate since its creation in 2006.  We cannot ignore the injustice that is taking place against young players aspiring to follow their dreams.  The NCAA is not even to be blamed in hindering a high school player to go to the NBA.  This rule was set by ex-NBA Commissioner David Stern when a new collective bargaining agreement came into place in 2005.  The rule states players will gain eligibility for draft selection one year after high school, and be at least 19 years old as of the end of the calendar year of the draft.  In fact according to Seth Davis, the NBA age minimum was the last point of contention in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement between Stern and Billy Hunter, the head of the NBA Players Association.  Stern wanted the age minimum to be 20 years, while Hunter did not want it at all.  They settled in the middle. 

One of the big benefits the one and done rule seems to ensure is more time to evaluate players so teams do not make bad draft decisions.  Teams can judge prospects against elite level talent compared to a bunch of high school kids.  If you get them to go one year, maybe they will stick around for two or three, even four.  As Ryan Weisert points out in the last seven drafts (2006-2012), the average years of college experience for domestic players picked in the lottery was 2.19.  That seems to be a pretty high number, and it has to be a better average than before the one and done rule right?  Well it is larger, but not by much.  In the seven previous drafts (1999-2005), the average years of college experience for domestic lottery picks was 2.08. That’s an increase of only 0.11 years (or 5%).  Statistically there is not much of a difference.  Another huge figure that Weisert points out is two of the post-one and done drafts are two of the three least experienced lottery classes of the last 14 years.  2008 was the second least experienced lottery class with an average college career of 1.77 years, and 2012 was the fourth inexperienced with an average college career of 1.86 years.  These statistics ultimately point out that the one and done system has had little affect on the average college playing time for those in the NBA draft. 

Another factor that needs to be thought about is the mockery this rule makes to the term, “student-athlete.”  While I said it before, I feel compelled to say it again; this rule had absolutely nothing to do with the NCAA!  While the NCAA definitely does not mind that they see more stars (which means more money) the NBA is essentially using them as their minor league.  While some will contest, “Hey what about the D-League,” does anyone really think the D-League develops and produces the talent like the NCAA does?  The “student-athlete” is the mantra of college sports, yet it is hard to protect this slogan when players intentionally use the services of a school for one year and are gone.  Why would you actually try in class when you know you have millions coming your way in less than one year?  There are good reasons, but try telling that to an eighteen-year-old.         

When thinking of the one and done rule, I cannot help but remember the interview Brandon Jennings did with Bryant Gumbel on HBOs “Real Sports.”  Jennings chose the alternative of playing oversees in Europe during his one year of NBA ineligibility.  He said that it was so tough playing oversees at such a young age and being an ocean away from his family.  Gumbel asked Jennings,  “Do you view this as purgatory?”  Jennings: “I guess, yeah.”  Gumbel: “It could be worse.”  Jennings: “It could be.  I could be in college.”  The response is eye opening.  Jennings was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009 draft.  He was the 4th rated player in the 2008 recruiting class and some scouts thought his draft stock dropped by playing in Europe. 

The one and done rule takes the decision out of an athlete’s hands and all but makes them play one year in college.  The ability to make money to support you and your family is a fundamental belief in America.  For one year they cannot capitalize on their talents financially and have to play under the NCAA’s archaic rules.  A lot can happen in one year, and your only one serious knee injury from losing millions of dollars (Nerlens Noel anyone?).  If you are qualified to do a job, you get hired.  David Stern has said recently he wanted to make it mandatory to have two years in college before being eligible for the draft.  This is ridiculous, but then again so is the one and done rule.