Holst: The NBA should allow high school athletes into the draft

Josh Holst

In 2005, NBA teams decided that they had a problem. Many teams had been wasting high draft picks on high school players that they didn’t know much about in the hopes that they would be superstars. As a result, the NBA decided that it would require high school athletes to play one year in college or Europe before they could officially declare for the NBA draft. However, this rule takes responsibility away from NBA teams while harming the athletes that the fans come to arenas to see.

One argument that proponents of the rule will use is that kids aren’t ready for the money and attention that comes with being a professional athlete at the age of 17 or 18. But those who make this argument have failed to answer one question: what makes these kids so ready for fame and fortune at 19? Do young men suddenly decide to not make poor decisions at 19? Do they spontaneously develop financial intelligence? Are they instantly immune to temptation? After all, 19-year-olds are known for being so much more mature than their 18-year-old counterparts, right? No. Of course they’re not. Also, the idea that somebody could be old enough to serve in the armed forces but too young to play professional basketball is frankly ridiculous.

There is also reason to believe that rather than giving these players time to prove themselves and mature, it actually can do them substantial harm. First of all, this rule forces most American players to wait another year before they can make any money off of their talent. The NCAA does not allow these kids to make any money off their own names while they play ball in college. And while playing in Europe for a year is technically an option, European teams are unlikely to invest in players that only plan to stay in Europe for a year or two before they go to the NBA. In short, most athletes who choose to try and play in Europe or the D-league fail to have long NBA careers.

Furthermore, there is an injury risk to players in college. And the notion that a talented young player could miss out on millions of dollars because he had to risk getting hurt in college is wholly unfair to the players. Look at the story of Nerlens Noel. Out of high school and at the start of his college season at Kentucky, he was a likely number one overall pick. During his only year at Kentucky, he tore his ACL. Luckily, he was still selected at 6th overall, but the financial difference between the first and sixth draft picks is millions of dollars. And the fact remains Nerlens Noel was lucky. Worse injuries can cost players their careers. They might as well be in a position where they can care for themselves financially if they are going to risk injury.

Finally, the main reason that the one and done rule was put in place was that NBA teams kept taking high school phenoms that turned out to be busts. However, this is not the players’ fault. NBA teams need to take responsibility when they make a bad pick. If they can’t effectively scout a high school prospect, then they shouldn’t draft a high school prospect. It’s not complicated, it’s simple.

Let NBA teams make mistakes taking young players. Part of why we love sports is that we don’t always know exactly what is going to happen. Some guys are studs, some are busts. But that is no reason to financially punish talented young men who want to play professional basketball. It’s time for the one and done rule to die.