Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is probably the most outspoken owner in the NBA. Over the years he has openly expressed his views on all matters on the NBA and rightfully so, has a considerable amount of influence in the front offices of many Association executives. His latest idea? Rather than spend a year playing in college (or presumably overseas), allow top players to go straight to the D-League.
To grasp this option, people first have to understand how the Development League Draft works. It is not a requirement of the D-League to have actually played a year of college or foreign hoops to be eligible for the draft. The requirements are:
A) Be at least 18 years old
B) Not be a part of a college or professional foreign team at the time of the draft (this rule is not applicable in the NBA draft)
This one’s the kicker…
C) Players must wait a year after graduating high school- or if they did not graduate high school, a year after their projected graduation- to become eligible. (Also unlike the former high school NBA Draft rule)
For the elite players whose sole goal is to play in the NBA, this type of ruling can be frustrating and some would call it unfair. To start, the sole purpose of the D-League is to turn athletes into NBA contributors in comparison to college ball where players are made to be put in a system to win a conference title or national championship. Because of this we all too often see players who aren’t ready for the big leagues. This generation more than ever we see college freshmen come in and dominate every game (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins). The fact is their competition is limited. The NCAA neither has the talent nor the system to develop certain athletes. The D-League provides NBA systems, rules, coaching, talent, and relations with their Association counterparts all in the purpose of making players NBA ready.
It is a rigorous system that pressures all participants to show NBA level skill. Coaches, players, trainers, refs, you name it; everyone is working hard to get a call from the league. Since its creation in 2001, 164 players have gotten the call.
The NCAA regulations as far as finances don’t help their case either. This has been a long debated argument but as it currently stands, college athletes cannot be compensated. Say what you will, but the fact of the matter is in most cases if you are a one and done guy, you are not a student-athlete. You are an ATHLETE. Not a lot of people want to admit that. From the moment those kids step on campus their life is dedicated to basketball. They spend countless hours in practice and in games to win and to be quite frank, to make the school money. The school, and business industry, can do whatever they want with their names and likenesses and punish the individual for taking as much as a penny. The Development League offers an alternative. It is not perfect, but realize that the D-League is still a minor league industry. Depending on a player’s classification, their salary will be $13,000, $19,000, or $25,500. These numbers however, do not include the housing, travel, and medical expenses which are all league provided in addition to a per diem. If the ultimate goal is to get to the NBA anyway, this is a more than reasonable salary.
The last case in point and one unbeknownst to many, is that if a player would want to focus on his individual development as well as get an education that is not currently an option. The (other) fundamental flaw. Yes, this is different than in the NBA (no matter how supplemental that education is), but this comes with the territory of operating with a minor and relatively new league.
However, new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has recognized Development President Dan Reed and already seems to be more interested in the focus of the D-League as well as the incentives for its participants. He sympathizes with Cuban, saying the NCAA rule book ‘just seems ridiculous’. In addition to possible educational implements, Silver’s ultimate goal for expansion includes becoming the primary medium to nurture raw talent. This would hypothetically include a more active presence at the High School and AAU levels.
This is all in its very early stages, but this conversation is the starting point. It is difficult to not recognize that this would greatly improve quality of play at the professional level. Look for the D-League to make strides in the right direction in the coming years, starting with the eligibility rules.