NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made clear he thinks the one-and-done rule is no longer good policy, and he said Thursday at an event in Washington that the 2022 draft probably will allow the best high school players to jump straight into the NBA rather than playing a single season of college before turning pro.
“There are a bunch of issues that need to be worked through between us and the players association, so it’s something we’re in active discussions about,” Silver said. “It’s a few years away, I think.”
The matter has to be collectively bargained, and Silver said implementing the rule sooner than 2022 wouldn’t be fair to teams that have made trades involving draft picks nor would it give the league enough time to work with players who would be entering the league at a young age.
Speaking to the Economic Club in a downtown hotel ballroom about a wide range of issues, Silver said setting a date three years down the road would allow the NBA to work with the teenagers, starting with the current group of high school freshmen, and better prepare them for professional basketball. But he also noted that current NCAA rules limit the contact NBA front-office officials can have with amateur players.
“So if the rule were to change, we and our players association, USA Basketball, other groups would be working much more directly with those young players to prepare them for the NBA,” he said.
The NBA has reached an agreement with USA Basketball that allows front-office personnel to scout the under-16 national camps, ESPN reported last month.
Silver said support for ending the one-and-done rule is not universal among NBA owners, and he said perhaps just half the teams are eager to open the doors to high school players.
“You could argue that in the pure self-interest of the NBA, we’re better being at 19 or 20,” he said. “If you ask an NBA GM who has to scout those players and make a really difficult decision on who they should draft, in many cases, they would much rather see that player having competed against top-notch competition in college for two years or even three years than just in high school, where it’s more difficult to tell.”
Silver noted that when he first took on the NBA’s top job in 2014, he was actually in favor of raising the league’s minimum age to 20. Nine years earlier, the league and the players’ union agreed to raise the minimum age from 18 to 19, which barred high school prospects from skipping college entirely. But the commissioner’s views have evolved.
He said he has learned more about how recruiting works, has followed the federal criminal proceedings involving corruption that extends from college to the youth levels and was swayed especially by an NCAA panel, headed by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, that last year recommended abolishing the one-and-done rule.
“That had a huge impact on me,” he said. “That, together with a better understanding of what is happening to these top players. … I’ve changed my position.”
Thursday’s luncheon was attended by about 400 business leaders, including Nationals owner Ted Lerner and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The moderator, David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club, asked Silver whether he’s concerned about college players who stop attending classes once their freshman seasons come to a close.
The commissioner noted that a top-10 pick in next month’s draft, if he stays healthy and effective, stands to make $200 million in salary alone over the course of a professional career.
“It’s hard, I think, if you’re that parent or guardian, to say to that player, it’s more important that you go to three more classes as opposed to prepare for a really important decision,” he said. “I think that’s where the hypocrisy lies.”
Led by Duke phenom Zion Williamson, about 175 underclassmen announced their intentions to test the draft waters, all hoping for one of 60 spots in the two-round draft. Most mock drafts suggest the majority of the top-10 picks will be players who left college after just one season and around half of the first-round picks will be freshmen.