Our discussions concerning one-and-done players in college basketball need to happen, but they aren’t exactly shifting the powers as we often make it seem. Instead, it can be argued that the impact of these discussions is far more limited than we readily admit.
This precedes the creation of the one-and-done rule. While the NBA, not the NCAA, creates the rules for when a player can enter the draft, most of the time the impact of these rules is discussed in terms of how they help or hurt college basketball. (It is certainly worth noting that such a discussion occurs while ignoring the human rights/right to work aspect of it all, but we will save that topic for another time.)
Yet, “one-and-done” doesn’t hurt the sport.
It doesn’t — not when roughly the same amount of high school kids were going straight to the pros as are the freshmen who begin their earning careers as soon as they are allowed to by the NBA.
A total of 13 freshmen were drafted this year. That’s it. Only 13. Not some plague or epidemic type of number that would highlight how the sport is being ruined by the one-and-done rule… just 13.
We do need to point out that more than 13 freshmen declared for the NBA Draft, but they went undrafted. That actually highlights another issue for (yet) another time, which is that the NBA and the NCAA need to further improve how they both operate in allowing players to test the professional waters.
Back to the one-and-done rule:
The number of one-and-done players isn’t all that high. When you think about where most of them come from — the powerhouse, blue blood programs of college basketball — the very being of one-and-dones has done very little to shift the sport’s power structure.
Basically, the one-and-done rule has simply preserved the status quo. While exceptions will emerge here and there, it is safe to assume that the factories that keep churning out these players for single seasons would be fine no matter what rule is in place.
At the same time, the non-powers, such as LSU landing Ben Simmons, rarely do anything of significance on the opposite end. Those programs, besides becoming more consumable products for that one season, aren’t making Final Fours.
It is why the John Calipari narratives are often overblown. He has been pretty honest in his practice in using the rule. He is helping his recruits reach their dreams regardless of how others feel about this supposed loophole in the system he has found.
There is no loophole. It is just the rule. Each and every coach has to play by the same one. It just so happens that Calipari had the foresight to see how it can benefit him a few years before others like Coach K caught on.
Has this hurt the smaller, non-blue blood programs? Not at all.
If the one-and-done rule was not in place, instead being the old one in which high school players could go pro straight out of high school, the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world would merely take the best of whoever was left after those who declared their intentions were out of the recruiting race.
There’s more to this discussion than that, mostly because some people feel the quality of the game is being hurt by so many players — reminder: only a baker’s dozen got drafted — leaving school after only one year.
Oddly, the alternative to that would be to function in a way that doesn’t feature those players at all. Removing the parsing of who were the 13 actual best players in the nation last year, imagine consuming the 2015-2016 season without those 13 best players participating in it.
Would it have been better or worse without them?
Of course it would have been worse. You can’t remove 13 NBA-quality players from a sport that features, literally, thousands of other amateurs and expect the quality to be better.
Even if it’s inherently selfish, we want “our” players to stay in college longer, which would organically create a better game. That side of the argument is not debatable, either. If the NBA — for some ghastly reason — decided that all kids coming out of high school had to play four years of college basketball before being allowed to be drafted, the college game would substantially improve, but that’s not a realistic option (more on that in a minute).
To recap the one-and-done rule being a major factor in college basketball:
- There are not that many one-and-done players.
- Most of them are only helping programs which would be great without them.
- The non-blue blood programs (LSU with Ben Simmons) don’t tend to dramatically shift power.
- Save for going back to the old rule, which would give players more rights, there’s not a better alternative.
Bluntly, all the one-and-done talk is nonsense, a narrative used to fill a void. The NCAA can lobby the NBA to keep kids in school longer, but that might only drive the nation’s best teenagers to play in the D-League or overseas.
At least as I see it, the one-and-done rule, which provides us at least a year of the nation’s best players, is the best thing in the world. The alternative is to not have them at all.
What’s that old adage about love? It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?
Give me that one-and-done love.