The college basketball product is okay. Currently the NCAA is tinkering with some rules to help better the product. Which is important for the growth, exposure and quality of the sport. At the same time the NBA is doing just fine. Probably better than fine. They have very marketable stars, a much more watchable product than they had during the Pat Riley heyday and the future is so bright that Adam Silver will need to ask David Stern for his shades.
Still, both sports — because they are different sports despite both being basketball — need each other if they ever want to compete with the NFL or continue on with a rapid growth of their products.
There are a few ways to make your product more appealing to fans. Really, more appealing to casual fans. The die-hard fan is going to be there regardless of circumstance. To do that, though, the NBA and the NCAA will need to make a formal business partnership. One that would likely put student-athletes at a little bit of a disadvantage as far as their immediate draft hopes go, but if we were to be honest, it isn’t the NCAA’s or NBA’s responsibility to make sure an 18-year-old makes as much money as quickly as possible.
Before we got any into any more details it should be noted that the following is coming from me as a selfish person who loves basketball. Not to be confused with the same person who advocates for student-athletes to have more power within their college experience. Those two things are pretty much separate, but I will try to give some “perks” of sorts to student-athletes so this isn’t completely burying their existence as human beings.
The game of college basketball on the actual hardwood is struggling. Between inconsistent calls by referees to players possibly not being as refined as some would like, it seems like everyone who isn’t a college basketball fan has an opinion as to why the product stinks. The biggest complaint being the one-and-done system. One that elevates freshmen quickly but does not allow them to develop before they head off to the NBA Draft. Nor does it allow the universities to see a larger return on their investment — as in a more marketable, better skilled player. All of which means more money. Which is the endgame.
However, it isn’t the NBA’s job to worry about the college game. What the NBA wants, though, is a more refined player when entering the draft. Possibly a player who is easier to evaluate, less of a bustable prospect and more of an immediate impact type of player for their franchises.
It would also be nice for the NBA to have incredibly marketable players. Again, unless you really follow college hoops, you only know of the few diaper dandies or super-sophomores that are shoved down your gullets. By the time you finally get to start to know them come the end March they are declaring for the NBA Draft. Not only is the school left hurting with the loss of a talented player, but the NBA is gaining a still mostly unknown commodity that might not be creating a huge buzz for their fanbase or even help the team win games in the future.
If the NCAA were able to convince (or trick) the NBA into thinking that keeping kids in school even longer would benefit them in a marketing, protecting GMs from themselves type of way, the NBA might just buy in.
I mean, if your favorite team in the NBA ends up with the 10th selection in the draft chances are you are not that excited. Either because you never heard of that freshman or sophomore from the Club State Pool Cleaners or “you know” that the 10th overall selection rarely works out. More likely than not, though, you aren’t that excited because you aren’t aware of Player-X’s exploits. Having him spend at least three years in school would make him a more known name, player or at the minimum making his skill set known to NBA-only fans. So — even though it might be a false sense of hope — there would be more hope and buzz surrounding that NBA franchise for that draft pick than some guy no one has ever heard of.
College basketball, in turn, would get a better player coming back each year. More “stars”, with a better overall skill set, all of which makes the product on the court far better and the game easier to take-in for the casual hoops fan. Worst case scenario would call for a Jabari Parker type player to max out at college and really dominating — and who doesn’t love dominance sans people who hate capitalism (I kid).
Still, because I am a human who cares, what about these poor student-athletes who already have less power than a Teddy Ruxpin doll without the batteries? Well, considering the NBA would have to convince the NBA Players Union that this is good for their guys as well, it would take some
conniving convincing. Mostly by adding a better incentive for players to stay in school. Because as it is agents, players and the like would want potential players in the league as soon as possible. That way they could maximize their value by starting a rookie contract as soon as possible.
Since NBA teams would hit far more often than miss (at least we hope so) now that they have a much larger scouting database, they could offer more money on rookie contracts. Possibly even guaranteeing second-round picks a certain amount of cash. Right now only first-round players have locked in loot. Spreading the wealth around might be one of the very few ways the NBA can convince the player reps that this could benefit from them. They could also let them know that it would be a good way of keeping vets in the league longer. And as much as we would like to think that player reps who are supposed to represent future NBA players are altruistic, they want to keep people who already in the league even more happy.
The biggest question going forward would be about implementing such a loony plan made by such a low-level (and highly underpaid) writer. It is certainly the most debatable aspect of the whole one-and-done, quality of the game, player rights, etc. situation.
I suggest the NBA/NCAA would use a form of system currently used by Major League Basketball. Yes, the same league that currently operates as if it is against technology and advances in evolution of its own game. They allow players to come out of high school and get drafted or get drafted but still attend college. Seems too great, right?
What if a player out of high school has the same option. That they could declare for the NBA, but if were unhappy with where they were drafted they could go to college anyway. First, there would have to be some form of insurance for the NBA franchise willing to waste a draft pick on a kid who might never play for them.
If the player decides to go to college instead of (for back of a better word) honoring their draft position the franchise holds that player’s rights for the full three years he is in college. At that time the player could either decide to honor his original drafting position (assuming the NBA team still wants to. They, too, could opt-out by now) or re-enter the draft again. If the team no longer wants anything to do with the player they shouldn’t be rewarded, though. They drafted the player to begin with. The team would receive a supplemental pick in that one’s place, but it would have to be a few spots lower than the one originally used to take the player. Also, the team would have to honor a small percentage of whatever the contract would have been to that player had he originally signed with the team — even if at this point he is clearly not an NBA player.
A player could just go to college as well. However, if they go this route than they have to go to the school or not be NBA eligible (can still play overseas) for the next three years.
The semantics (percentage of money, supplemental pick, etc.) would be better handled by people who have a far better understanding of the NBA pay scale and logistics of how it would be as close to evenly fair to NBA franchises as well as potential players. Obviously, though, it would be slightly favored toward the NBA teams because it is, you know, their league.
These are just some suggestions. I’m not saying they are the best — or even remotely close to the right — ones, but keeping kids in school would definitely benefit both leagues as far as marketing, product of the game and long-term exposure goes. If the NBA were to tinker with the rookie contract system and the way in which players can get in the league via the draft it could also help out the currently heavily disenfranchised student-athletes out there.
Regardless, basketball because we love it.