NBA commissioner Adam Silver favors adding second year of college before draft eligibility

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMarch 24, 2014 

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to add another year before players are eligible for the draft, but he also wants the NCAA to get on the same page.

As of now, a player can turn pro one year removed from his high school class’ graduation. Silver would make that two years, but he can’t do so without agreement from the National Basketball Players Association.

Silver wants a third entity at the bargaining table: College basketball, which has separate, often conflicting, policies on when a player must declare for the draft and whether that decision is reversible.

“The college community – the NCAA – has to come to the table as well,” Silver said Monday during a visit to Charlotte. “There are other rules, as far as when to apply for the draft: Should a player have a sense of when he will be drafted and still retain his eligibility if he’s not comfortable?

Silver said adding a year before elite prospects can turn pro creates other issues, such as who would pay for disability insurance and whether the cost of a student-athlete’s full education would be covered.

This won’t get resolved anytime soon, since the players association is still searching for a new executive director. That search already has taken months. Silver said the NBA has reached out to NCAA officials with an invitation to address common issues.

Silver said there’s no doubt the current system, of one-and-done college stars, has flaws.

“It’s pretty well known for many of those players it’s really half a school year-and-done,” Silver said. “If the team makes the tournament, then once the player loses – once (his) team loses – then the player begins preparing for the draft.

“I think the better (option for the NBA) would be two years out of high school.”

Silver appreciates the argument that if someone is a gifted basketball player at 18, he deserves the chance to make money off that skill. He compared the situation to Bill Gates leaving college to start Microsoft.

But he countered that argument with his obligation to the NBA, which has a system where teams bet high draft picks and millions in salary on relatively untested prospects.

“Our teams are in a very difficult position trying to draft players when that first pick may only come around (for each franchise) once in a generation,” Silver said. “It’s awfully risky to use that first pick on someone straight out of high school, but also increasingly (a player who) only had limited experience in college.”

Silver on other topics of local and national interest:

• On Bobcats owner Michael Jordan’s adjustment from player to owner: “I think it’s a little frustrating at times for him because it’s not like taking over a game. It’s a process to building a championship team.”

• On the Bobcats’ rebranding to the Hornets: “They’re setting all kinds of records for merchandise sales. I just said in my last meeting I don’t intend to leave town without a Hornets T-shirt.”

• On Charles Barkley’s assertion (during an NCAA tournament broadcast) that the NBA product is in serious decline: “I think the league is in great shape. The level of competition is terrific ... and I still love Charles.”

• On what he does and does not define as “tanking”: “Tanking means when coaches and/or players go out and intentionally try to lose games. I don’t believe that’s happening for a second in this league. There’s no doubt, though, that there is genuine rebuilding going on (in some front offices), and it’s gone on as long as I’ve been in this league.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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