Elite high school basketball players who previously would have spent only a single season in college basketball suddenly may have a professional alternative, albeit one that comes a tier below the NBA.
As reported by ESPN, the NBA’s developmental G-League is creating a development pathway for the single season many elite recruits spend between high school graduation and their eligibility for the NBA Draft. The program will offer a series of benefits for athletes who are at least 18 years old but not yet eligible to declare for the draft:
— A $125,000 “select contract” with the league
— Access to NBA development programs “geared toward transitioning to the pro game”
— Lack of amateurism restrictions, which allows players to hire agents, sign sneaker marketing deals and other sponsorships
In that way, it’s likely that a number of the players who might sign such an agreement could be in line to earn far more than the $125,000 salary they sign for.
“The broader basketball community has called for the NBA to enhance our G League offerings,” G-League President Malcolm Turner told ESPN. “We believe this is an answer to that call. We believe this is a thoughtful and responsive answer.”
Turner made it clear that the G-League would not pursue any players who have already committed to play for a college. That could impact the timeline of players committing to schools, further delaying their decision to maximize their opportunities.
While this is clearly a first step in addressing the “one-and-done” concerns raised by the NCAA-formed Commission on College Basketball, it does not preclude the NBA from moving ahead with a change in its draft eligibility. A change is still expected for the 2022 NBA Draft which would open selection to all graduating high school seniors once again.
There are a host of significant questions still to be answered that come from the G-League’s announcement. ESPN lays those out here, and also provides some answers; among other assets, players who agree to select contracts will be allowed to train in NBA facilities with training staffs and coaches before the G-League’s October training camps kick off. And while the league won’t provide these elite prospects with a college degree, there is hope that a strong educational component will still be included via partnerships with outside colleges.
As for how the new professional path will be received by the current crop of elite prospects, that remains to be seen. If nothing else, now they know they have another domestic option should they choose to eschew the traditional collegiate track to the NBA.