While the NBA draft had plenty of success stories involving underclassmen getting drafted — including a pair of sophomores, Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell, by the Timberwolves — 46 of the 86 in the draft-eligible pool were not picked Thursday.
So the question is this: What is the impact on college basketball, and can major college hoops and the NBA both manage to thrive?
First take: Michael Rand
It’s an interesting conundrum. The expansion of the NBA’s G League and two-way contracts have made it more possible for young players to catch on in the league without getting drafted.
Analytics that value young talent and an economic system that necessitates inexpensive labor to go with bloated max contracts also have changed the landscape.
The result is college teams aren’t just losing blue chip one-and-done guys to the draft lottery, they’re losing guys — like Gophers junior Amir Coffey, who wasn’t picked — who not that long ago would have stayed in school all four years.
It can’t help but weaken the college game. If a more public power struggle ensues, it’s the NBA that will win.
Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune college basketball writer: The NBA doesn’t want too many players coming into the league who aren’t ready. That’s why it got rid of the preps-to-pros route over a decade ago, but that rule will be abolished soon (most likely by the 2022 NBA draft).
Why are they getting rid of it? Because the debate really isn’t a debate anymore. You can’t prevent kids from making millions out of high school. Will there be casualties who don’t get drafted and have careers that last just a few years in the NBA G League before flaming out? Sure. That’s life. Making poor decisions has consequences.
The same can be said for early-entry candidates out of college chasing NBA dreams even when they know getting drafted is a long shot. The G League and two-way contracts are another route to get paid and reach the league.
Players deserve a chance to pursue that dream without getting blasted on social media for the decision to leave being idiotic if they go undrafted.
Rand: I would never begrudge someone the opportunity to make money, nor am I overly sentimental about college basketball and being “true to your school.” That loyalty tends to be a one-way street when coaches bail for other jobs (and more money).
It’s interesting that the original fear was the best players in college hoops would leave early. That’s evolved into second- and third-tier guys bolting as well, and that will ultimately be more damaging to the college game.
Fuller: We shouldn’t be worried about players leaving early hurting college hoops. The NCAA is doing more damage by not giving players a reason to stay longer.
Players are never going to get paid near what they are worth. But why not allow them to make money off their likeness? Why not let them leave early and come back (with a strict deadline) if they go undrafted? Let players transfer and play right away once. Coaches will really hate that, but that’s why they get paid big money.
Me: It’ll be interesting to see what college basketball looks like in 20 years. It’s feeling less and less like the unofficial minor league of the NBA.
Final word: Fuller.
Villanova and Virginia, most recent champions, won with players who stuck around. I’m excited to see that become more of the norm than so many guys leaving for the G League route. It won’t last.