Thoughts on the NBA Age Limit

Friday, June 5, 2009

One of the big issues as we near the draft is the NBA’s age limit, which went into effect in 2006, forcing players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from their class graduating high school before they can be drafted into the NBA.

NBA Commissioner David Stern is strongly in favor of an age limit, and he would probably raise the limit to 20 or 21 if he could get everyone to agree on it. Many others, including me, don’t think there should be an age limit in place.

TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott blogged about the age limit earlier today, which included the following line:

As Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell points out by e-mail, the biggest names on the court -- Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Rashard Lewis -- were all drafted straight out of high school. Of the two team's starters, only four went to college at all, as two more began professional careers at young ages overseas. Of the starters, only Rafer Alston, Derek Fisher, Trevor Ariza and Courtney Lee arrived in the NBA with any college experience.

The point is clear. There are plenty of examples of players who went straight from high school to the pros successfully. And yes, while there may be a Korleone Young for every LeBron James, that shouldn’t punish the LeBron James’ of the world. If someone is ready for life in the NBA at age 18 or 17 or 16—and they want to turn pro—I don’t see what the big problem is.Basketball players turn pro in their mid teens in Europe on a regular basis. Or, if you want to look at youth in America, why not look at tennis or gymnastics?

I don’t think that many high school kids are prepared for life in the NBA, but they aren’t always meant for college either. The way the NBA's rule is set up now, players are essentially relegated to a year playing college basketball even if they have no intention of being in college. Brandon Jennings tried the path less traveled last season by opting to play in Europe for a year straight out of high school, and he’s a projected lottery pick. Still, most high school seniors see no option other than what turns out to be little more than a one year basketball internship at a big-name university whether they want to go to school or not. And that’s not right.

I like the idea proposed by Scott Schroeder over at Ridiculous Upside. (What else is new?)

Let's make the NBA's age limit even more complex, similar to MLB's complexities regarding the topic. Expand the NBA's draft to four rounds and allow everyone to be drafted - regardless of age. If you'd like to draft the rights to the Candace Parker-Shelden Williams lovechild, ahead of BJ Mullens in a few weeks, it's your call. However, if a player wants to/is good enough to play in the NBA the season after high school, he has to start in the D-League, at least until the D-League Showcase, held in early January. This would benefit the D-League (don't tell me you wouldn't watch a Brandon Jennings-Mateen Cleaves matchup), the player (getting him acclimated to the pro-game) and the NBA. If nothing else, it'll at least build the D-League up to the point of it being able to be profitable, helping it become a more "true" minor league.As Scott writes, this is a multi-party solution. Not only does it give the player another option besides becoming a nonstudent-athlete, it also allows the NBA to train and develop its players while simultaneously bolstering the competition level and, thus, fan interest in the D-League.

Imagine if the next Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard or even the next Andrew Bynum or Rashard Lewis suited up 20+ games for the Erie BayHawks. How much more buzz would that generate for the team? The future of the D-League is intricately linked to the future of the NBA Draft and the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. There’s so much potential there, but the league and the players union need to compromise to make it come to fruition. Let’s hope they have the foresight to develop the Development League and the NBA as a whole by putting the age limit to rest sometime in the very near future.


rogue_savior said...
June 22, 2009 at 10:59 PM  

I agree. MLB has done a very good job developing their minor league system. Why not try to mimic it in the NBA. They don't make Dakotah Fanning act for free until she goes to college for a year or two. I am going to hit up this topic on my podcast tonight at 11pm Central at

Matt Hubert said...
July 9, 2009 at 3:09 PM  

For some reason I missed this comment when you first posted it, but thanks for the comment and good luck with the podcast, I'll have to check it out.

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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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