13 February 2013

Should Nerlens Noel's injury lead to a change of the one-and-done rule?

Last night in a loss to Florida in Gainesville, star Kentucky freshman forward Nerlens Noel suffered a gruesome leg injury after running down and blocking a shot of the Gators' Mike Rosario and it has resulted in a torn ACL. Now, his season is over and his NBA draft future is in jeopardy.

Noel was expected to enter the NBA draft after his freshman season in Lexington as so many have before and he was projected to be a high first round selection come June, with some projecting him to be the first overall selection. Now the question has to be asked, it is time for the NBA to scrap its current system of preventing players from entering the NBA draft until one year after they graduated high school?
Starting with the 2006 NBA Draft, the NBA imposed a rule that players could not be drafted out of high school. They tried to end the practice of players coming right out of high school as it was thought that these teenagers were not mentally and emotionally ready to jump right into the pros when they are only around 18 years old, barely adults. That reasoning is pretty fair and it is certainly a tough adjustment for guys so young to go right into the NBA.

However, that is not to say the current system is working, because it clearly is not. First of all, having these prospects go to college one year really is a waste of time. They don't get anything out of the one year academically and not that much athletically because they already know that they are going to go to the pros no matter what happens. And we have seen a few guys skirt the system by playing professionally overseas instead of going to college, like we famously saw with Brandon Jennings. 

Plus that one year in school comes with a lot of risks, as we saw with Noel. Now, Noel's future is in jeopardy because of his injury and he has no insurance for what could have been had he been playing in the pros, where he would have had the security and the stability of a contract. But now there is a chance that he never sees a big contract like one he seemed poised to get before his injury. 

Now I don't expect any immediate changes because of Noel's injury, after all he was not the clear-cut top overall pick. But let's say had it been Anthony Davis who suffered such a drastic injury when he was at Kentucky a year ago? Had it been the clear-cut top selection who suffered such a serious injury, I think there could be some traction.

I think the NBA and college basketball need a compromise to get the best possible deal for both. I have always been in support of a plan that allowed prospects to enter the draft after they graduate high school but if they do go to college, they have to stay for two years. That way, if players want, and are capable, to go right into the NBA, they have that opportunity but if they go to school, they will actually get something out of it instead of just going for a year and it being little more than a joke. And you know what, that sounds to me like a realistic proposal that both sides could get behind. Whether they will is the ultimate question. 

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