The Adam Silver era of the NBA officially began this month, and one of the hot issues on the new commissioner's docket is the age limit for players entering the league.
The current limit of 19 years old, or one year removed from high school graduation, has resulted in the "one-and-done" phenomenon in college basketball. Many college coaches would like to see the eligibility rules change for the professional ranks, and Silver has said that he is hoping to raise the age limit by one year.
In a conversation with USA Today's Sam Amick, Silver explains his rationale behind raising the age limit. Very little of his argument directly ties in the effect on college basketball -- and why would it, considering his primary concern is the NBA -- but it is easy to follow his logic in regards to player development.
Q: Along those lines, what's your level of optimism when it comes to your goal of raising the minimum age to 20 (years old from 19 when the next CBA is negotiated, likely when there's an opt-out after the 2016-17 season)?
A: It's hard to tell. I never quite understood the player opposition. Of course it's a zero sum game in terms of numbers of jobs, and amount of salary we pay out. We pay out roughly 50% of BRI (basketball-related income), and that's divided among the players in the league. So there is absolutely, and by definition can't be, a financial savings to us by increasing the age to 20. It has been our belief that we have a better chance to grow the (financial) pie that gets divided 50-50 if we increase the age and create, in essence, a more competitive league. And it has been our sense for a long time that our draft would be more competitive if our teams had an opportunity to see these players play an additional year, whether it be in college or professionally in the Development League or overseas.
We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful. And increasingly, I've been told by many NBA coaches that one of the issues with the younger guys coming into the league is they've never had an opportunity to lead. By having come directly out of their first year of college, those are the moments in their lives where…they were put in positions as upper classmen, where they first learned how to lead teammates. And ultimately, if you look at our most successful teams, they're successful because they play as a team and I think that's one of the beauties of this game is that it's such an interesting mix of team play and at the same time individual (skill).
A team plays together with individual attributes. It's that blend that teams are always constantly trying to achieve, the perfect blend. Again though, it's one of those issues (where) it needs to be collectively bargained, and for good reason. It's something that during collective bargaining the last time, we had lots of discussions about it with the group of players who were representing the union at the time and I think it's something that we should continue to discuss. Let me just throw in that at the same time, I think maybe, just to broaden my horizons a little bit, I'm trying to look at it not just from the perspective of the NBA because I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial to the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it's not terrible for the NBA right now, at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletic director) friends, their view is (that) one and done is a disaster. I think this is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well.
Some have suggested that college basketball follow a model similar to baseball, where prospects are eligible to turn pro after high school or commit to a university for a set number of years. Silver, on the other hand, seems to favor an age limit increase across the board.
As Amick notes in the excerpt above, no changes are likely until at least after the 2016-17 NBA season.