Candid Coaches: Which draft model works best for college and the NBA?

McDonalds All American seven foot centers from left to right Jahlil Okafor, Thomas Welsh, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Myles Turner pose for a photo before the game at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. (USATSI)
Most believe All-Americans like Jahlil Okafor, Thomas Welsh, Karl-Anthony Towns and Myles Turner deserve better than the current option. (USATSI)

More College Basketball: Early Top 25 (And One) | Coaching changes college basketball writers Gary Parrish, Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander spent the July recruiting period at various NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on prospects, players, coaches and issues. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.

1: Which eligible NCAA player would you take over all others next season?

2: Will a woman be a head coach of a D-I men's program in the next 25 years?


Widespread, public discussion regarding the NBA's draft rule will die down for about the next seven months, until a slew of talented college players prepare for the rodeo and we can debate this all over once more. But in reality, the pragmatism behind the current standard operating procedure for the draft remains a point of contention for both college coaches and NBA brass.

It bothers them year-round.

A draft concord never going to be resolved in a way that satisfies everyone. But what seems clear: the current model, which has been in place for a decade now, isn't working to please the majority on both sides. Suspecting that, we wanted to include the following poll in our series.

Today's question: Which model best combines the interest for college basketball and the NBA?

A) Current model (one year minimum removed from high school or 19 years old)
B) The baseball model (eligible right from high school or mandatory minimum of two or three years in college)
C) Two-year minimum (two years removed from high school or 20 years old)
D) No age limit (the old protocol)

  • Baseball model: 49 percent
  • No age limit: 30 percent
  • Two years: 18 percent
  • Current model: 3 percent


"Baseball model. Some guys don’t need to go to college, but if you go, best and most realistic chance to obtain a degree is three years. Would totally and completely change college basketball for the better. Also the NBA would be better: older kids more prepared."

“I don’t like making kids go to school for six months that have no interest in going, so definitely think they should be able to go out of high school if they want. Best for college would be to know you are getting a guy for at least three years if he does want to go to school. Don’t know what is best for NBA, but they get the super talented guys (10-12 per year?) Out of high school and know that the other guys you get will be a little more ready to contribute after three years of college.” 

"College basketball fans don't know the best players from year to year. That needs to be fixed. I don't care how you fix it. But that needs to be fixed."

“Nobody questions the college baseball model so why should they question the same model if it is for basketball? Let the 5-10 elite players leave from high school if they want (I would argue you should let them come back to college if they aren't drafted in the first round), then if they choose college, they should stay until junior year. College basketball wins because there will be more talented upperclassmen and the NBA wins because there are more experienced college players drafted and they can still protect their NBA veterans with less 'upside' guys being drafted too early.”

“No age limit. High schoolers can declare. If you were a master chemist and had the option to forego college to work at an International chemistry lab, you would do it. Musicians, entertainers, golfers all have that right. Basketball phenoms should too.” 

“NCAA should have very little rules about the draft. It is the NBA’s decision. We should allow a player to put his name into the draft anytime he wants and if he does not get drafted, go ahead and return to college. Even if he gets drafted but does not sign, he is still an amateur and should be allowed to return to college. This will create management roster issues for some college teams but they will manage. It may also create challenges for the NBA but that is their issue.” 

“Current model is a compromise that really benefits mid-majors and those just below the one and done factories. It doesn’t help the NBA truly evaluate, doesn’t help kids get significantly better, and is a terror in college team-building for upper-tier teams.”


My first takeaway is in the form of a question: Why hasn't the baseball model been dictating this conversation more? It's clearly a benefit for college coaches to know where they stand with elite recruits; the five-star guys; the select eight to 10 players in each class that have the ability to at least warrant flirting with the NBA right out of high school.

This isn't a new concept, but as you can see, it's the method most believe the college and pro game deserves. And it's what the best players deserve. Give the cream of the crop the option to make the jump.

What's increasingly clear: Almost no one in college hoops wants to stay with the current convention. And it's not just major-conference coaches who feel this way. This is what stood out to me more than anything. The irony is, college hoops has benefited from the NBA's age-limit rule, as has the NBA. Getting Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker onto college campuses has unquestionably helped the sport's popularity.

Whether it's right -- or fair -- is the question and contention of plenty. Give the 30 percent of coaches who think it should be a free-for-fall credit. They're of the view that college doesn't need those top guys, that the game would still be as popular as it is because (as a few coaches expressed to me) almost all college hoops fans are watching for the uniform, or the coaches, or the experience.

Debate that if you will.

Despite the poll, it seems like we're headed toward a two-year minimum. The NBA -- and college hoops -- are most likely going to be better for it. By the time players get to the NBA, they'll by and large have a bit more polish and maturity to their game and to themselves. This inevitability was expressed by plenty of coaches I spoke to on the trail.

But I still find it curious that the best marriage of the two concepts, the baseball model, hasn't been in the conversation more. You appease the free-market aspect while also ensuring college basketball is afforded multiple years of talented players who can and will properly grow into pros.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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