Adam Silver (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

B/R NBA Experts Debate One-and-Done Rule Pros and Cons

Bleacher Report NBA Staff

The NBA's eligible draft age has been debated since it was increased to 19 in 2005. For the past 17 years, fans have wondered if the league would ever return to a model where high school stars could enter the draft at 18 years old.

Now, that "if" looks far more certain.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the NBA and NBPA are expected to come together at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement to implement the change as soon as the 2024 draft.

Or, at least that seemed to be the case until Adrian Wojnarowski seemed to push back on the inevitability of the end of the one-and-done era.

And we also don't really have clarity on whether eliminating the one-and-done rule is good for anybody other than a few elite players who may now jump to the NBA at 18, instead of the current 19-year-old minimum.

Here to discuss the matter and to offer their perspectives are Bleacher Report's NBA Draft Expert Jonathan Wasserman, NBA front office insider Eric Pincus and national analyst Andy Bailey.

Could This Diminish the Quality of the NBA Product?

Bailey: Over the last decade or so, NBA organizations have become far better when it comes to evaluating prospects. Scouting and analytics departments have exploded in size, sophistication and resources, and the number of flat-out whiffs at the top of the draft seems to be falling.

Of course, there are occasional surprises and missteps (like Anthony Bennett in 2013), but teams are clearly aware of the importance of these decisions.

With that in mind, this is a change that will improve the watchability of both the NBA and college basketball. On the professional side, this obviously gets talent to the league sooner. It gives coaching and developmental staffs more time to work with these young talents. It deepens the talent pool.

For college, teams should be better able to build continuity (new transfer rules notwithstanding). The one-and-done phenomenon turned a lot of high-profile programs into little more than an NBA farm system. Presumably, immediately getting the surefire NBA players from high school to the pros will leave talents more suited for college to carry those teams.

Ultimately, both the NBA and NCAA products should benefit.

How Does This Affect the Next Generation of NBA Prospects and Scouting?

Wasserman: NBA reactions tend to vary on the prep-to-pro debate, with some seeing ethical questions in preventing prospects from declaring, and others worried about kids receiving poor advice.

However, scouts' jobs become tougher if 18-year-olds can suddenly enter the draft. Along with tracking 300-plus college programs, scouts would have dozens of high school teams to follow and travel to. And the general feeling from scouts is that they are not interested in watching significantly lower-level basketball in high school gyms.

Aside from the belief that few 18-year-olds are really ready for the NBA, scouts also find it tougher to make confident evaluations on high school seniors whom they've never seen play against older competition. Getting to evaluate them for an extra year at the college level—or in the G League—has its obvious benefits.

Why Might NBA Execs Be More Open to 18-Year-Olds Now?

Pincus: By and large, executives around the league are either in favor of the lower draft age or have had plenty of time to get used to the concept, as the idea has been in talks for several years.

The NBA has put significant resources into building up the G League. The G League Ignite has produced three lottery picks over the last two drafts.

The “pro” argument centers around greater player developmental control. For the one-and-done player, the benefit of a college program varies widely. The NBA team can get top prospects on proper training and conditioning programs immediately.

The “negative” for team executives is the larger draft pool of talent to scout. The notion of scouting in high school gyms is generally unfavorable and will require more significant resources for teams to manage. Additionally, while some players come into the league ready to play at a high level, such as LeBron James, most aren’t prepared for the journey.

That can make drafting more complex, with maturity even harder to gauge, as players will still be relatively young as their rookie-scale contracts near an end.

Which Current Star Would You Most Have Wanted to See Enter the League at 18?

Pincus: LaMelo!

LaMelo Ball was always going to be a force in the NBA. Did he really need to venture to Lithuania and Australia in lieu of joining the league straight out of Chino Hills?

Sure, he learned what it was like to play against grown men at a young age and got a glimpse of the world outside the United States, but he could have also hit the draft and gotten developmental minutes in an NBA program.

He might have needed more time to become the Melo he is today in the league, but that time could have been better spent under the direction of an NBA staff.

Outside the intercontinental travel, what would he have missed out on? He always had his natural gifts as a passer and a maker of wild, questionable shots. He’s a blast to watch on League Pass.

We should have gotten that one year sooner.

Bailey: As it relates to viral sensations such as Luka Doncic, LaMelo Ball and Zion Williamson, the extra year outside the NBA actually helped each. Doncic and Ball both got a little extra seasoning against professional athletes, which made them more ready for the leap to NBA action.

Zion, believe it or not, was the No. 5 recruit in his high school class. A jaw-dropping freshman campaign at Duke vaulted him to the top of draft boards.

The answer to this question, at least for me, has to be someone who spent a year at college (or elsewhere) and didn't really seem to benefit from it. James Wiseman's three games at Memphis probably didn't do anything for him. That year would've been better spent with NBA coaching and facilities. Darius Bazley's internship with New Balance was a creative way to avoid the traditional route, but he too could've benefited from an extra year with an NBA organization.

The most obvious answer for me, though, is Kyrie Irving. He only played 11 games at Duke, and he probably didn't need that limited exposure to go from No. 2 recruit in his high school class to No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.

The only player ahead of him in that high school class, Harrison Barnes, stayed at North Carolina for his sophomore campaign. And it was clear early in his rookie season that Kyrie had been NBA-ready for a while.

Does This Mean Bronny James Can Skip College and Go Straight to the NBA?

Bronny and LeBron James (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wasserman: The draft's age requirement dropping to 18 wouldn't impact Bronny James, currently a high school senior. The rule wouldn't change until 2024, after Bronny's theoretical freshman season.

The big question is how he'll spend the 2023-24 season. His last Instagram post showed him and his parents sporting Ohio State gear, though he's sure to receive offers and consider other schools as well.

While James has made nice strides over the past year, he still has more work to do selling scouts on his NBA upside, and he'll have a good chance this year at Sierra Canyon to improve on his self-creation in a lead-scoring role.

However, the new rule will impact Bronny's younger brother, Bryce, who's 15 and would turn 18 roughly a week before the 2025 draft, assuming it's held around the same time as it was in 2022 (June 23). Reports and images have Bryce looking taller than the 6'3" Bronny, though it's too early to realistically evaluate the high school sophomore's skill development and upside.

Recruit ratings via 247Sports composite.

   

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