Much has been made of the prospective decline in the NBA Draft stock of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, and the subsequent decline of his future paycheck as a result. There’s good reason for that, as Noel almost certainly would have been the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft if he’d been allowed to enter directly from high school, just as the likes of LeBron James and others were before him.
It’s too late to change any NCAA rules to help Nerlens Noel; he’s already put in his collegiate hoops time and paid his time. Yet it isn’t too late for the current crop of top seniors, a number of whom could definitely earn high lottery slots in the forthcoming NBA Draft if they were allowed to enter it.
Now two of those top stars have spoken out to call the NBA’s age rule, perjoratively referred to as the “one-and-done” rule, flat out unfair. From a pure analytical standpoint they’re right; there is no true, scientifically demonstrable reason why players should have to compete for a single year after finishing high school to enter the top flight of professional basketball. More strikingly, from a best practices rule for both the NBA and NCAA they may be right, too.
USA Today carried quotes from both Julius Randle, the number 2 ranked player in the Rivals150, and top center prospect Dakari Johnson (originally given to the Louisville Courier-Journal), both calling for high school graduates to be allowed to enter the NBA Draft. The prep stars’ logic is persuasively simple: When you’re ready to play in the NBA, you’re ready, and a single year of “seasoning” won’t make much of a difference.
“I think you should be able to go ahead and go if you’re ready,” Randle told USA Today. “When you’re ready, you’re ready.”
Naturally, that single year of college basketball becomes even less justifiable when one considers it’s the NCAA that benefits from these players’ uncompensated talent, never the players themselves.
That point has clearly resonated with Johnson, who is the prep center slated to take Noel’s place, assuming that Noel follows the lead of former Wildcat center Anthony Davis and enters the NBA Draft after his freshman year, knee injury or not. Johnson was in the stands when Noel was injured, and the experience clearly left him concerned.
“I think, you know, if you have a chance to go, then why not?” Johnson told the Courier Journal. “Why hold a kid back if he has an opportunity to realize his dream and help his family out? Why not just let him go?”
Why hold a player back, indeed. Prep Rally doesn’t have a valid answer for that. The question is whether the NBA and/or NCAA do.