It's easy to dismiss the ranting of an oft-crazed (in the basketball sense) billionaire that decides to replace perfectly good metaphors like "shoot yourself in the foot" with the much scarier "shoot yourself in the forehead." But Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is onto something when he points out that the NBA's collectively bargained insistence that NBA draft hopefuls spend at least their first year outside of the NBA helps absolutely nobody. College basketball isn't all that great any more, the NBA doesn't get that extra year of cherished free development time as a result, and only Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings has decided to spend that year overseas rather than acting as a "one and done" player at college.
There's not much the league can do about it, though. At least not until the next NBA lockout's bargaining negotiations. Cuban would prefer the NBA enact league-wide legislation that makes it so players would have to go three full years before hitting the NBA. The NCAA is the obvious option, of course, but overseas play and the D-League are still possibilities. Perhaps with new rules, potential one'ers would think twice about Kentucky, and go get paid with the pros in Europe. Here's Mark, as quoted by ESPN Dallas:
"It's not even so much about lottery busts," Cuban said. "It's about kids' lives that we're ruining. Even if you're a first-round pick and you have three years of guaranteed money -- or two years now of guaranteed money -- then what? Because if you're a bust and it turns out you just can't play in the NBA, your 'Rocks for Jocks' one year of schooling isn't going to get you real far.
"I just don't think it takes into consideration the kids enough. Obviously, I think there's significant benefit for the NBA. It's not my decision to make, but that's my opinion on it."
That's fair, but the 'Rocks for Jocks' year can be extended for three and even four years -- just ask any former NFL draftee that found himself out of a sports gig in his mid-to-late 20s with little to fall back on.
Tossing a few years' worth of credit hours a young man's way might help, but we're also relying on a little too much, here. The organization, at the highest levels (basketball and football being of paramount importance) really isn't interested in the general well-being of the players it slides into the NBA's draft pool each year as it is eager to add more and more credible names (read: three-year players) to the March Madness lineup, every year. The NBA and NCAA are in this nasty business together, and though they aren't the best of friends at the moment, let's not forget what's most important to both organization.
We're not being cynical or dismissing Cuban's comments, either. He genuinely cares, I'm sure, and has never minded paying extra for the potential (whether it comes in terms of player projects, extra assistant coaches, statistical analysis, or D-League help) to aid in internal development. Would he like the larger sample size of three NCAA seasons to reflect over as he readies his draft selection? Sure, but understand that Cuban isn't venting here because he misses that free NCAA development time. Remember, Cuban took over the Mavs at the height of the high school player boom.
And, as we keep leaning toward, there is always the possibility that players could go overseas. Working just as many games, but practicing more often, and being compensated by actual coin (and sometimes having coins thrown at you!) rather than a "Rocks for Jocks" education, as Cuban put it. That notion also gives us a chance to relay this quote, which we love, from Tim MacMahon's piece:
"They could go to Europe if they want, like Brandon Jennings. That'd be fine. There is nothing that I would like better than to throw our problems on FIBA. Then we'd get some of our money's worth with them."
Man oh man, Mark sure does hate them FIBA lads.
Something will, eventually, be done. The NBA wouldn't mind the free development, the NCAA would like to enjoy two or even three years of free NBA-level play from some of its best student athletes, and the NBA players will eventually get around to wanting to secure more end of bench gigs for veterans that might otherwise be knocked off a roster by a youngster making far less money, and with far more potential.
It'll take a while, though. Until then, we'll just have to keep on enjoying the all-world output of Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and all the other "one and done" stars we'll meet between now and the rule change.
- Mark Cuban