NBA proposes lowering the draft-eligible age from 19 to 18.

Noah Neri, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Feb. 21, the NBA office submitted a proposal to the NBA Players’ Association (NBAPA) to change the minimum draft age requirement from 19 to 18 years old. This rule would likely go into place before the 2022 draft. While the NBA has been discussing this change for a couple of years, this proposal may have been expedited by the injury of Zion Williamson, the likely first pick in the NBA Draft, while he was playing for Duke in an NCAA game.

This change, if approved, has the potential to shake up the league in a major fashion. Under current NBA rules, a player has to be 19 to enter the NBA draft. Because most high school seniors are 18 when they graduate, elite basketball players must wait a year to enter the draft. Most choose to spend this year in college, where they can further develop and show off their skills to NBA scouts.

However, playing in college means the players are amateurs and may not be paid by colleges or accept brand endorsements. Under the proposed new rules, an elite player would be allowed to enter the NBA draft directly after graduating high school.

The proposed change is actually a reversion of the so-called “one-and-done” rule in 2006, which raised the age requirement from 18 to 19. At the time, the NBA intended to have players mature an extra year before entering the league. So what did the NBA look like back when the age limit was 18?

There were 40 players drafted straight out of high school from 1995-2005, when the NBA permitted this practice. These players range from Hall of Fame locks (Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James) to solid players (JR Smith, Kendrick Perkins, Gerald Green) to total busts and no-names (Eddy Curry, Korleone Young, Kwame Brown).

Allowing high school seniors to declare for the draft freed up some talented players to take off and get an extra year in their pro careers, while also letting in some raw or overrated players to fail. The age limit was originally moved up to protect teams and allow them to  thoroughly scout players in college, reducing the amount of busts. However, new scouting brands have emerged in high school such as Ballislife, Overtime, and CityLeague. Many believe that these brands could make high school scouting much easier, allowing NBA scouts to watch online rather than traveling to every high school out there.

One other effect this change could have on the league is increasing the importance of the G League, the NBA’s minor league system. Currently, NCAA colleges provide a free training ground for NBA prospects. With high school players allowed into the NBA, there would be an influx of new talent and teams would have to expand their G League system to accommodate younger players and to refine their skills. This would be a costly project considering that three NBA teams (Pelicans, Nuggets, Trail Blazers) don’t even have G League teams as of now.

Overall, this change, if approved, will be a huge shake-up of today’s NBA. Fans will have new, exciting young players on their favorite teams, and those players will have the ability to earn pay and accept endorsements. However, the NBA must put the proper scouting and developmental infrastructure into place if they want this change to be a success.