Ogden’s Opus: How to Cure NBA’s One-and-Done Craze

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports   Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports   Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports   Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports /

College basketball and the NBA Draft are being overrun by one-and-done players. What systems can be implemented to create a greater balance?

In 2006, David Stern made waves in the sports community by outlawing high school players from entering the NBA Draft. The news took the league by storm due to the extraordinary success experienced by high school stars including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Moses Malone.

In the years that have followed, it’s been hypothesized that college basketball has lost some of its luster.

The phrase, “One-and-done,” strikes as much fear into the hearts of college basketball purists as any. It’s a term that applies to players who come to college, complete their freshmen seasons, and then depart for a professional league.

Generally speaking, that league is the NBA.

This will happen no matter what changes are made, but continuity will be more easily achieved with a higher percentage of star-caliber players staying in school. That can be achieved, but not under the current constructs of NCAA basketball.

The question is, what can and should be done?

Pay the College Athletes

Arguably the most highly-debated topic in collegiate sports is whether or not the athletes should be paid. This isn’t an attempt to spark that debate, but instead an acknowledgement that it’s an option for improving the quality of both college basketball and the NBA.

By paying student-athletes, players would be more inclined to stay in school and hone their craft before entering the NBA—a place where early failures often go unforgiven.

It goes without saying that the nation’s truly elite prospects—and there are far fewer of them than is often implied—will be inclined to come out after their respective freshmen seasons. The players who do stay, however, may include the fringe lottery picks whose upside is star-caliber, but bust potential is just as legitimate.

One can’t help but wonder how helpful it’d be for one-and-done stars to follow in the footsteps of a Blake Griffin or a Stephen Curry—All-NBA players who spent multiple seasons in college.

There’s no true science to a player becoming an NBA star. If an athlete needs further development, however, being paid to receive it as the focal point of a college team will appeal to some more than being paid to ride the pine in the Association would.

Egos do exist, and money does matter.

Clearly, colleges and universities will not be paying players as much as an NBA organization would. Being handed a free education and time spent with respected coaches simply cannot be denied as appealing when a steady income is brought into the discussion.

If that obvious step doesn’t work, then what will?

The Role of the NBA D-League

When the NBA D-League was introduced in 2001, many pondered how this would impact the future of the Association. 15 years later, it’s being shaped as a tool for developing young talent and finding the diamonds in the rough.

As influential as it’s become, the NBA isn’t utilizing the D-League to its full potential.

If the NCAA won’t pay its players—and, whether or not it should, that won’t happen any time soon—then the D-League should capitalize on this golden opportunity. Not only would it be an attractive option for top prospects, but it’d be a great money-making tool for Adam Silver and the NBA.

In future years, the D-League should be available to players coming straight out of high school.

Under this proposed change, said players must complete a full D-League season before entering the following NBA Draft. The regular season spans 50 games and features pro-level athletes, which would thus give the Association the opportunity to promote the nation’s best prospects under its own terms against its own talent.

The pay isn’t spectacular, but with bigger names coming in, the budget would increase and the salaries would follow.

The International Market

Brandon Jennings broke ground in July of 2008 when he forgoed the collegiate experience to play professionally in Italy. It’s since been done by other players, including Aquille Carr and Emmanuel Mudiay, but it’s far from a growing norm.

Perhaps it’s time for high school seniors to be educated about the benefits of the international basketball market.

It’s important to note that not every major international league is created equal. Some that pay better provide less structure, and others that supply less playing time will help more in fundamental development.

There’s no right or wrong answer for where a player should go, but extensive information should be provided to each and every player about their international options.

Powerful leagues on the international front can be found in countries including China, Israel, Spain and Turkey. Some preach team basketball and thus limit their athletes’ minutes, while others play more of an exhibition style that values big names and lacks dependable rim protection.

Depending on what a player’s strengths and weaknesses are, going international could work wonders for the prospects, NBA, and college basketball as a collective.

The Bottom Line

Something needs to be done.

The legendary legacies of college basketball players are becoming increasingly more watered down. The standards have declined, and the driving force behind that disappointing trend is the one-and-done movement.

With elite players departing after just one season, continuity is almost impossible to find at a superstar level.

Those who do spend multiple seasons in the collegiate spotlight generally have red flags on their NBA Draft resume. Some are undersized for their position, while others lack a defined NBA projection due to an underwhelming display of athleticism.

One can’t help but wonder how these three options would impact the collegiate landscape and, in turn, the NBA Draft.

By paying collegiate athletes, star recruits may take coaching better and thus trust their college or university to prepare them for life in the NBA. Not only would that help as freshmen, but they’d be more open to staying in school with a consistent salary.

It may not match the money of the NBA, but it’d be a start.

With the D-League and Europe, players would have a chance to play professionally. The level of competition ranges from one league to the next, but both destinations would place an emphasis on improving fundamentals.

One way or another, something needs to change.

Stat of the Week: LeBron Heard the Critics

Throughout the 2015-16 NBA regular season, critics have picked LeBron James’ allegedly declining game apart. The 31-year-old remains productive and efficient overall, but he’s been one of the worst players in the NBA at scoring outside of the paint.

Correction: James was the worst player in the NBA at scoring outside of the paint as of December 29, 2015.

James saw this graphic on his Instagram directly before a game against the Denver Nuggets, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com.

Since and including the Denver game, James has gone 16-of-36 from beyond the arc—good for a mark of .444. He’s also 72-of-126 from the field, which translates to a field goal percentage of .571.

It’s safe to say James has identified the flaws in his ways.

Under the Radar: Zaza Pachulia, Dallas Mavericks

Entering the 2015-16 NBA regular season, the Dallas Mavericks were a team with kindly optimistic hopes of a postseason appearance. There was solid play all around, but Dallas’ lack of an interior anchor at center left it vulnerable to a letdown.

Zaza Pachulia has been the stabilizing force that most believed wasn’t present on the Mavericks’ roster.

The 31-year-old has come out of nowhere to average 10.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.8 offensive boards per game. That’s his highest scoring total since 2006-07; 10.9 and 3.8 are the best rebounding marks of his 13-year NBA career.

At No. 5 in the Association in rebounds per game and No. 2 in offensive boards, one could argue that Pachulia has been the key to Rick Carlisle‘s crew overachieving.

NBA Draft Stud: Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame Fighting Irish star Demetrius Jackson has a chance to be this year’s Damian Lillard. He’s a junior point guard with the athleticism, playmaking ability, and shooting range to thrive in the modern NBA, albeit with some understandable question marks.

True as that may be, it’d take a dramatic development for Jackson to fall out of the Top 14 prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Jackson is a lightning quick scoring guard whose ability to attack off the bounce will create appeal across the Association. He’s also a lights-out shooter who’s comfortable going up off the bounce, and paralyzing defenders with an effortless step-back.

Jackson is a bit undersized at 6’1″, but he has a near 6’5″ wingspan and is one of the most athletically explosive prospects at his position.

Team to Watch: New York Knicks

Since trading virtually all available long-term assets to acquire Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks have been the epitome of inconsistency. New York won 54 games as recently as 2012-13, and 17 games in 2014-15.

In 2015-16, the Knicks appear to have restored the competitive nature of New York basketball.

Through 40 games, Derek Fisher‘s crew is an even 20-20 with an 11-8 record at home and a mark of 9-12 on the road. It’s won five of its past six outings, with the only loss coming by one point on the road at the San Antonio Spurs.

For perspective, San Antonio is undefeated at home. New York has been that hot.