New NBA CBA could dramatically change the NBA Draft eligibility rules

NBA Draft (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NBA Draft (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The next iteration of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement will be focused heavily on NBA Draft eligibility rules.

No one wants a lockout in pro sports. The MLB lockout that threatened the 2022 MLB season was a reminder of how harsh the business side of the professional sports world can be.

Thankfully for MLB fans, the lockout didn’t cancel the season, though it could have. And NBA fans should now be pleased that the relationship between the league and its players appears much more cooperative than that of the MLB.

In fact, news came out from Shams Charania on Monday regarding what to expect in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement.

Charania’s full report (subscription required) gives some insight to the working relationship between the league and the player’s union. The coronavirus pandemic created a need to amend the CBA on the fly to get games back going in a rapidly-changing environment. The growth between the two parties was centered on their resilience in setting up a completion to the 2020 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Though no one would wish for the pandemic, the obstacles it created have built a bond between the league and players that looks much different, in a good way, compared to other pro sports leagues.

Among the changes reported by Charania was the expected adjustment to draft eligibility age.

NBA Draft eligibility will likely change with new CBA

It’s a change we expected: The NBA will likely lower the NBA Draft eligibility age from 19 to 18, according to Charania’s report.

Currently, players out of high school typically need to play a year in college or overseas to become eligible, which has proven to be somewhat useless in some cases.

Ben Simmons is a notable example. While he was more than ready for the NBA in 2015, he had to play a year in college before going first overall in 2016. Simmons opted to spend that year at LSU and seemed to mail it in at times since his draft prowess was more or less locked-in, creating some uncertainty around aspects of his skillset which made it difficult for teams to assess his readiness.

LaMelo Ball is another example, skirting around college altogether and playing professionally in Australia to earn money while he waited for his chance in the NBA. Likewise, Ball would have been drafted right out of high school had he been eligible.

The upside for players is that they don’t have to delay earning professional money and risk a significant injury without the security of a contract in college. It gives them more agency over their choice.

The upside for college programs is it will eliminate some one-and-done instances and make sure players that come to each school truly want to be there.

And finally, the upside for the NBA and fans is that they can infuse young talent quicker into the league. While some high-school-to-NBA examples from pre-2005 didn’t always pan out, some of the most exciting players in the game were straight out of high school.

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