Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's about time to raise the NBA age limit

Of the 30 players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, all of whom had hopes of being an All-Star, starring in their own sneaker commercial and leading their team to NBA championships, just five signed long-term contract extensions to secure their futures before the Nov. 1 deadline.

For example, Boston's Rajon Rondo, drafted 21st in 2006, signed a five-year, $55 million deal to remain a Celtic until at least 2015.

That means the other 25 were unable to perform to the level to encourage their teams to make a substantial financial commitment. In other words, they were busts, disappointments or failed to reach their potential. Perhaps it was just a poor draft class filled with players who weren't as talented as advertised or lacked the work ethic to develop or maybe these players entered the draft prematurely, seeking NBA riches before they were prepared for the rigors and commitment required to become a standout player.

An increase in the NBA age limit won't prevent these draft failures but will reduce them because it will allow prospective players to get at least two years of college basketball. Right now, the NBA mandates that players remain in college for one season and in many cases, NBA prospects attend college one semester to stay eligible for their freshman season, drop out for the second semester and then began preparing for the NBA draft once their college season ends.

That isn't exactly Doogie Howser type academic passion and that type of lack of commitment may eventually hurt the athlete if the NBA career doesn't pan out. The NBA is filled with players who bolted college early and became successful, but there are also players such as Shawne Williams, Gerald Green and Donte Greene who thought they would be stars and instead are out of the league (Green), banished by their team for immaturity (Williams)or riding the end of a bench (Greene).

The NBA is a heartless operation and hardly has time for prolonged development, so teams cut their losses, as they did with 25 of those 30 draft picks. There are always kids flooding the draft, so the key is to be as prepared as possible for success. Holding kids back another year will give them additional preparation, making them more useful commodities for teams and reducing the slew of draft busts and disappointments that have littered the draft the past few years.

These younger NBA players are crushed when their team refuses to offer a contract extension. Many of them are delusional when it comes to their talent and potential, still believing they are all-star caliber players. The reality that they are barely hanging on is harsh one, and the NBA is running short on patience, especially in this economic climate.

So it's time the NBA protect these players from themselves and mandate they wait another year. The extra time prepping for the highest level could extend their career, and isn't that what we all want?