Following an injury to Duke star Zion Williamson the debate of whether players should have to play in college is heating up again.
Currently, in order to play in the NBA, players have to be one year removed from high school. Although playing internationally is an option, the quickest and easiest pipeline to make it to the NBA is through playing for a college for a year. This allows easy access for NBA scouts at every game and constant exposure in the country they will soon be playing in.
But why do players who are very obviously going to play in the NBA have to play in college? This debate is like any other big debate in the country like abortion, immigration and gun control. It is talked about but really takes off after something drastic.
Earlier this week something drastic happened.
Zion Williamson, the star forward from Duke who is being compared to NBA greats like Lebron James and Kevin Durrant was injured in the first minute of the Duke vs North Carolina rivalry game. Williamson’s injury likely won’t affect his NBA career, but the injury started up the controversy of what if he did seriously hurt himself?
This single event will at worst start up negotiation talks again and so that brings up the question of what will be changed? And if it does change, how will BYU basketball and other mid level teams will be affected?
Although the top 10-15 players in the NCAA seem to dominate all of the highlights and conversation every season, these players represent less than .1% of the total D1 players. More players who are freshmen get drafted every year, but only about 10-15 are normally drafted in the first round, which would make them the only ones likely to make the jump from high school to the NBA. Players going to the G-League may go up as well, but again, the NCAA provides a bigger audience and exposure than any other league in the world.
Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas would still get the best remaining recruits, essentially sliding up the next 10-15 recruits to these teams and causing a chain reaction. By the time this gets to teams like BYU, UNLV, or Dayton there wouldn’t be any effect at all to the team. But teams like Gonzaga might lose a few of their recruits to schools like Kansas or Kentucky which would level out the playing field a bit in the conference.
NCAA Tournament/Other tournaments
With teams like Duke with three of the top five projected picks in the NBA draft this year, just about any team in the NCAA Tournament or early season tournaments like the Maui Invitational are basically guaranteed to lose to teams like that. Take out those top three players and add three players who may be drafted late in the 2nd round and upsets and closer games are a real possibility.
That would be really helpful for BYU basketball anytime they make it in the NCAA Tournament or like next year when they play in the Maui Invitational. As of now, the overall tournament looks really competitive with teams like BYU, Dayton, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Georgia and UCLA. But then there is Kansas. With one or two freshmen players who are NBA ready likely on the team, it is hard to see very many scenarios where instead of it being a battle for the championship it is a race for second place.
BYU aside, the NCAA tournament would be much more interesting with the talent gap between the one seeds and four seeds being closer than it is now.
BYU Basketball and most other programs not in the ACC, SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 would not be affected much if the NBA changed their rules to allow players to play in the NBA right out of high school. But in conferences like the WCC (Gonzaga), AAC (Houston) or MAC (Buffalo) that have a dominate team that may lose a recruit or two, this may provide more opportunities and chances to win Conference Championships and get to the Big Dance.