Tag Archives: college basketball

NBA Should Drop the Age Limit, Send Prep Prospects to The D-League

It's time for the NBA to make the D-League a more useful farm system.

It’s time for the NBA to make the D-League a more useful farm system.

2016 number one overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons said in his Showtime documentary One & Done, “I’m here to play…. I’m not here to go to school” when speaking about his one year in Baton Rouge at LSU.

That sentiment is one that many Division I freshman college basketball players from Lexington Kentucky, to Durham North Carolina, all the way to Los Angeles California share. Simmons went on to say “he felt like he was wasting his time.” It was clear to anyone with any basketball knowledge that he was going forego his college illegibility to enter the NBA draft immediately following his freshman season, seeing how he was projected to be the number one overall pick back when he was playing prep ball at Montverde Academy in Florida.

He is the first one and done player to openly defy the rule implemented in the collective bargaining agreement in 2005.

The NBA age limit, where a player must be one year removed from graduating high school or 19 years old before being allowed to enter the NBA draft, has been under attack since its inception.  It’s a joke, and needs to be abolished. It clearly isn’t good for the players, Association or college basketball.

My suggestion to fix all three, the NBA should let high school seniors enter the draft, but the teams that draft them have to send them to their D-League affiliate. But if prospects do go to college, they should have to stay for at least two years.

Commissioner Adam Silver and the 30 NBA owners have recently showed they’re serious about making their Minor League a more valuable asset. On Valentine’s Day, the NBA and Gatorade announced their multi-million dollar union with Gatorade.

The popular sports drink will now sponsor the league and rename it the G-League. Their logo will be on everything from the jerseys, the court and to the game ball. That should boost some revenue for teams to use to sign players.

Some D-League salaries will double thanks to the new NBA collective bargaining agreement. Two players per team will make $50,000 to $75,000. The rest of the players in the minor league get paid between $19,500 and $26,000. Hopefully with the influx of money coming from the new sponsor, salaries will raise even more, making playing in the G-League more attractive to young prospects who usually bolt overseas for higher pay checks, and create a more competitive environment for players to get accustomed to the professional game.

But those are just the start of the benefits for the players, NBA, D-League, and even NCAA basketball. Here’s how sending top draft picks to the developmental league will benefit all parties involved.

  • Helps grow interest in the minor League system, better marketing of players, attendance boost and media coverage would sky rocket.

Sending top prospects to the D-League increases the visibility of the minor league. Now that each NBA franchise is making moves towards owning their own minor league franchise, currently 25 teams are single affiliated, this would give them the opportunity to market their “junior varsity” squad by getting fans in those mini-markets to support the future stars of tomorrow.

Fans currently aren’t attending or watching development league games because they don’t like basketball, they aren’t paying attention because they don’t want to invest their time and money-watching players they suspect they’ll never hear from or see again in two to three years.

If the NBA used their D-League teams like Major League Baseball teams use their farm system, fans would go watch. You can’t tell me that if Ben Simmons was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers straight out of high school and had to play a year for the Delaware 87ers, that fans wouldn’t pack the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware nightly to watch him play. Ben Simmons merchandise would be flying off the shelves upon his arrival as well.

This would also help with television deals. Currently NBA TV and ESPN air a couple D-League games a week on tape delay. Much like the NBA was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. But only hardcore hoop fans – this author raises his hand – and scouts watch those games. I believe it would be as popular as the broadcast of NBA Summer Leagues have become in the last five years or so. Those games have to be drawing good enough ratings since they keep airing them each off-season. The D-League broadcasts would be more meaningful with many of the same players.

  • Better in helping players adjusting to the pro style on and off the court, and create an opportunity to better educate players on the importance of finances.

On the court players would immediately learn the rules of the pro game, which are drastically different from the college game. Prospects will also benefit from learning on the job in the system of their pro team. Development of top talent will likely be expedited since they’ll be taught by the best of the best.

Look at how effective the San Antonio Spurs use the Austin Toro’s to implement their sets and strategies. Greg Popovich and his staff have perfectly used to system to groom Jonathan Simmons, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson before getting their chance to make a championship impact on the big stage in San Antonio.

Off the court, the league can provide players with financial literacy courses and seminars to help them learn things like how to balance a checkbook, pay utility bills, and how to properly invest the millions of dollars they’ll eventually be earning. That may sound silly to some, but remember, we are talking about teenagers and early twenty-something’s. It also would be beneficial to help them learn the other perils of being a professional athlete like celebrity, drugs and alcohol.

Former players who have successfully navigated their careers and retired in great shape could construct the curriculum. You could also invite some who have failed to share their tales of mistakes not to make. The rookie symposium attempts to do this, but if we’re being honest, doing this type of stuff for a week in the summer isn’t going to really help. If you were able to make this a program they could go through over the course of their first season of professional ball, it would likely have more benefit.

  • College game improves because players will make the conscious decision to commit to being student-athletes.

There’s a lot that needs to be fixed in the college game that has nothing to do with players leaving early for the pro ranks. But one of the reasons fans don’t invest in the “amateur” game is because teams don’t stay together long enough to build on school tradition.

Before, players saw college basketball as a means to an end; they took pride in playing for their school and having success on the college level.

If prospects are allowed to enter the NBA via the D-league immediately after graduating high school, the players that do decide to attend college will be more likely to care about building something at their institution instead of having one eye on getting to the next level.

College coaches will be able to better recruit “their players” and put the best teams together because they’ll know the players they have WANT to be there, not FORCED to be there for one season. You could even make the age limit where if you choose college you’re choosing to be there at least three years like NCAA football.

I’m a die-hard basketball fan of all levels. I’d like to see all succeed. Something has to be done with this age limit because it’s hurting everyone. Even those collecting million dollar pay days.

 

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A Need for Better Crowd Control

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Texas Tech “Super Fan” Jeff Orr has a history of harassing opposing players.

Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart, wasn’t smart, when he shoved a fan in the late seconds of an emotional loss at Texas Tech. The three game punishment handed to him by the Big 12 conference is fair enough to deter another player from committing a similar act in the future. In the same vein, if what Smart claims Texas Tech super fan Jeff Orr said to him is indeed true, he should be punished too—Orr has since volunteered to not attend any more Texas Tech games the rest of the season. He should be punished in such a way, that changes fans behavior.

I’m not buying Mr. Orr’s statement that he only called Smart a “piece of crap.” I’m sure Marcus Smart has been called worse before and wouldn’t have reacted the way he did over being called a piece of crap. But I wasn’t there to hear it, so I’ll take both parties involved at their word. But, here in lies the problem with fan behavior. The things they do say, have said in the past, has been so vulgar and venomous, that this is the perfect time to use this situation to clean it up. Unacceptable fan behavior is out of control—whether it’s shouting obscenities and racial epithets at players or physically attacking opposing fans—and needs to be put back in its proper place.

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Let’s not all forget, these are games. Between the lines, it’s about healthy competition. The purpose is to have fun, the object is to win. Spectators should have the same mindset and act accordingly. Just because a fan spends their hard earned money for tickets, doesn’t mean they can say anything they want to opposing players. You can cheer for your team without degrading your opponent.

The NCAA and Conferences should hold their fans to the same standards as their Student Athletes. It should be the responsibility of each athletic director to protect visiting student athletes and coaches by any measure to protect the integrity of the game and their institution. The opposing teams shouldn’t be left as if they’re wandering alone in a wilderness.

Marcus Smart has apologized and will have to work diligently to wash away the stain of this incident, but so should Texas Tech for allowing this FAN-attic to verbally abuse visiting student athletes for all these years. Even though Mr. Orr has volunteered to remove himself from future Red Raider basketball games, Texas Tech should and needs to step up and punish him. Because fair or not, Mr. Orr’s antics are viewed around the country as the norm for Texas Tech fans, much in the way Smart’s reaction will be viewed as an indictment on his character. Texas Tech’s future action towards their “Super Fan” will go along way to change and raise the standard of fan behavior in sporting venues across America.

Craft-ing a Niche

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Photo Courtesy: Kelly Roderick/ The Latern

Ohio State’s Aaron Craft doesn’t look like the current prototypical NBA point guard in the likes of a Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving or Russell Westbrook. But, what he does have should make him one of the first point guards-EMPHASIS ON POINT GUARD-selected on June, 26, 2014 at the NBA Draft.

As I sit here watching him lead this Buckeye team against Marquette, devoid of a “College Star”, I see even more evidence to support my premise. First, he almost messed around and got a triple double; 10 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds and 2 steals while leading the Scarlet and Gray to a 52-35 victory.

Off the court Craft has great character, highly intelligent (2011-2013 Academic All-American) and a leader in the Ohio State community. On the court he has a high basketball IQ, competes tenaciously, fierce on defense with quick hands and feet, plays within himself and again, is a great leader. He makes clutch shots, even though many scouts have said shooting is his biggest weakness at this point in his career. He struggles to consistently hit the 15 foot to 3 point jump shot, but that is a skill that can be thought.

All these are reasons all 30 NBA teams should be looking to add him to their roster. Sure, most teams will be maneuvering to select Kansas Freshman Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle or Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Those are the guys touted as once in a generation franchise players you can build around for the next 10 years and put fans in seats while the team struggles.

Craft is the kind of player teams looking to win NOW should draft. Think about a team like the Indiana Pacers who were a point guard away from beating the eventual Champion Miami Heat to go to the 2013 NBA Finals. It was turnovers and poor shot selection that led to their playoff exit. Those are areas in which Craft excels at. You already have playmakers on your team in Super Star on the rise Paul George, Former All Stars David West and Danny Granger. Craft is a perfect fit to not get in their way while doing what he does best.

How about the L.A. Clippers? Since trading away backup point guard Eric Bledsoe—to the Suns to acquire more shooters to go around Chris Paul—their second unit has struggled early in the 2013-2014 season. Craft would be the perfect compliment to Paul on the second unit to steady the troops and make sure a scorer like Jamaal Crawford gets quality shots to build upon leads.

Or what about the Memphis Grizzles behind former Buckeye and emerging all star in Mike Conley Junior. Craft would play a keep role in helping them climb back to the top of the western conference ranks after coming very close to a NBA Finals appearance last season.

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Playing in the Big Ten, Craft is used to defending NBA caliber point guards, like Utah Jazz’s Trey Burke.

What I’m getting at is, if you want to win now, Craft should be your choice. Especially if you’re selecting in the middle to late parts of the first round. Teams in this position are generally a key role player away from winning it all. Aaron Craft may not sell many jerseys in your arena team shop—unless it’s in Value City Arena—but he will help you hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Owners and GMs need to decide what’s more important. You’re on the clock.

College Sports True King is Back!

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In my opinion, College Basketball is better than College Football.

I know I’m going to get killed for this and I don’t care! College Basketball is better than College football.

In the midst of the first week of the season, I was riveted by the 24 hours of basketball on ESPN from Akron versus St. Mary’s to Hartford at last season’s NCAA tourney darling Florida Gulf Coast aka “Dunk City”, to Michigan State versus Kentucky and Duke versus Kansas. Each and every game has brought a level of excitement and intrigue that you don’t get from early season college football games.

My opponents will say, each individual game doesn’t matter on the hardwood as much as on the gridiron. They’ll say the NBA one and done rule makes a mockery of amateur athleticism and doesn’t give college programs as chance to groom top talent and build into a true power house program. They’ll also say the college game lacks an uptempo flow because of over coaching and tightly officiated games that end in a final of 60 to 58—read my article on how to fix college basketball.

My responses to these claims will be to say true. BUT, I will say, how many times can you watch top 10 ranked teams in the country play each other in the first week of the season, knowing they still can accomplish their overall goals if they lose. The matchup between #1 Kentucky versus #2 Michigan State Tuesday night was the earliest the top 2 teams have played against each other ever, and the first time it’s happened in the regular season since 2008. That will NEVER happen in college football, even with the new playoff. Plus, how great is it to see top teams play each other and not inferior opponents they’ll beat by 30 points in an effort to remain undefeated.

The NBA one and done rule actually challenges programs to find and recruit the best talent to build a program. Take a look at defending National Championship Louisville. That roster had eight seniors and juniors. Coach Rick Pitino who has in the past recruited highly touted prospects, went a different route and offered scholarships to guys who fit his system. Then he groomed them over time together to become champions. Outside of the 2012 Kentucky Wildcat team led by Freshman Anthony Davis and the 2003 Syracuse Orange team led by an eighteen year old Carmelo Anthony, college basketball has still been ruled by rosters filled with upper class-men who’ve grown together for a couple of years. So one and done is not ruining the game.

As far as the slow paced style of play, that comes down to coaching preference based on talent available. I played in a lower level division in college where our philosophy allowed us and our opponents to play games in the the high 80s/low 90s, with the same rules as the upper level divisions. So it can be done, on any level.

The “upset factor” is another thing you get more in basketball than football. Any given night a mid major team can knock off a major. How often does that happen in Football? Maybe once a season? Appalachian State beating Michigan at the big house doesn’t happen three or four times a season. The same goes for North Dakota over Kansas State in Little Manhattan. Big upsets are a regular multiple occurrence on the hardwood season after season and then in the NCAA Tournament.

Also, more importantly, there isn’t much controversy surrounding polls and national championships. Thanks to March Madness, the champs are crowned where they should be, on the court. Right now we are in the final year of the BCS system in football, headed to a playoff. But in this final year we’re on a collision course to a nightmare with 4 undefeated teams and a one loss team in Stanford that has a better resume than all of them. You can bet if an undefeated Ohio State team—who has a weak strength of schedule, thanks to the BIG 10 and playing inferior non conference opponents—gets into the National Championship game, so called experts will be up in arms and calling fowl. That doesn’t happen with a tournament like March Madness, although I’m pretty sure the first year of the football playoff will spark controversy over what four teams deserve to duke it out on the field. But at least the Title will be decided on the field, not on computers.

Please know that I love football. I’m glued to my TV watching it every week from late August through January. My premise is based on wanting to see the best against the best whenever, wherever. College Basketball gives us that excitement for four months. I think it’s great we don’t have to wait to the end of the season to see it.

How to Fix: College Basketball

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Michigan and Louisville treated fans to an instant classic.

Five Months ago the Louisville Cardinals won a thrilling National Championship game over the Michigan Wolverines 82 to 76. There was the rarity of seven players reached double figures, including a 20 point scorer on both teams. Each team hit 8 three pointers while shooting 52 and 46 percent from their floor; a shootout by college basketball standards. The game also featured several future NBA draft picks, up tempo play similar to the pro game and several highlights that will be shown on future broadcast. The game also showed what college basketball could and should be. College basketball is great from mid March to early April, but something needs to change to make it just as exciting from midnight madness in late October until selection Sunday in early March.

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According to Ken Pomeroy, a college badketball statistician who runs kenpom.com, NCAA teams are scoring at an average of only 68.13 points per game. There are several factors contributing to this result, including defense, tightly called games by officials and a defection of top players year after year to the NBA. What follows are my suggestions to help increase scoring as well as interest in the college game in the months leading up to the madness of the NCAA Tournament.

The college game is slow, not because of the lack of athleticism but because of time constraints such as the shot clock.

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Trim the shot clock.

The NCAA needs to consider minimizing the shot clock from 35 seconds and adopting the NBA timer of 24 seconds. This will create more possessions, which will increase scoring. It will also cause ball handlers to push the ball up court – instead of walking – and get teams into their plays sooner before turning it over on a violation. If they don’t want to completely go the NBA route, cutting the shot clock down to 30 seconds would still create a handful more possessions.

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Jump ball ties up should lead to jump balls. Not possession arrows.

Next, get rid of the jump ball possession arrow. ESPN Analyst Dick Vitale has been calling for this for years. It won’t help with scoring, but the jump ball tie up has screwed a few teams late in games and taken the air out of the building. It is even being used as strategy. When I played in college, coaches would tell us to purposely go for a tie up when the possession arrow was in our favor. Coaches do this now today, hence we have players with quick hands like Ohio State’s defensive standout Aaron Craft who reach in while playing defense to create a tie up and get the ball back via a jump ball.

Another NBA rule the college game should adopt is six personal fouls before disqualification. Due to the current five foul limit, coaches have to take key players out early to protect them. This causes a change in game plan and coaches tend to get more conservative. Adding another foul, would allow coaches the opportunity to take a gamble and stick with their original plan.

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Finally, change the limit on the bonus. Right now it is at six and all fouls including non shooting fouls count towards it. Once a team hits the limit, the game becomes a free throw shooting contest. I don’t blame officials for this, because I truly believe for the most part, they’re calling the games correct. The only reason you see so fewer fouls called in the NBA is because lesser name players get less benefits than the stars. How many times have you heard a commentator say “he doesn’t have enough stripes to get that call?” or “that star player got away with that on reputation.” That’s where the NCAA game has a leg up on the pros. But increasing the foul limit will keep the game at a steady pace while the officials continue to call it tight.

College basketball is more exciting to watch because of what’s at stake every game when it comes to seeding for the Conference and NCAA Tournaments. But it needs tweaking in order to fully maximize its potential as one of America’s top draws all season long. Now that I’ve solved college basketball’s problems, I’ll turn my attention to fixing college football and the BCS/playoff system. It could be awhile before I finish that project.