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Top 2015 Prospects Discuss Age Limit Increase
Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones are being projected as lottery picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. That is, assuming they’ll be allowed to leave school after their freshman seasons and declare.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said on numerous occasions that he wants to increase the league’s age limit, forcing players to stay in college for two years as opposed to one. How big of a priority is this for Silver? When given the opportunity to name one thing he’d like to change in the NBA at this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Silver named the age limit.
So what do the top prospects in the class of 2015 think about the potential rule change, which may go into effect in time to keep them in school for two years? The players aren’t crazy about the idea. Returning to school for an extra year increases the risk of suffering an injury before they turn pro and gives players one less year to get paid. It also takes the decision out of the hands of the player, who may feel he’s ready to compete in the NBA.
Winslow, who will attend Duke, made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the age limit increase. While he didn’t want to get into it too much, he clearly wants the choice to stay in school to be his rather than having it forced on him and his peers.
“Well, I have my personal opinion about it, but if that’s the rule then I’ll just have to deal with it,” Winslow said. “I don’t want to get into all of that. If that’s the rule then that’s the rule. It’s always great to get more education, a free education to play basketball. If that’s the rule then that’s the rule, we’ll just have to abide by it. I’m not [sure if I’ll be] a one-and-done player; I don’t know what I’ll be. I’m just trying to get to campus and work. If Adam Silver, a Duke graduate, says that I have to stay at Duke for two years then I’m going to stay at Duke for two years and have fun.”
When asked about the benefits that could come from staying on campus for an extra year, Winslow tried to name a few, but ultimately circled back to the disadvantages and how the rule could negatively impact a top player who is ready to make the jump to the league.
“I really think you could get more confidence in your game and your ability to do everything on and off the court,” Winslow said. “Mentally, your IQ just improves and improves. I think there are some benefits. You see some guys who should’ve stayed, so I think this decision to make them stay would help a little bit more. I think if there was a two-year rule, it could help some guys.
“It could hurt some guys too, because you see some guys who come back and hurt themselves [or play poorly]. It’s just a tricky thing. I know [Silver] is just trying to do what’s best for the league. It’s just a tricky situation. But you have to follow the rules, so whatever the rules are I’m going to abide by them.”
Turner, who hasn’t committed to a school yet, agreed that players should be able to leave when they feel they’re ready. However, he was careful not to be too critical of the possible rule change.
“You just do what you have to do,” Turner said. “I have nothing negative to say about it. At this point, my opinion is if you’re ready to go, you need to go. You shouldn’t have to wait. I know [Silver] has everyone’s best interests in mind and I know there’s a business side to everything, so I don’t really have anything too bad to say about it. … I don’t think I’m ready [for the NBA] right now. I definitely have a lot more work to do. I’m glad I’ll be able to go to college and be able to develop.”
Jones, who will also be attending Duke next year, wasn’t critical of the possibility of an increased age limit. He feels like it’s something that is out of his control, so there’s no sense in worrying about it.
“I think you just have to deal with it and handle your business,” Jones said. “It’s not my job or any player’s job to change the rule or complain about that. If they do end up changing the rule to two years, you just have to go into college ready to work for two years. Then, if you’re ready to leave after two years, you leave. If you’re not, you stay. It’s nothing really, nothing I like or don’t like; it’s kind of just it is what it is. You just do what you’ve got to do and take it in stride.”
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, fellow Duke commit Jahlil Okafor, who is being projected as the top overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, spoke out against the age limit increase. He has been the most outspoken prospect when it comes to this issue.
“I think it’s just withholding a kid’s dreams if they wanted to make that leap to the NBA to help their family or whatever the reason may be,” Okafor told SI.com. “I’ll definitely have the option of going to the NBA after my first year. [The increased age minimum] is something that could potentially affect me also.”
Jahlil’s father, Chuck, has made it clear that he’s even against the one-year age limit, because it kept his son from being able to jump from high school to the NBA despite the fact that most talent evaluators believe he’s ready to compete in the league now.
“That’s one option that was not available [to Jahlil] and that’s the tough part about it because you can’t even consider it at this point,” Okafor’s father said.
It’s clear that Silver wants to increase the age limit, but this is something that would have to be discussed with the National Basketball Players Association, which is currently in the process of finding a new executive director. The two sides discussed the issue during the last lockout, but decided to table it along with other less important issues in order to end the strike and start the season.
Brett Brown Praises Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel is clearly a big part of the Philadelphia 76ers’ future. After all, the team gave up All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday in order to acquire him and a protected 2014 first-round pick during last year’s draft, so there’s no doubt that the 76ers see him as a potential building block going forward.
Noel, who is just 19 years old, was projected to be the top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft before a torn ACL ended his lone collegiate season. Philadelphia acquired him after he was selected sixth overall and he has missed every game this season as he recovers from the injury and as the 76ers focus on accumulating ping pong balls rather than victories.
Lately, Noel has been making progress and looking great in practice, reminding everyone that he was the nation’s top recruit out of high school and dominant when he was on the court for Kentucky during his freshman season.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown has been very impressed by the teenage big man. While he won’t say whether Noel will play this year, he did offer some praise for the rookie.
“I’m sorry to say the same, old answer and he’s just moving forward and I can’t even really give you a rate,” Brown told Philly.com. “You see what I see. Whether he is going to play or not is still up in the air. But I think just to watch him, how can you not get excited about what we’re all seeing?
“The first thing that I’ve fallen in love with is that he is beyond competitive. There is a dog in him, there is a toughness in him that I misjudged, because you look at him and he’s got those big eyes at 19 years old and there’s a naiveté that no doubt exists within him, as it should. So you’re talking to him and he doesn’t talk a lot, he listens a lot, he’s a fantastic listener. As you go through all those months shooting one-handed with him and then all of the sudden you see him come out here, he’s a tremendous competitor. For me, it’s the No. 1 quality that makes somebody special. Then you get into the athleticism where he’s got that bounce and he can jump twice. People that can miss a blocked shot, hit the floor and go back up are special. And he can do it both with his right hand and his left hand. I think the growth of his actual foul shot will carry over to his real shot, [which] has been excellent this year.
“I’m proud of the time that we’ve spent with him. I see a far more mature type of player having gone through all the film sessions and the weight room sessions and on a team bus. He’s been with the team, he just hasn’t played. This year has been invaluable to him.”
In 24 games at Kentucky, Noel averaged 10.5 points on 59 percent shooting as well as 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks.
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