A Step Forward, But Not The Answer
The NBA G-League announced that it would be rolling out a new contract structure geared towards high-level players that may not want to attend college and start their professional career right of high school. They are calling this contract a “Select Contract,” and it will pay the players awarded those deals $125,000 for the five-month G-League season.
On the surface this sounds a lot better than the $35,000 a player would earn this season, but at the end of the day – while it’s a better alternative – it’s not exactly the solution some are making it out to be, and here are some of the reasons why:
Not Available To Everyone
The G-League is still sorting through exactly how they will manage and administer this new contract format. While the Select Contract does come with substantially more money, the real benefits might be the other parts of the Select Program such as veteran mentorship, financial planning classes and an in-depth development program geared towards preparing these players for professional life, on and off the floor.
The G-League is planning to hire a program manager, and along with a committee of experts, they will determine which high school level players will be eligible to be in the Select program. It’s not going to be available to everyone. Most experts believe it will likely be less than 15 players a year that qualify and likely just two or three per season that explore this option. That could change when it’s a real option, but it doesn’t seem very likely this is going to impact a huge group of players, especially considering the ambiguity of determining who is eligible.
College Still Offers Better Exposure
While it’s great to have options, college basketball and all of its flaws still offer the best path to the NBA for a couple of reasons. The coaching in college still eclipses that in the G-League, and while the G-League is getting better every year, it still not remotely close regarding the quality of coaching and resources high-level college programs have to offer.
College also offers a better lifestyle than the G-League. Currently, G-League teams travel on commercial flights and stay at modestly priced hotels. In comparison, most high-level college teams travel by charter and stay in four and five-star hotels.
You’d also have to live in a cave to think that college players are not receiving money to play in college. While that is usually under the table, it is happening and will continue to happen. That will get even harder to restrict once some of the new NCAA rules get enacted to allow players in college to have agents and earn money off their likeness.
The fact that college basketball is played in primetime and in front of a packed audience is still going to win out against the modest crowds G-League games draw. That may change over time, but the elite prospects are still likely going to consider the elite schools over the G-League.
The one advantage the G-League can offer that may win in some player’s minds is the ability to sign endorsement deals right out of the gate. That is something even the new expected college rules won’t allow, so there that could be a factor too.
Players Still Have to Go Through The Draft
The G-League process will still require players to enter and go through the draft, meaning while a player may play for a G-League team operated by an NBA team, that NBA will have no rights to the player. That player will still have to enter and go through the NBA draft process, just as if he were coming from college despite playing on a team controlled by an NBA team.
The fact that the parent NBA team won’t have any advantage to the player creates something of a mixed agenda in terms of playing time and coaching.
Advocates of this program like the idea of getting to know a player in an in-depth way, especially a player’s work ethic and coachability.
The downside is the motivation of the G-League staff is usually to win games. The veteran players on the team are trying to make their own careers, not step aside to develop a young guy. Equally, the coaches are trying to advance their careers and win games. There is something to be said about proving you can develop a player, but ultimately it’s going to be harder to stand out in the G-League, and that could have a negative impact on player’s draft stock versus being the prime focal point of a major college program.
It’s a Stop Gap
In the end, this is a good step forward in creating a new option for players who may not want to fake their way through a year of college, or, more importantly, want to spend all of their time training and developing for the NBA. However, the reality is the NBA’s age limit is likely going away in 2022, meaning this is a three-year stop gap at best.
It is believed the program will still exist after the age limit is lifted and be a good landing spot for high school level players that opt for the NBA draft, but fall out of the draft.
It will be interesting to see what exactly the fully formed program offers to players who take it. Because so much of this program is still to be determined, its hard to say if this will be a great option in the long-term, but in the short-term it is an option some will explore.
Former Syracuse commit Darius Bazley was believed to be headed towards the G-League when he opted to turn pro rather than go to college. Since that decision, he has hired Klutch Sports as his agency and is planning to use the next several months to train and develop on his own rather than test the G-League.
It was recently announced that Bazley signed a huge multi-year deal with New Balance that will guarantee him $1 million and the chance to be one of the faces of New Balance’s entry in the basketball shoe space.
So, time will tell if Bazley ends up being the professional he hopes he can be, but with the New Balance money guaranteed towards him, the decision may not be as silly as it seemed when it was announced.
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