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High school standout Emmanuel Mudiay skips college for China payday. You’ll see more of this if age limit goes up.


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (as a proxy for the owners) has made getting the NBA age limit raised from 19 to 20 a priority. He’ll likely get it at some point, the only question is what the owners give back to the players in negotiations to make it happen.

But that action will have a reaction from some players.

Tuesday Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the No. 2 recruit in the class just entering college, Emmanuel Mudiay, will be headed to China for a one-year, $1.2 million deal.

Mudiay, a 6-foot-5 guard, is considered a lottery pick in the Class of 2015… Mudiay has also taken out insurance policies to protect him in China against injury that could impact his future earnings, a source said.

Mudiay had been headed to Larry Brown and SMU in a year before choosing to get paid. He’s a shoot first point guard who can score, is big and athletic, and would have lifted SMU into the top 15 in the nation, according to Rob Dauster of CollegeBasketballTalk.com.

This is an experiment by Mudiay — a lot of veteran players who sign in China can’t stick because the culture change is so dramatic. There are high drop out rates, not everybody’s personality is such it handles that much change well. It’s also a gamble by the Chinese league and if this works out they may approach other potential college players in the future.

If the age limit goes up, expect to see more of this, or moves like it. The fact is college is not for everyone and should not be the only path available for top players

Most high schoolers on a path to be drafted will still choose two years of UCLA or Kentucky or wherever (certainly the longer stay is good for college coaches and that model as well). But more and more will look at their options for getting paid.

Teams from Europe, knowing they can get a player for two years, may be more willing to take a gamble on a talented young player and pay him. Same with China. In both cases it will take a mature, special personality to make it work but teams will look at options. Some players will choose the money and, in many cases, better player development overseas.

Another option will be the D-League — P.J. Hairston went this route this year, playing in Texas once he was forced out at North Carolina, and he stayed in the first round despite his off the court issues (he played well in the D-League then suddenly had issues after the draft). That doesn’t pay nearly as well as most overseas teams but it is some money and a chance to develop against bigger, stronger professional players that could benefit a lot of players.

Sonny Vaccaro has advocated more high schoolers heading overseas for years. Like college, it’s not for everyone — it’s a very different environment, overseas is a lot more practice and fewer games.

But for some players it is a legitimate option, and if the other choice is two years of college more and more players will choose getting paid.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.