Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he could see the NBA adding a third round to its draft.
Kentucky coach John Calipari loathes that idea.
Calipari, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN:
“If anybody supports more rounds in the draft, those more rounds are to get kids to go to the G League, you do not care about college basketball or you’re trying to ruin college basketball,” Calipari said.
“After two years they don’t perform, what? The NBA is going to take care of them and hire them? No. It’s entertainment. You’re done,” Calipari said.
“If they’re not going to the NBA, if we’re really about young people, we should encourage them to go to college,” he said. “And the reason is their way out is through education. Their way to break through to the American dream is education.”
The most overlooked and most important aspect of this debate: The draft is an anti-labor mechanism.
Sure, players get dressed up and celebrate getting picked. They treat it as an honor.
But the draft serves to limit players and give power to teams.
Drafted players can negotiate a contract with only one NBA team. They can’t use other NBA teams for leverage. First-rounders must follow a strict salary scale, which caps wages well below market value.
I estimate about 90% of first-round picks would receive better contracts as undrafted free agents. The proof is in NBA teams’ repeated willingness to pay the rookie scale.
It’s a myth that first-round picks receive guaranteed salaries. If signed, they get two years of guaranteed salary. But the drafting team doesn’t have to offer a contract at all.
Yet, nearly every team is eager to pay a first-rounder what the scale dictates. In the rare times a team isn’t, it’s easy enough to find another team that is and trade the pick.
Only once has a team ever renounced a first-rounder rather than trying to sign him. The Bulls did with No. 29 pick Travis Knight in 1996.
If teams could pay more to secure to secure a first-round-caliber player, it stands to reason they often would. But they don’t have to bid against each other.
The anti-player effects of exclusive rights also extend the second round. It’s a cloudier picture there, because so many teams draft someone in the second round contingent on him agreeing to contract terms beforehand. So, second-round-grade players do get more power over the process. However, the threat always looms of getting drafted by an undesirable team and being forced to negotiate with only that team. That presses some second-round prospects into less-than-ideal, but not-worst-case-scenario, arrangements.
There’s always more flexibility with going undrafted. Beyond an anchoring effect of teams favoring players they drafted, there’s also more favorable contracts with going undrafted.
So, a third round would get treated as more opportunities. Players love getting drafted, and 30 more players would get drafted. But there aren’t more opportunities. NBA regular-season rosters are still limited to 15 standard contracts and two two-way contracts.
There’d just be more players facing the limitation of exclusive bargaining rights.
The players union shouldn’t agree to more draft rounds… without getting concessions in return.
As the NBA’s minor league expands to each team having its own affiliate, I envision NBA teams holding the NBA rights of its minor leaguers. Currently, players signed to minor-league contracts are NBA free agents. The only way to get players to agree to relinquish their freedom in that way is with higher minor-league salaries, which I believe are coming.
The best way to stock those minor-league affiliates might be through a longer NBA draft.
At that point, teams could decide how long to invest in those fringe players. Maybe it’ll be two years. Maybe it’ll be longer. I doubt there’d be a hard-and-fast rule.
College-basketball eligibility comes with a four-year limit.
We shouldn’t treat college basketball as sacrosanct. The NCAA is a cartel that caps players’ compensation. Maybe that will change. But until it does, major college sports are ruining themselves while coaches and administrators hoard money for themselves.
If the NBA develops a minor-league and longer-draft system that appeals to players, that’d be great. Elite prospects deserve better options.
The onus should be on college basketball to keep up – not complain about competition.