No doubt everyone has heard the myriad rumors flying around about where Shabazz Muhammad will be spending his college year (yes, singular). There has also been plenty of discussion on the fact that under the new CBA, the NBA may approve a new age limit for draft eligibility, meaning players must spend at least two years in college prior to declaring for the draft. There are multiple variations to this proposed new rule, but the one that might have the biggest impact is this: If the NBA players get their way, Shabazz Muhammad may never even set foot on a college campus.
This article outlines the proposals currently being made by each side. Most expect a resolution to the pending NBA lockout by Christmas at the latest, however, it remains to be seen if this is a reasonable possibility. Indeed, there is added pressure on the NBA to build on its current momentum generated by the 2010-2011 season, which successfully vilified the Miami Heat and turned the aging Dallas Mavericks into plucky heroes. Yet the biggest pockets belong to the owners, who may choose to wait out the players in a war of attrition that they certainly can win, even if it may be a Pyrrhic victory, costing them the goodwill of new-found NBA fans and millions in ticket sales. The players certainly need to get their demands in quickly and succeed quickly, lest they choke on a non-existent paycheck.
The new rule, asked by the players, would return the NBA draft age requirement to 18 years
Players want to revert back to the pre-2005 rules, where players only had to be 18 years old to declare for the draft. As of now, they must be 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation.
With the one year extra, one and done players have become the bane and boon of college basketball, highlighting new stars, but seeing them leave with many having little impact on their team's long term futures. Indeed, this would return to the days of players like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett declaring for the draft before ever playing a game in college. The college game would still have one-and-dones, yet likely their number would be greatly reduced as many of those players would have tried to go pro immediately after college. The likelihood of longer stays on campus would be increased as the overall talent level declines, yet many feel the college game would be improved with players actually committing to their universities instead of simply being there because they have to. One wonders what John Calipari will do without being able to entice players with his One-and-done factory, if those highly ranked players he chases after are already long gone into richer climates.
How does this relate to Shabazz? Several of his admirers state that he , if he had been eligible to declare for the draft this year, would have been one of the top 10, even top 5 players. He possesses the sort of talent and athleticism that NBA GMs covet, and the attacking, explosive offensive game that has fans and coaches drooling. If the new CBA accepts the players' age limit, Shabazz may decide to spurn college completely, and declare for the NBA, where he would, even in a deep draft, be a certain 1st round pick due to his aforementioned qualities in addition to his young age.
While I hope this is not the case, as I would love to see him in a Bruin uniform dunking on the Standards, I also do not deny the fact that the kid is talented enough to play in the NBA sooner rather than later. I would prefer a system like baseball (and please feel free to correct me on the particulars): You are eligible for the draft out of high school, and if drafted, can choose to accept that offer and play in the MLB, or defer it and play in college for three years, after which point you are eligible to be drafted again, and if you are not drafted, you're SOL. Thus, players that are good enough (see (sadly): ShaMu) are allowed to jump immediately into the pros, but those that wish can go to college, but must stay 3 years. This allows for continuity in collegiate programs and an improved collegiate product, players that are better seasoned and conditioned to play in the NBA, the most physically demanding professional sport, and players that have the talent and difficult financial situations (or simply desire to play early at the next leve) can jump to the NBA. Time will tell what the NBA will finally look like, and whether or not Shabazz will be seen there next year, or further down the road.