If you want to drill right to the core of the NBA’s new deal with California high school prospect Jalen Green, the league is going to pay him a half-million dollars to not play in the G League because it might be too hard for him.
Green will have no concerns about learning the campus map, no freshman English papers to write and no high-pressure March Madness games to worry about losing. And neither will he have to worry about joining a team such as the Erie Bayhawks or Maine Red Claws and coping with the jealousy of teammates who would be earning about 1/14th his salary.
ESPN reported Thursday that Green will enter a program in which he will be coached and join with other top prospects and professional players for exhibition games against G League teams, national teams from other countries and teams from worldwide NBA academies. Isaiah Todd, who decommitted from Michigan earlier this week to turn pro, is another who might join this program. Green is a 6-5 guard from Prolific Prep in California and is ranked the No. 3 prospect in the 2020 senior class by 247 Sports.
After years of pushing to have the NBA age limit raised to 20 years and two years out of high school, NBA commissioner Adam Silver reversed course a few years back and now wants it down to 18 years with players eligible upon completion of their senior years. But the Players Association has yet to agree, and agents are pushing hard to convince teens to eschew NCAA basketball for that year they must wait to enter the draft and instead turn professional immediately.
A few did last year, but not here in the States. Wing R.J. Hampton and point guard LaMelo Ball chose to play in Australia rather than in NCAA basketball this past season, which led to Silver encouraging the development of an alternative to American teens joining the NBL.
In October 2018, the NBA had introduced a program for high school prospects that would have paid them $125,000 to compete in the G League for a year, before they were eligible for the draft. The typical G League salary is closer to $35,000.
But there had been no takers. That six-figure offer was not as lucrative as what Australia was paying. The prospect of playing in the G League — which lacks glamour but suffers from no shortage of hungry, talented players who would eagerly use an under-prepared teenager as a backdrop for their own resume tape — was not appealing.
G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim told ESPN that it was “counterintuitive” for NBA scouts to travel Down Under to scout those players.
“The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn’t have to go somewhere else to develop for a year,” he said. “They should be in our development system.”
This is interesting, because it never seemed like the NBA was a development system. It seemed like the highest level of competition in the world.
If the G League itself were an ideal development system, teenage players would not be fearful of entering. But that’s what was apparent in 2018, when Cincinnati forward Darius Bazley decommitted from Syracuse, announced he would play his post-high school year in the G League and then opted, instead, to serve an internship with an athletic apparel company and then enter the 2019 NBA Draft. He was chosen with the 23rd pick last June and averaged 17 minutes in 53 games with the Thunder before the league suspended its season March 11.
So instead the league is concocting this alternative, which seems like an awful lot of gymnastics to accommodate a few prospects and whose merit is a complete unknown.
Eleven of the 15 players on last year’s three All-NBA teams were products of NCAA colleges, including three who were “one-and-done” collegians. If the NBA thinks it is wise to compete with that success and it’s worth $1 million or more to try — hey, it’s their money.
“This trend has been coming. It’s going to happen. And it’s going to be more and more prevalent,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said in a teleconference Wednesday. “We’re just going to have to deal with it.
“But you know what? Here’s my attitude: We’ll have kids take their place. There’s so many good players out there. If a guy wants to go, go to the G League or go to Europe instead of giving us a year, go. Go do your thing. We’ll fill in behind with kids that want the opportunity and are good players.”
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