Many basketball observers are starting to talk about John Wall, the fifth-year high school senior who tore it up at the recent Nike Hoop Summit, who purposes flirted briefly with the idea of entering the NBA Draft. Because he's in his fifth year, he's highlighted the ambiguity of the NBA age limit language, which states that players must wait until one year after their high school class has graduated before entering the league.
As I mentioned, several NBA bloggers have posted thoughts on Wall recently, including Bethlehem Shoals (twice), Tom Ziller, and Zach Harper at TalkHoops. Ultimately, though, it appears Wall has decided not to go that route and is exploring colleges, including Florida. What occurred to me, though, is why wouldn't Wall spend a year in the D-League? The advantages would seem to be thus:
He'd be playing against all-around better competition, including guys who are already in the NBA.
The NCAA doesn't have the Chinese Magic Johnson, now does it? If Wall needs to work on his outside shot, as this scouting report suggests, then what better environment to do it in than against Brent Petway or Othyus Jeffers? The chances are very good that Wall wouldn't face a man defender of that caliber in college, and if he only spends one year in the NCAAs, he'd likely be able to skate by without putting much work into his game.
He'd be getting paid.
While the D-League pay is minimal, it's more than he would make in college, which is (theoretically) zero. You could argue that he'd miss out on all of the free gear and other perks associated with a high-level D-1 basketball program, but it's not like he's going to be for want of shoes in a year anyway. There has been more attention paid in the last few years on how much money upper-tier college athletes bring in for their schools, particularly in basketball and football, without any compensation. Joining the D-League means Wall would be paid for his work.
Colleges run gimmicky offenses that don't usually translate to how the NBA plays.
In the D-League, he'd be learning a pro offense; as talented as guys like Blake Griffin and DeJuan Blair are, there's always the question of "how will their game translate to the pros?" That question is probably even more pronounced for point guards like Wall. If he plays in the D-League, there's no translation necessary - not every D-League team runs a specific NBA team's offense, but they still run offenses closer to what he'd be operating once he gets drafted.
There are also advantages for the D-League:
They get a premier young player to market and raise the league's profile.
That's really it, isn't it? We'll come back to this in a minute.
The one person I can't see going crazy for this idea is David Stern (and all college coaches, I guess, but they're probably the group or people affiliated with basketball that I care the least about). There were several reasons given for instituting the NBA's age limit, both official and unofficial. One of those unofficial reasons was that players jumping from high school directly to the pros diminished the appeal of the draft for casual fans. Martell who? Something Perkins? Getting these kids into the NCAA ensured that players had a good shot at being part of the March Madness marketing machine - oh, Adam Morrison, I remember he did pretty well in the tournament, I want to see where he gets drafted (whoops).
If John Wall spends a year in the D-League, though, that philosophy implodes. The D-League's best team had a playoff game Tuesday night, and there were fewer people in the arena than work in my office building (and one floor's just for storage). Playing in front of 2000 people if you're lucky in Erie in a game that's only broadcast online isn't the more surefire way to get your name out there among fans.
But maybe it could be. (Sorry, I don't like the one-sentence paragraph sportswriting device either, but I guess it sort of works here. And look at that, now it's two sentences. Three. Four? Etc.)
Bringing in a (semi-semi-) marquee talent like Wall would almost assuredly lead to more coverage of the D-League, which in turn could lead to more fans coming to the games, more revenues coming in, possibly more games on NBA TV or other networks, more money to spend on improving Futurecast (hint), you get the picture.
You'll notice I've sidestepped the education question. Certainly having a college degree is a long-term benefit, but there's nothing precluding Wall from going back and getting his degree once his playing career has begun. If Wall is serious enough about becoming an NBA player to explore entering the 2009 draft, spending a year in Gainesville (or wherever he may ultimately decide to go) isn't going to change that.
He's talented, 19 years old and draft-eligible (FYI, draft eligible age in the NBDL is 18). Why couldn't John Wall join the D-League?