Prior to the start of this season, then-Commissioner David Stern asserted that he believed the D-League did (or does, rather) a better job of developing players than the NCAA:
"So I'm very proud of the development league. It truly did develop, in some way, in a little different way, Jeremy Lin. And I think that's working ... So that march is continuing ... and as the drum beats that I hear about our colleges not liking what they refer to as ‘one-and-done,' we have a league in the NBA Development League that will accept players when they are 18 and will do, I might say, a better job of educating than the college programs in which they are."
Stern paused dramatically, then added, "Take that.
Fast-forward to March, and Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban is speaking out, and seems to agree with a similar sentiment.
Cuban believes that playing in the D-League straight out of high school (as opposed to the NCAA) is more beneficial for a prospect looking to break into the NBA. More from ESPN Dallas:
"I think what will end up happening -- and this is my opinion, not that of the league -- is if the colleges don't change from the one-and-done, we'll go after the one," Cuban said. "The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there's absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he's not going to class [and] he's actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League."
Still, that doesn't mean Cuban thinks the game's up and coming young guns should necessarily turn their backs on a college education. Here's what he had to say about helping ensure the prospects get the best of both worlds:
Cuban would like to see the NBA take steps to make the D-League a more attractive alternative to players who intend to spend only one season playing college basketball. While Cuban said he hasn't analyzed the situation enough to make a formal proposal, he envisions the NBA working with nearby universities to provide straight-out-of-high school players an opportunity to pursue a college education while playing in the D-League.
"You don't have to pretend. We don't have to pretend. A major college has to pretend that they're treating them like a student-athlete, and it's a big lie and we all know it's a big lie. At least at most schools, not all. ... But we can put more of an emphasis on their education. We can plan it out, have tutors. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn't allow schools to do that would really put the individual first."
Such a proposal would take a lot of fleshing out, as there would be many technicalities to figure out in order to ensure prospective players do not skip out on getting some sort of education in the meantime. Cuban seems to suggest a learning through experience (as it relates to the future profession) type of idea here:
"You have to develop some level of maturity, and that has to be part of the process," Cuban said. "You don't want to bring kids in and just abandon them. That'd be the worst thing we could do.
"We'd have to make it so where there'd be very strict policies and rules so that, even if you're not going to go to [college] class, there's going be life [skills] classes -- how do you deal with the world? -- and you have to attend those. You have to keep up with those. We'd have very strict [rules] on why you'd be suspended if you didn't live up to them. Things that should be done to student-athletes in college and are just not. Or not always."
For what it's worth, among the D-League players who are currently forgoing NCAA basketball in favor of playing out the mandatory one year before NBA Draft eligibility is former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston. The swingman broke into the minor league midway through this season with the Mavericks-affiliated Texas Legends after leaving North Carolina.
Though while at school, Hairston was initially projected to be a mid first-round pick in the upcoming draft, there's no doubt that he, at the very least, is doing what he can to ensure his stock does not drop in months leading up to this June's NBA Draft.
Perhaps his success in the D-League (as Hairston proves he can compete at a high professional level) is even helping his stock rise along the way, instead. The 21 year-old is averaging 22.2 points (on 45% from the field and 37% deep), 3.9 rebounds, and 1.7 steals this season.