If you haven't already heard, Mark Cuban let his voice be heard once more as he spoke to ESPN Dallas and said the D-League is the better option for players coming out of high school as opposed to playing in the NCAA via the one-and-done rule.
For a recap of the article, click here to read Keith Schlosser's summary.
The question becomes, how do you pull a recruit from the enticement of playing for an illustrious college institution in front of thousands of fans, to playing in arenas that draw significantly less? Several ways.
Eliminate the 'one-and-done' system:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to increase the playing age from 19 to 20 years, thus forcing high school athletes to play at least two years of college basketball instead of done. While this is a step in the right direction to create a more mature player, the NBA could take this a step further and promote the D-League as the better destination by making it an incentive to play in the NBA system out of high school.
The NBA makes an age exemption for those that choose to play in the D-League for a year. Come out of high school and choose to play in the D-League? You may enter the draft at 19 since you have already participated in a pseudo-NBA lifestyle with workouts, film sessions, training camp, traveling and other experiences that aren't available to a college athlete.
Players can still choose to go the NCAA route, which some will, but they will have to wait two years. The obvious incentive to play in the D-League is simple; it's one more year of earning power for a young athlete. If players want to earn an education, they are more than welcome to play collegiate basketball. Under Cuban's suggestion players could still earn an education coming out of high school that the NBA would pay for.
Without having to live by NCAA restrictions, top high school recruits could sign lucrative endorsement deals straight from graduation. It's naive to assume college athletes aren't being paid already, so let's make it official and allow companies to sign these players as soon as they are eligible via the D-League draft. This added exposure to the D-League would also help to increase salaries, of which forced top prospect Pierre Jackson to depart for Turkey in late Feb.. He stated the D-League salary wasn't enough to support his family at home.
What the D-League would see is a snowball effect where the money will roll in with top prospects. Salaries should increase in the process so the league isn't embarrassed by the departure of such a high-profile talent.
Promote The D-League as The Best
The D-League contains the next best talent available to challenge players. The NCAA talent pool isn't nearly as deep as the D-League, but with more players exploring the possibility of playing in the D-League, the talent pool will only increase allowing for the league to expand at a much more rapid pace. The ultimate goal for the D-League is true one-to-one affiliation with 30 teams (the D-League is a little more than halfway there with just 17 teams).
If a player wants to play at the highest level, the D-League needs to be considered a serious option. Where else are they going to learn to play in an NBA system against players and teammates that will challenge them physically and mentally on a daily basis?
The most recent example is P.J. Hairston formerly of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Hairston was suspended for the remainder of the season in late Dec. 2013 after an NCAA investigation found him at fault for using rental cars owned by a local booster.
Flash-forward to today, where Hairston is averaging 22.2 points, and 3.9 rebounds in 18 games with the Texas Legends (Mavericks affiliate). Needless to say, Hairston is either maintaining or perhaps increasing his draft stock as he is competing against near top-tier talent in the D-League. Though it's unlikely he'll surpass the likes of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, he is solidifying his ability to contribute in the NBA thanks to the developmental system.
The players can learn to play NBA basketball while still studying local colleges and universities, as suggested by Cuban. There's a lot to be said about promoting the minor-league system but also putting a value on a player's education.
Let's call a spade a spade, the NCAA continues to make money hand over fist at the expense of these players. Yes, they see their payment in the form of a scholarship, but that clearly isn't on the mind of the one-and-done prospects. The players can take back that power from the NCAA governing body and choose to play in the D-League and begin their career the right way.