A huge story by Brian Windhorst came out today regarding the NBA’s interest in high schoolers and players who have left high school but haven’t gone pro yet. The NBA has discussed several avenues to help high schoolers reach their basketball dreams. This could include camps for them to meet each other and demonstrate their skills, and potentially even academies where top prospects could train and hone their skills (though the NBA is apparently not going down this route at this time).
At the very least, the NBA wants to provide lessons on how to manage money, dieting/nutrition, and discussions on dealing with injuries/recovery. However, perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the section on how the NBA might use the G League as a home for those high schoolers without a desire for college.
Right now, almost all of the best American high school basketball prospects continue their basketball careers in college. In recent years, more of them have ventured overseas or to the G League so that they can make some money and play at a professional level, but the vast majority still go the collegiate path. However, there has been growing criticism of the NCAA, especially in the past few weeks as recruiting scandals have been uncovered. The model is under scrutiny due to its exploitation of athletes, and powerful figures in the NBA (LeBron James most notably) are against it.
One of the solutions expressed in the article is the creation of a separate class of contracts in the G-League for players straight out of high school (or perhaps just under a certain age). Right now, even with salaries that were just increased last year, the maximum salary in the G League is $26,000 (outside of two-way players), which pales in comparison to overseas leagues.
Instituting a new contract for high schoolers ($100,000 for a year or two??) could work, though veteran players who have already put in dues and would be making less than teenagers might not be happy about it. Still, getting an influx of top young talent (and grabbing some of those who otherwise would be overseas) would certainly be worth it for the G-League.
Imagine the hype if a top 10 high school prospect like Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett went to the G-League, and the amount of eyeballs that would draw? It benefits the players, as they’d actually make money, it would help the G-League, and it would boost the NBA as well, as they’d be able to start developing players at an even younger age. This is all still in the development stage, but it’s exciting progress in fixing a real issue.