Get 'em While You Can
by Josh Spence

Over the past several years, the trend in the NBA, and more specifically the NBA draft, has been towards players with no college experience. In fact, over the past four years the first pick in the NBA draft has been used on such a player. This, however, is a trend that may have seen its end. A new collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the NBA and the players' union that will not only assure NBA basketball for the next six years, but will also assure no player under the age of 19 will be allowed in the NBA.

With the new agreement, this year's NBA draft likely marks the final time that a player under the age of 19 will be eligible for the NBA draft.  The new agreement makes it so that players in the U.S. will have to wait one year after the date their high school class graduates to be draft eligible. International players must turn 19 by the end of the calendar year in which they become draft eligible. 

Ironically, even without the new agreement, the streak of players taken number one overall having no college experience likely would have come to an end this year.  The Milwaukee Bucks have the first pick, and all signs point to them taking either North Carolina freshman Marvin Williams or Utah Center Andrew Bogut with the first selection. 

Overall, this is a step in the right direction for the NBA, a league that has come under tremendous criticism in recent years.  Increasing the age minimum has an obvious positive effect: only older, more experienced players will be allowed.  Players will now have more incentive to test the collegiate game and prove their skills at the next level.  This will not only enrich the NBA game, but college as well.  Not to mention the NBA-DL (developmental league), which will decrease its minimum age from 20 to 18.  The NBA-DL should get a boost from players who want another option besides college.

The new age requirement is not the only change coming for the NBA.  The salary cap has gone up, and there is more flexibility for teams when it comes to free agency.  Also, the NBA reduced the length required for long-term contracts from 7 years to 6, and reduced the length of guaranteed contracts for rookie first round picks from 3 years to 2.  This will go a long way in improving the overall quality of the NBA.  It will decrease a player's chance to sign lengthy contracts only to sit back for a few years, give a halfway effort and collect a guaranteed check.  In essence, it will create more "contract years", and enable teams to pay players based more on their performance.  In addition, the NBA has beefed up its substance abuse policy, not only on performance enhancing drugs, but recreational usage as well.  Hopefully, this will "weed-out" some of the thuggish image the NBA has taken on.

Josh Spence