There’s a new sheriff in town amongst the landscape of College Basketball. No, I’m not talking about the immediate rise of Chris Beard and Texas Tech’s basketball program. It’s the NBA G-League Pro Program. This program is designed to allow elite high school prospects the chance to develop before going pro.
The program has unique perks such as paying it’s athletes a large amount of money. It has been reported that ESPN No. 3 overall recruit Jalen Green will receive $500,000 but could be closer to $700,000 through bonuses. Also, Green is expected to make over $1 million when considering potential endorsements. Players also will receive a full scholarship to Arizona State. Essentially, they will have five years after their career to take advantage of that option. The players in this program will also be mentored by former NBA veterans. Additionally, they will be taught how to be a pro on/off the court, financially and competitively as they will be playing 20 or 25 games per season. This according to G-League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
It sounds like a great opportunity for high school athletes that don’t want to pursue the collegiate route. So far there have been three high profile recruits to join Green and this program. Isaiah Todd, who de-committed from Michigan, Daishen Nix from UCLA, and now Kai Sotto from the Philippines. Over the next few years, we could see the number go from four to six players and potentially even doubling to eight.
ISSUES AND CONCERNS
Although this route is interesting and has its perks, there are potential issues these young men could run into at this time next year if they skip College Basketball.
Let’s say Sotto lands awkwardly and unfortunately tears his ACL in the second game of this 25 game season. What happens to his draft stock? What if a player tears his Achilles? Are his potential earnings prorated? We can assume his draft stock will take a significant hit because no team wants to draft a damaged player. Especially in the lottery. Ask the Trail Blazers about their two draft picks with an injury history and see how that panned out for them. Injuries can happen at any time to anyone, so if a player does it get hurt and he is on a one-year deal with this program does he get to come back the next year with the same salary? Or will he have to enter his name in the draft knowing the chances of him going him falling in the draft or going undrafted are very high due to his injury?
This program is very enticing for a young athlete trying to take care of his family. However, how much money are these kids actually making? Green is supposed to make $500,000 and could be more with bonuses and endorsements. The academy is supposed to be in Los Angeles. By the time he finds a nice place and moves his family and friends to the City of Angels, that $500,000 is pretty much gone.
And that’s the financial upside for one player. It was reported yesterday that Nix would receive $300,000, Todd $250,000, and Sotto $200,000. Only a select few will make $500,000. The others will be lucky to make half of that. Let’s face it, the majority of these players with this opportunity will be young black boys. If they don’t succeed, whats next?
84 players entered the 2019 NBA Draft early, 44 of them were not drafted and could have played College Basketball this year. For those 44 guys that went undrafted, where are they? Was it worth it? The NBA is an elite club of individuals and most people don’t make it. There are McDonald’s All-Americans and First Team All-Americans that won’t ever get a sniff at the NBA. Going to college for six months isn’t a bad thing, it allows these young men to grow socially, mature, get them free education, and the ability to learn from some of the best coaches in the world.
They get to compete against some of the best athletes in the world. How much money and popularity did Zion Williamson gain for himself in both the short and long term while at Duke? The amount of exposure is tremendous and it will make hundreds of millions of dollars for the players who benefit from that experience. You’re playing in front of 19,000-plus crowds, while in the G-League you will be lucky to get 1,000. Also, will these G-League Pro Program games even be on television? Where’s the exposure? The point of this program is to prepare them for the NBA lifestyle. How can you do that by playing in small crowds, in small gyms, and with limited to no press?
The Future Of Recruiting
A quick break from College Basketball. Let’s say you’re getting married in a month. You and your wife are at the wedding rehearsal. She walks down the stage in that beautiful white dress just to tell you on the altar she doesn’t want to do this anymore. She has found a new lover and would rather marry him. How would you feel? Hurt? Betrayed? Well, how does Mick Cronin and his staff feel after they worked so hard in signing their five-star point guard for the future in Daishen Nix? Only to see him swept away right under their noises by the G-League? Does commitment not mean anything anymore? Not only did the G-League undermine the Bruins, but Nix signed to UCLA in November. Then he and made his decision to become a pro in March.
So what does UCLA do now? It’s too late to find a replacement PG as all the other options have likely committed elsewhere and the majority of the grad transfers have narrowed down their decision or have signed elsewhere as well. So now the Bruins are left to pick up the pieces and can only dream as to what could have been if Nix were in a blue and gold uniform.
I get it, Nix can do what he wants and make the best decision for himself. But he gave UCLA his word and signed documents that he would be a Bruin in the fall. If the G-League is going to offer these deals, shouldn’t there be restrictions on when and how they can communicate with these athletes? Especially if they have already signed to a program? So now universities are in a bidding war with the NBA and, let’s be honest, the money usually always wins.
If you’re Bill Self at Kansas, it’s already hard enough to out-recruit Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and various other schools. But now that you add in the G-League Pro Program, does that incentivize cheating? If I were an AD or an HC of a program the first thing I’d do is get some of my university’s most famous former athletes and richest boosters to come up with a package that entices potential recruits. For example, if I were the University of Oklahoma, I’d get Blake Griffin, Trae Young, Buddy Hield, and some of the most famous alumni and see if we can get a five-star recruit a package deal that he simply can’t refuse.
Expectations and Results
This whole program is basically a paid test run. It is new, so many people will be excited about it and willing to jump on board. But what happens if a kid underperforms? Let’s say a year from now Isaiah Todd doesn’t play at a high level and goes undrafted. What does he do now? He’s 19 in the G-League or likely overseas with no college education. He can’t go to college anymore as an athlete and receive free education, nor does he have enough money to live off of.
So now he bounces from G-League team to G-League team or spends most of his time overseas struggling to make money. A few years go by and now you have a 21 or 22-year-old man, potentially with a family, with no education to fall back on. Also, he is thousands of miles away from home, and hardly any money to survive. Will he sit back and wonder, was it worth it? Are we really willing to break up the whole structure of college basketball for three to four guys? I hope not.