As the NBA seems to trend toward allowing high school players to enter the league without playing in the NCAA, expect several changes.
Adrian Wojnarowski speculated that this could help bolster the NBA G League (via ESPN):
“The motivation with the NBA isn’t ‘we’re going to do the right thing; this is right to allow young people to pursue their dreams at 18 or coming out of high school.’ A lot of owners are putting money into these G League franchises and they’d like to see a return on this money. They’d like to see TV deals that might pay them a little bit … I think a big part of it is dictated by getting star players into the G League and selling tickets in those places and being able to market those teams … That’s where a lot of these guys are headed, especially at 18 years old, coming out of high school.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has also stated that he’d like to see players who are drafted directly out of high school spend one year in the G League before joining the NBA.
One player who will go through a similar process next year is Darius Bazley, who was committed to Syracuse before opting to start his professional career in the G League.
Bazley, who is a projected first-round pick in 2019, will enter the G League Draft in October. The development team that drafts him can’t transfer his rights to their NBA affiliate. Also, he’s not eligible to be called up by an NBA team even if he is performing well in the G League this year. He must finish the season in the G League and then go through the draft process, just like any other prospect.
While the recent change to collegiate basketball legislation does not yet remove the one-and-done rule, it’s a step toward that happening in the future.
According to Yahoo’s Shams Charania, the recent NCAA rule change is at least in some part due to Bazley’s decision to not play college basketball.
Back when Bazley made his decision in March, Adam Johnson reported that “other McDonald’s All-Americans” also considered making the same jump.
Rex Walters, who is a former head coach in the G League, spoke about Bazley’s groundbreaking decision (via Washington Post):
“It’s going to be really interesting to see what the narrative after a year is. If he’s a first-round pick [in the NBA draft], then more kids will do it. If he struggles, if he gets hurt, if 15 years from now he’s broke… they’re going to point back to this.”
Bazley might not be enough to sell tickets, but his presence will be one of the more interesting storylines next season in the G League. It’s worth noting that more than half of the players selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft played in the G League during their first professional season.
Justin Patton, who was a 2017 first-round pick, averaged 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in the G League for the Iowa Wolves. But he played just 3.7 minutes in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After he was selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Thomas Bryant averaged 19.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in 37 games for the South Bay Lakers. But he averaged just 4.8 minutes per game in the NBA, so the G League was the main way for him to improve his craft as a rookie.
Dakota Schmidt wrote about why New York Knicks’ second-round pick Mitchell Robinson will very likely appear in the G League next season (via Ridiculous Upside):
“Despite how great he might’ve been in high school, Robinson will definitely spend some time in the G League as he’ll have to get back in basketball shape while also getting adjusted to the pace and overall talent level of pro basketball. The G League is an ideal location for that as he’ll be able to get significant playing time with the Westchester Knicks without getting the major spotlight that comes from being an athlete in New York.”
Robinson was one of the best players in the Las Vegas Summer League so he will certainly be worth watching if he appears in the G League next year, giving the developmental league another notable name that could attract interest and TV viewers.
The G League is the perfect place for raw players to get significant playing time and start tapping into their potential. For Patton and Bryant (and many players before them), the G League was huge for their development.
If the NBA eventually abolishes the one-and-done rule and high-school players start jumping directly to the G League, the on-court product will be even more exciting (which would make owners and league officials happy).
At the same time, it would help these notable young players hone their craft and ensure they’re ready to play alongside the best players in the world, making it a win-win for everyone involved.