The NBA G League recently announced that they will offer contracts to top high school prospects beginning in the 2019 season. From the outside looking in, this may look like the NBA is trying to give these kids a tremendous opportunity and a head start to fulfilling their NBA dreams. I think it’s a little more layered than that. I also think this won’t be as big a splash as many feel its going to be.
Let’s examine this a little further. On the surface, it is a fairly attractive offer. You get a $125,000 contract and are basically a stone’s throw away from the league (not really but sorta kinda). But once you really break this down is it that attractive? The athletes who will be considered for these contracts will be your blue chippers, top prospects, one and done guys. So that means they will be highly sought after, heavily recruited and extremely popular. Do you think Zion Williamson and Mac McClung would give up having celebrity status on two of college basketball’s most storied teams in exchange for a middle class salary and the grind of the G League season? In the social media age, these kids are stars before they leave high school. Zion has over 1 mil followers on Instagram. I guarantee he is more universally recognizable than any G League player. I don’t think any of these kids will give up superstardom for the chance to play basketball in relative obscurity. And it’s not like these are the kids who are going to need the G League to get to the NBA anyway.
From where I stand, this appears to be purely a cosmetic move. I’m sure no one truly believes this will cure all the ills that surround college basketball. There is a dark cloud hanging over college hoops right now. From the conversation regarding the exploitation/lack of compensation of student athletes to the federal investigation into illegal benefits the NCAA has a black, blue and purple eye. I guess they want to generate the feeling of “They are trying to give these kids another option”. Yeah kudos to you guys. This isn’t going to solve either one of the aforementioned problems. For starters, these “select contracts” will be extremely limited. Not enough to go around to offset the amount of kids who are generating millions of dollars for these universities while receiving nothing in return. Secondly, this will not stop “under the table” recruiting. Kids are already reportedly getting $100,000 from schools as well as jobs and benefits for their families. And those payments are tax free.
This is really just some damage control and simply delaying the inevitable. Offering a measly pittance and a menial existence in the basketball world will not be enough to make it ok to miss out on a chance to play in the NBA directly out of high school. I think another league will form that can offer more money that will be able to effectively entice the top level players away from college basketball altogether. Even with the one and done rule is eventually abolished, there will still be a void that can be filled by some other means. The league is a far fetched dream. The G League isn’t sexy enough to lure kids away and those opportunities are limited as well. But if we’re keeping it real, this latest move is a ploy to hold off the uprising just a little while longer. We’ll see how it goes but I don’t expect this to have much of an effect on things.