Watching Philidelphia’s Nerlen’s Noel in summer league and remembering how well Blake Griffin did in his first year playing in the league I think that the NBA should offer talented high schoolers the ability to ‘red shirt’ their first year in the league: be drafted and paid by an NBA team, but not suit up for games until they’re at least a year out of high school.
- Salary – Young players start getting paid earlier without having the stigma of the D-League attached to them.
- Adjustment – Young players get psychologically adjusted to a grueling 82 game season before they’re asked to preform
- Maturity – Gives the kids a chance to mature in an actual working NBA environment, let them learn from the veterans on their teams
- Practice – We talking about practice? Let them learn the sets, get much closer to NBA strength
- Pricing – How do you structure the red shirt contract? Which contract is considered the “rookie” contract? Does the draft order still count for that first “real” NBA contract?
- Injury – What if the red shirt is injured during their first year in the league? There would need to be some sort of insurance or compensation given for any injury during the red shirt year.
- Negative Influence – Not all locker rooms are great incubators for emotional and moral development. Then again, neither are all college campuses.
- The Player Doesn’t Perform – Essentially, what if the draft pick doesn’t wow in the red shirt year like the team that drafted him thought he would? Would he become a free agent? Would he hurt his salary chances? The fear of damaging their draft value (and ultimately earning compensation) might lead many high schoolers to opt for college rather than the red shirt route.
But wait, isn’t this what the D-League is for?
Absolutely. I realize that having an actual Development League would go a long way to ameliorating this situation, which I fully advocate for. I’d love to see a tiered basketball league system similar to what the UK has for soccer, but right now the D-League until there’s some money or enthusiasm behind it, the ‘red shirt’ idea might be a good stop gap for ambitious players who want to forego the college route and get right into being pros.
This doesn’t seem like a terribly radical idea, and it’s likely to prepare younger players for the NBA far, far better than a 28-45 game college season does now. The NBA should offer a red shirt first year at decent compensation to talented high schoolers to help them adjust to the game without the pressure of having to perform and ultimately provide its audience with a better product