How to keep young NBA players out of the NBA

If the NBA and NCAA want to keep young players out of the NBA, the answer is so simple. Stop guaranteeing rookie contracts.

As it is right now, if a player is drafted in the first round, their salary is set by their draft position, we are REQUIRED to guarantee that salary for at least 4 years. Given that the last pick in the draft makes more than 600k per year, for 4 years, the money to tempt the high school or underclassmen is there.

Then there is the agent pitch. I can hear it in my sleep. Come on now….Leon, you know how good you are. You know what your coaches have told you. How could you not be one of the top 29 players in this draft? Just get picked in the top 30, and the money is yours…Guaranteed. Best of all, you have at least 4 years to get ready for your next contract.

That is tough to turn down.

Add the fact that the agents collect their 4 pct on those guaranteed contracts whether the guy can play or not, and you have more than a little incentive from agents to get the guy to declare for the draft.

Get rid of guaranteed rookie contracts and all that changes. Then all ofa sudden the odds come into play. So few players drafted in the 20s actuallyplay in the NBA past their rookie contracts. They go from prospects to trade fodder to out of the league. Instead of hearingabout busts on the bench collecting millions of dollars, with just anecdotal Lenny Cooke and Kenny Satterfield, expect to be 1st round picks and weren’t stories, the stories would be about how the majority of players drafted in the first round don’t make it through their rookie contracts.

That is exactly what would happen. If rookie contracts were not guaranteed, more than half of first round picks would be cut before the end of their contracts. Those are the odds that every high school and underclass college player would hear about. The question wouldn’t be about draft position, it would be can they play.

I also don’t understand why the players union allowed the rookie contracts to be guaranteed. That was one big mistake on their part. Four year contracts means teams that draft in the 20-29 multiple years, perennial playoff teams, probably have 3 of their last 4 draft picks taking up roster space. Or they traded those picks as throw-ins and they are taking up space on other rosters.

Those are roster spots that I’m sure those teams and a whole lot of veterans without jobs wish were available.

Rookies who can’t play, getting paid to not play, taking jobs from vets who can.

So why are rookie contracts guaranteed? No idea, it happened before I got to the NBA. Hopefully it will change. There are a lot of Ced Ceballos’ and other guys who have paid their dues in this league who could help a team, while the young guys learn the game in college.

66 thoughts on “How to keep young NBA players out of the NBA

  1. Case in point, you guys had the steal in the draft last season by picking Josh Howard. Cant remember what pick it was, but I know every team who missed on their prep star who isnt named Lebron has to be kicking itself! Hell for that matter, Marquis Daniels looks like a star in the making. Make these rookies earn thier salary like football players do, and college basketball will once again be great!

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  2. You dont give any consideration for the universe of players who are out of the league. If a team is near the tax threshold, or trying to get or stay under the cap, then they cant sign JR Rider or Marquis Daniels or the next Marquis Daniels because they are stuck with the 3 year deal of the 24th pick.

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  15. Obviously I don’t run or own an NBA team, so I’m uncertain when it becomes clear to a team that their high school players are “busts”.

    But your majority of first-rounders who never make it to a second contract are not, largely, high school players. The data is too small there anyway.

    My suspicion is that the only players who would get cut are the players who actually went to college, have maxed out and simply aren’t good enough.

    This wouldn’t keep the Tyson Chanders and Eddy Currys out of the league, because too much was invested in them for their teams to just drop them. Even the high school players who haven’t panned out, like Kwame, have considerable trade value.

    Comment by Ryan Hamilton -

  16. At first, your idea seemed to be a no-brainer. But, then you look at the other professional sports and what do you see:
    1) Eli Manning refusing to go to the Chargers.
    2) 18-year old baseball prospects demanding $2 million dollar signing bonuses and using college baseball as a bargaining chip.

    While the guaranteed contracts may be flawed, they also help provide some stability in the league. What if the Hawks got the #1 pick in the draft and Emeka Okafur (or Dwight Howard) refused to play in Atlanta and demanded a trade? Or, he let it be known that he wants a $5 million dollar signing bonus or he’d go to UConn for his final year of college and drop-out of the draft?

    As for an age limit, I don’t agree, simply because LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are already 2 of the best players in the league. If a kid wants to declare and he goes undrafted, then it was bad decision-making on his part. There is enough time and research available to get a good idea if you’ll be drafted or not. There are players like Dwight Howard who should be able to go pro; there are others who will make bad decisions. I don’t see it as the NBA’s job to force kids into one decision, effectively saving the kids from thesmselves and their own inflated egos.

    Besides the point that they aren’t really stsudent-athletes anyway. Al Jefferson said, “They kept telling me to come for one year and get an education. How am I going to get an education in one year?”

    The real problem is the way teams draft. If you’re bad, you can’t wait for a player to develop. But, you also cannot risk being the GM who passed on a Michael Jordan or Dirk Nowitski. Every GM feels a need to find the next superstar because supertsars win in this league. But, there are very few can’t miss superstars; for every Duncan or Shaq that went #1 overall, there is a Tony Parker who went 28 or a Steve Nash that went mid-first round.

    If GMs were less afraid of making the big mistake and passing on the next Dirk, and instead drafted by what their mind tells them is the best pick, less of these “project” player would be drafted. It was astounding last year that Josh Howard went as the last pick in the 1st round. Or that Carlos Boozer was a 2nd round pick. Or Michael Redd. Or that Brad Miller and Marquis Daniels went undrafted. I mean, Reece Gaines went mid-first round and Daniels went undrafted? Did anyone watch Daniels play in college? Anyone see him single-handedly knock St. Joe’s out in the 1st round his senior year? What about Darius Songalia? Kid will be a player; he already has the best footwork of any Kings post player and was solid out of Wake Forest, yet he lasted to late second round…I could go on.

    Maybe it has come to the point where the NBA needs to save itself from itself, and save kids from themselves at the same time. I don’t know. But, I sure wouldn’t have been as interested in the NBA this year without LeBron James and Carmelo ANthony, Dwayne Wade not withstanding.

    Comment by Brian McCormick -

  17. I fully agree with your view. Guaranteeing a contract for a rookie or any player beyond a year is ludicrous, however, the alternatives are difficult as well. Incentive based contracts don’t work in a team sport either. Ultimately, the problem comes down to paying (guaranteeing) in advance for services to be performed later with no possible recourse if the services are not provided. Football has a better system but then polluted it with the “bonus” which is simply guarenteed money that can be spread over time.

    I don’t begrudge anyone there attempt to earn a living. However, I do not believe the players need to be earning money for 3 years after only playing for 1. If they want to give up their eligibility for college for 1 million, fine. If they don’t make it after 1 year, then take the money, go to college or just get a job. Don’t cry to me about your need to be paid for 3 years of speculation.

    As for owners being able to spend the money if they want or passing on the player, well it’s a gamble for them. Imagine having someone tell you that one lottery ticket in 5 will pay 100 million. Of course, the lottery ticket costs you 4 million. Still a great risk. Oh wait, the lottery ticket may not be worth the 100 million while you own it. Yep, there’s a good chance it won’t want to be your lottery ticket when it’s worth something. You get the picture.

    One year guarantees max.

    Comment by Bob Batchelder -

  18. What about allowing teams to draft a player, pay them a worthy signing bonus, and let them play and finish school. The team can call the player up when they feel the player is ready similar to how it’s handled in hockey.

    Yes there are issues with the NCAA and giving money to players, but why not? Don’t pay them to play college ball. Pay them for making a commitment to a team, and let the team work with them to develop their skills.

    Teams gain the security of being able to pick the best platers, but not forcing them into the lineup before they are ready, or before others are ready to go.

    Comment by Rob Zelt -

  19. Guaranteed contracts are killing this game and sports in general. I think they not only destroy the quality of the game, but they also affect the individual who has that contract. Do you think they think twice when doing something career threating? Nope. Not when the money is guaranteed. Kobe is the guy im getting at here. And you are also correct in saying guaranteed rookies are taking up space on playoff teams rosters. Take my Nets for instance. We could use another perimeter shooter and for sure another big body to come in and rebound. But we don’t have the roster space because we have two 3rd year players (i still call them rookies because they haven’t proved anything) sitting on the bench, Brandon Armstrong and Tamar Slay. Coach Frank can’t put them in because he doesn’t trust them and the Nets can’t get rid of them an sign a reliable vet because their money is, that’s right, guaranteed. What’s that my grandpa used to tell me about guarantees, “The only thing guaranteed in life is death and taxes.”

    Comment by Jimmy Dean -

  20. If I’m a playoff team drafting late I’m not even going to look at paying guaranteed money to an unproven kid to sit on the bench and daydream about Madden 2005.
    I’d rather take a prospect playing in Europe on a club team and let him develop in their system. If in a couple years the kid figures out how to play, great, lets bring him over and sign him to a guranteed contract. If not I’m not out anything more than a late round draft choice and more importantly my roster is ful of players who can play in the league.

    Comment by Donny -

  21. Get rid of guaranteed contracts period. How mahy teams have stiffs on their bench (Vin Baker, Penny Hardaway, Eddie Robinson) or guys who dont play until the last year of a contract and then hit the lottery based on one good year (J. Howard), make it like the NFL and you will see a major difference in the training camps and attitudes in the league. I am tired of the dull play of my favorite games.

    Comment by Maurice Riley -

  22. If you’re a senior in highschool and you have a chance to get into the NBA, why not take it? With the way it currently is, you would have to be a fool to not enter the draft. Goto to college when you’re knee blows out. Every team out there would jump at the chance for another LeBron or KG or Kobe. Why not take a risk? Is someone really getting messed over here? It’s not like these young draft picks are being forced to work at Dairy Queen.

    Comment by monkeyinabox -

  23. please. if you are world champions and have MJ, you can renounce.

    If you want me as a fan to criticize the team for not caring about winning. Feel free to renouce. Im sure someone in the media will do the same.

    And how easy is it to trade 1st round for 2nd ?

    In a fantasy league with your friends, it might be easy to do. I could just imagine if Cuban did it with the Mavs.
    he would get killed for doing it and probably lose fans. he would lose some of my respect

    Comment by jokester -

  24. I dont get it…
    Why have rules around age limits in the Pro’s? you want them to go to college??? Who cares?
    If noone wants them at that price then they wont be drafted… supply/demand right?

    I dont really get it I guess.. And no.. I dont think Minor Leagues are a good idea either.. Its horrible for the players.. Ever see the crap a Baseball player has to go through to be in the minors?

    Comment by Mike Verinder -

  25. Mark, but as a die hard MFFL, I think thigs should stay the way they are so that the Josh Howard’s of the world are still there when the Mavs turn comes around……. 🙂

    Comment by Brad -

  26. Fine. Even if these things — the team’s own choices (playing under the cap, not paying the tax, etc.) are considered, there’s a trump card here:

    You don’t have to draft or sign a first-round pick. Cuban laments that they trade for other spare parts at the end of the bench, but if a late first-round pick is traded for second-round picks or future picks, there is no need to keep any players.

    Beyond that, a team can simply renounce the rights to the player it drafts in the first round. The Chicago Bulls did this with Travis Knight in 1996.

    Guess what the net effect of renouncing your first-round pick is? They don’t have to get a guaranteed long-term contract. Knight signed with the Lakers for one year, presumably at the minimum.

    That the Bulls are the only team I can recall doing this tends to indicate that teams are keeping players only because they want them. If they find differently a year or two down the road, they’ll get no sympathy here.

    Comment by Kevin Pelton -

  27. One of your arguments seems to me to be that teams don’t respond to prices: “talent and entertainment come first.” When I think about the dramatic effect the luxury tax has had on the Leauge, I find it hard to believe that price effects could not be effective in draft decisions.

    And at the same time we have 19 year-olds over in Iraq being subjected to the horrors of war, it seems quite paternalistic to say that the horrors of earning a living playing basketball in the NBA are too much for these 19 year-olds to handle.

    And when considering this problem, I think it takes a backseat to the much younger professional tennis players and world-class gymnasts and skaters.

    One other point. Mark’s suggestion of removing the guarantees from rookie scale contracts probably would INCREASE the number of players declaring early. It would increase the incentives of teams to select early entrants, since they could cut unpromising early entrants. With teams having greater incentives to select early entrants, early entrants who assume they won’t be the ones who are cut a year or two down the line will become even more likely to enter the NBA.

    Comment by Dan T. Rosenbaum -

  28. I respectfully disagree…

    I understand you are proposing a method to dissuade Owners/Teams from drafting young players by raising the cost of rookie scale but I do not believe your assumption is correct here. In all sports talent & entertainment comes first and not the cost. Thus your premise:

    “Increasing the cost of rookie scale contracts might seem counterintuitive, but it would dramatically increase the costs for teams who select players in the hope that they will contribute three or four years down the line. Teams would have to think twice about selecting a high school player or college freshman with a lottery pick, and thus many of those players would get pushed out of the lottery.”

    I believe to be an erroneous assumption and not backed up by hard fact that the cost would cause teams to think twice. I believe they would accept the cost as part of doing business and would not deter them in the least.

    Also your comment:

    “In turn, many other young players would get pushed out of the first round. All of this would dramatically raise the risk to declaring early for young players, which would provide incentives for them to stay in school.”

    It will not persuade players in the least to be pushed out of first draft (if that happened at all) because of the massive amount of money we are talking about paying these players. This is comparable to winning the lottery for many of these players and even if it were for just one year, which most don’t even think about, they would do it for the large one year paycheck. Put yourself in their shoes.

    Unfortunately you have not addressed what I consider the main issue from the player’s perspective, which are not economics but rather physical & most of all mental maturity and readiness.

    What will eventually happen is there will be a kid drafted out of 11th or 10th grade of High School, very much like the recent 14 year old professional soccer player.

    It is not wise to take a kid directly out of a high school environment and throw them into the NBA environment and not expect to have some type of psychological problem down the road. We are yet to see if difficult issues for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony happen in the future. What do your statistics say regarding this issue from past players drafted directly out of high school?

    Comment by WM -

  29. whether rookies as a whole are underpaid is a different question than “what decisions would teams make if they had choices at the end of the draft”

    talent evaluation is an art, not a science. As a result, you can only determine whether a decision is valid after the fact. In an economic concern, too many mistakes, without constraint, jeapordizes the going concern ability of the business.

    So its not just a matter of lack of representation, its also a matter of not killing the golden goose.

    using numbers are also misleading. Teams that play their rookies more, are teams that usually arent performing as well. Would lebron be the center of attention on the pistons ? Would Carmelo on the Spurs ?

    By definition, the better rookies should play on the worse teams, meaning they will play more. Putting up numbers is not a reflection that they are better in aggregate, so putting a dollar value “per stat” isnt very meaningful.

    Even assigning dollar value to improvement is probably misleading for 2 reasons.

    1. its easier to improve a 17 win team.
    2. Teams who did poorly in the previous years are more likely to add better players around their high draft pick because they need to improve for financial reasons. So Cleveland makes their big trade, changes coaches. Denver gets camby back, signs miller, etc.

    Comment by Jokester -

  30. Just to clarify a point in my earlier post. Measured in almost any method one can think of (points, rebounds, All-Star voting, effects on attendance), per dollar spent, players are on their rookie scale contracts are far more productive, on average, than veterans.

    Yes, there are many players on rookie scale contracts who are overpaid, but this pales in comparison to players like Shawn Kemp, Antonio Davis, Jalen Rose, Eddie Robinson, Penny Hardaway, Tom Gugliotta, Grant Hill, Bryant Reeves, and the list goes on and on and on.

    One other related point. These rookies are underpaid because no one represents them in the collective bargaining process – they don’t have a vote. Union leaders like Antonio Davis who want to extend their careers have selfish interests for wanting to keep these younger players out of the League.

    The lawyers in the Maurice Clarett case dropped the ball in suing the NFL. They should have sued the NFLPA.

    Comment by Dan T. Rosenbaum -

  31. you dont take into consideration that impact on the team of the guaranteed rookie salary towards luxury tax and cap hold. Both of which would keep the team from signing another player who could help the team more.

    Nor does it take into account incumbency. In other words, if you are stuck with a guy for 3 years, might as well make the most of it. On a bad team, this could mean playing him more in hopes of possibly salvaging him. This in turn brings down the valuations that you use in reference to the value of the picks.

    And you dont give any consideration for the universe of players who are out of the league. If a team is near the tax threshold, or trying to get or stay under the cap, then they cant sign JR Rider or Marquis Daniels or the next Marquis Daniels because they are stuck with the 3 year deal of the 24th pick.

    If you want to truly evaluate this, you would have to simulate a draft where the picks above 18 have to draft a rookie, and the picks below dont. starting with 20, the teams are able to use their pick for anyone in the free agent universe, rookie or otherwise, but the rookie would have to be signed on the rookie contract terms, and the free agent could be signed for 1 yr, non guaranteed, with the league paying their 30pct for 10 yr players.

    I agree with mark that their picks would change, and more than 5 of those drafting below 20 would not choose rookies.

    Comment by jokester -

  32. Dear Mark:

    Here is a copy of an e-mail that I sent the League Office awhile back about this issue.

    (Mark, I think you are on the right track with you suggestion, but my ideas outlined below go much further and probably would be palatable to the NBPA.)

    According to what I hear in the press, I presume that the League is still concerned about the number of players forgoing some (or all) of their college training and exposure. The number of such players has increased dramatically over the past decade and there is a perception that it has resulted in lower quality play in the NBA. Perhaps more importantly, it has reduced the exposure of the NBA to the college basketball market. For both of these reasons, there appears to be some incentive to institute rules to stem this flow of young players, such as imposing a minimum age requirement.

    Ignoring legality issues, such an age restriction could result in highly marketable players who are ready for the NBA (e.g. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony) opting to play in Europe for an indefinite number of years if the NBA was not open to them. Presumably, this would be a highly undesirable outcome, so it might make sense to consider other alternatives that might reduce the flow of young players into the NBA. In considering other alternatives, it is important to (a) reduce the incentive of young players to enter the NBA and (b) reduce the incentive of teams to select young players. I think this second consideration has largely been ignored in the past.

    Here is my proposal. It is fairly involved, but nothing out of ordinary for recent CBAs.

    · Players entering the NBA without college experience (or at age 18) would receive five-year Rookie scale contracts with restricted free agency in the sixth year and Team options in the third, fourth, and fifth years.

    · Players with one year of college experience (or one year of professional experience after age 18) would receive four-year Rookie scale contracts with restricted free agency in the fifth year and Team options in the third and fourth years (the present Rookie scale contract with an additional Team option).

    · Players with two years of college experience (or two years of professional experience after age 18) would receive three-year Rookie scale contracts with restricted free agency in the fourth year and Team options in the third year.

    · Players with three years of college experience (or three years of professional experience after age 18) would receive two-year Rookie scale contracts with restricted free agency in the third year.

    · Players with four years of college experience (or four years of professional experience after age 18) would receive one-year Rookie scale contracts with restricted free agency in the second year.

    · At the time of signing their Rookie scale contracts, Players would have the option of choosing the contract for their given level of college (or professional) experience or a contract for any lesser level of college (or professional) experience.

    · The match period in restricted free agency would be reduced to one week.

    · Up to four years of college experience (or professional experience after age 18) would count fully as NBA experience. This provision would also apply to current Players, thereby resulting in these Players being subject to higher allowable maximum salaries and higher minimum salaries. These maximums and minimums likely would be adjusted accordingly.

    · Rookie scale contracts would be increased to a level commensurate to their average productivity and then would be tied to rises in the League’s average salary. (Right now, players on rookie scale contracts are far more productive than players not on rookie scale contracts. Mark is just plain wrong about this point.)

    Increasing the cost of rookie scale contracts might seem counterintuitive, but it would dramatically increase the costs for teams who select players in the hope that they will contribute three or four years down the line. Teams would have to think twice about selecting a high school player or college freshman with a lottery pick, and thus many of those players would get pushed out of the lottery. In turn, many other young players would get pushed out of the first round. All of this would dramatically raise the risk to declaring early for young players, which would provide incentives for them to stay in school.

    In particular, increasing the salaries in the Rookie Scale contracts is important, because the third year Team options will reduce the risk of selecting young, unproven players. Without increasing salaries teams have the incentive to increase the number of young players they select in the first round.

    From the young players perspective, they would face increased salaries if they were selected in the first round, but a much lower probability of being selected in the first round, especially early in the first round. Also, they would face two years before they would need to prove themselves or they could be out of the League. Moreover, maximum salaries later on in their careers would not increase based upon them entering the NBA early. I suspect the combination of these effects would result in far more players option to stay in school.

    Overall, I suspect that the LeBron Jameses and Carmelo Anthonys would still enter the NBA early under this proposal, but more marginal players may strongly consider spending more time in college. This idea makes it pay for players to stay in school, unlike the series of changes that have been made in the last two CBAs that have made it much, much more lucrative for young players to enter the NBA. For more about that and more detail on some of the issues brought up in this e-mail, see these two working papers of mine.

    “It Doesn’t Pay to be Young in the NBA,” September 2003 (

    “How the NBA Turned a Trickle of Underclassmen Leaving School Early into a Flood,” September 2003 (

    Best wishes,
    Dan Rosenbaum
    Assistant Professor of Economics

    Comment by Dan T. Rosenbaum -

  33. You know who I thought of when he said “Leon”? The guy in the Budweiser commercials trying to play 4 sports and for whom $20 Million “just doesn’t cut it like it used to”.


    Comment by Hoek -

  34. We’re arguing different points.

    Cuban makes two arguments in his piece:

    1. Players drafted 20-29, particularly young players, are not worth the salaries they command and do so only because their contracts are guaranteed.

    2. Players drafted 20-29 waste roster spots that could otherwise be given to more talented veterans.

    The difference is subtle, but important. For the first criteria, players need to be better than an alternative use of the same salary (this research ( tends to support that they are). The standards for the second criteria are merely being better than replacement level.

    Cuban’s assertion that “So few players drafted in the 20s actually play in the NBA past their rookie contracts” is evidence that speaks to point two, and it’s wrong. You don’t disagree with that, because you’re arguing point one.

    In particular, whether the players have their contracts extended or their fourth-year options picked up is irrelevant to whether they are worth roster spots their first three seasons. (Rookie contracts are implicitly designed so that players picked 20-29 have a lower chance of having the fourth year picked up, as the increase in salary between year three and year four increases from pick 1 to pick 29.)

    If the only argument you can make is point one, there is no persuasive argument for eliminating guaranteed rookie contracts. The only argument you have is reducing the guaranteed salaries for players drafted late in the round.

    Comment by Kevin Pelton -

  35. I think the league should do more to promote the developmental league as far as advertising it to the fans (you know…”Tomorrow’s stars today) and even promote it to the players themselves.
    The best example I can think of is baseball. Each team has a group of lower level teams that they oversee and develop their own players.
    Expand the draft a few rounds and let these kids go to the minor leagues and then if they show the potential, you move them up to the big time.

    Comment by Dan -

  36. James Posted this comment:
    “Leon? Why does the guy have to be named ‘Leon?'”

    My comment: What the heck is wrong with the name ‘Leon’?

    Comment by Politca Obscura -

  37. I think you make a great point but overall I don’t think this would prevent players’ from entering the draft. The NBA needs to take some lessons from the NFL and create an age requirement. Even as backwards as MLB is they have a formal age requirement (Once a player enters college I think they are required to stay at least two years). This is not a good thing and Stern has to resolve this problem. It is ruining the game!!!

    However as an owner, you would have to agree that drafting a high schooler is worth the risk. Your $2.4 million dollar investment could turn into a star. Nobody wants to be the team that passes up the next James or Kobe. If a player is willing to come out then teams will take a shot.

    Look at Indiana they have three high schoolers in O’Neal, Bender and Harrington who make up there nucleus but they all road the pine for four years. The last time I checked college was a four-year program. It is obvious that players who come of college are NBA ready. The sad part is the fans have to suffer by watching sloppy basketball!!!!!!

    Comment by James -

  38. Let everyone else draft the “potential” guys, and let the proven college level players fall to you (Howard and Daniels). Worked pretty well last year!

    I do understand your concern though. It does take away from the league as a whole, both financially and with the level of play. I guess for every team like Chicago and the Clippers, there is one Lebron or KG that everyone dreams they might get. Until teams start drafting responsibly, It will keep happening. You just have to make sure you are there to pick up the proven college guys others keep passing over.

    Comment by Mike -

  39. the point of cubans comments was keeping players in school. Of those who are on your list, none of the players who came out early will make more than the minimum this year

    Comment by Jokester -

  40. Have to agree with you on this one, Cuban. With the exception of a select few that make an immediate impact, i.e. Lebron James, the high school preps who make the jump to the NBA without going to college waters down the talent big time! Thats why I think no one cares for to make a big deal of the NBA draft like they do for the NFL. Teams rather pick on potential, a kid who can jump out of the gym but cant hit an 18 foot jump shot looks for of an intriguing project than a player who went to college and developed his skills. Case in point, you guys had the steal in the draft last season by picking Josh Howard. Cant remember what pick it was, but I know every team who missed on their prep star who isnt named Lebron has to be kicking itself! Hell for that matter, Marquis Daniels looks like a star in the making. Make these rookies earn thier salary like football players do, and college basketball will once again be great!

    Comment by Go Spurs Go! -

  41. 20. Speedy Claxton – Adequate starter
    was included in 2 trades, spurs let him leave. Original team would not have guaranteed contract, but he worked his way to being decent

    21. Morris Peterson – Solid reserve
    original team will not resign, would not have guaranteed his contract

    22. Donnell Harvey – Competent reserve
    trade fodder multiple times, playing for minimum. Teams had chance to extend him, none did

    23. DeShawn Stevenson – Competent reserve
    trade fodder, contract was not extended

    24. Dalibor Bagaric – Washout
    25. Jake Tsakalidis – Competent reserve
    trade fodder, contract was not extended

    26. Mamadou N’Diaye – Out of league
    27. Primoz Brezec – Joined NBA a year early, end of bench
    28. Erick Barkley – Washout
    29. Mark Madsen – Competent Reserve
    agree, decent reserve, original team didnt resign, he signed with Twolves for the minimum.

    I’m willing to bet at least six of those guys play in the NBA next season.

    all but 1 for the minimum salary. Which to me says that teams would not have guaranteed their salaries in their rookie contracts.

    How about 1999:
    20. Dion Glover – Decent reserve
    trade fodder, bounced team to team

    21. Jeff Foster – Adequate starter
    22. Kenny Thomas – Solid starter
    23. Devean George – Quality reserve
    24. Andrei Kirilenko – All-Star

    25. Tim James – Out of league
    26. Vonteego Cummings – Out of league
    27. Jumaine Jones – Decent reserve
    original team didnt resign. didnt get off bench this year

    28. Scott Padgett – Competent reserve
    bounced from team to team signing for the minimum

    29. Leon Smith – Did play in the NBA, but only on a 10-day

    Comment by Jokester -

  42. I got a minor league for these rookies. Its called the WNBA. There are a lot of women players with better fundamentals then some of these rookies in the NBA. Maybe the rookies could learn something from them. It would increase WNBA ratings as well as teach these fools how to play.

    Comment by pHace -

  43. Not sure if you read my post wrong but I posted that the age restriction would be upheld by the USC. The Wood case is important but more important is Brown v. NFL. It reaffirms and expands the Wood ruling. I really don’t know how Schiendlin could in good conscience totally disregard all labor law in order to rule for Clarett originally. It was interesting to see that the court of appeal panel just drilled Clarett’s attorney, Milstein at oral argument before they issued the stay. I would be shocked if clarett won at any other level of his case. The case is a loser and I feel bad that his attorney wasn’t upfront with him and told him so before he put himself on the line.

    Comment by Justin -

  44. “Four year contracts means teams that draft in the 20-29 multiple years, perennial playoff teams, probably have 3 of their last 4 draft picks taking up roster space. Or they traded those picks as throw-ins and they are taking up space on other rosters.”

    Like Josh Howard?

    As the previous poster says, there’s a simple answer to not giving away guaranteed contracts to players with uncertain futures — don’t draft them. If teams did a better job of finding players like Howard whose NCAA statistics portended NBA success, then there would be no issue whatsoever.

    The most recent draft to finish all four years of their rookie contracts (of course only three are guaranteed) was the 2000 Draft. Let’s look at picks 20-29:

    20. Speedy Claxton – Adequate starter
    21. Morris Peterson – Solid reserve
    22. Donnell Harvey – Competent reserve
    23. DeShawn Stevenson – Competent reserve
    24. Dalibor Bagaric – Washout
    25. Jake Tsakalidis – Competent reserve
    26. Mamadou N’Diaye – Out of league
    27. Primoz Brezec – Joined NBA a year early, end of bench
    28. Erick Barkley – Washout
    29. Mark Madsen – Competent Reserve

    I’m willing to bet at least six of those guys play in the NBA next season.

    How about 1999:
    20. Dion Glover – Decent reserve
    21. Jeff Foster – Adequate starter
    22. Kenny Thomas – Solid starter
    23. Devean George – Quality reserve
    24. Andrei Kirilenko – All-Star
    25. Tim James – Out of league
    26. Vonteego Cummings – Out of league
    27. Jumaine Jones – Decent reserve
    28. Scott Padgett – Competent reserve
    29. Leon Smith – Did play in the NBA, but only on a 10-day

    Even giving you Smith, in a draft that was perceived as top-heavy, seven of ten played past their rookie contracts. Looks like seven of ten in ’98 to me as well.

    Future drafts may provide different results, but for now the evidence doesn’t seem to support your conclusion.

    Comment by Kevin Pelton -

  45. but then i thought about it, and not guaranteeing a contract would obviously help owners, but all it is doing is protecting them from their mistakes. the only real way to fix the problem is start being smart about the way you draft. if you want to make a difference as an owner, tell your gm you only want to draft juniors and seniors. as long as teams are going to tell players like sebastian telfair that if he’s available when its their turn to pick they will take him, what else is the kid going to do? of course he’s going to go in the draft. the problem starts with the scouts and general mangers who take these guys hoping to find the next garnett or kobe, so they mortgage their own forseeable future just because the high schooler *might* be good.

    Comment by joe -

  46. Well, first I think the idea is solid, but probably not perfect.

    I like the idea of making guys work for their pay, no matter what the job. The idea here is you get people who have a better work ethic, and put in the hours to get into the NBA. Further, the oens who don’t make it are farmed in the new, and growing, NBDL. Finally, veterans, who owners and coaches know, and can rely on (even if marginally talented) get a chance to play, and get contracts for playing.

    But I am not sure it makes the owners job easier. Now they have to decide whether to pick up a veteran, whose minimun contract is more than a rookie, or find a good prospect and let him rid ethe pine for awhile. While this is a good idea for the fans, who get to see a person when they are ready and can be exciting, and is good for the league, cutting down on players who can’t play, it does create ownership problems.

    Also, kids still, I think, would come into the league, and still eb enticed to do so by the agents. Except now an agent would do that to a number of kids, to make up in volume what they are losing in the coming years. And that agent would lie to more kids, telling them they are good enough to make it, or they have connections, or whatever else they need to hear to enter the draft. this is worse case scenario stuff here, but agents, by and large, are NOT looking out for anything but pocket books.

    Perhaps, and this is as hypothetical as anything else, an age limit, and a resriction on contracts, would work together very well. A couple years of college is enough to get an associates degree in business, and at least then these young players would be able to see the money for what it was, instead of a pie in the sky dream. Further, a few years of maturation wouldn’t hurt them, emotionally or in game play, and would help the league as well. Finally, if only the top ten draft picks are guarenteed contracts, or the top X are guarenteed two year deals, then it lessens the burden on a franchise, but makes the top picks worth having.
    Then, perhaps, those same kids that are promised “top thirty spots” will work hard enough, in college hopefully, to become top ten, and get paid.

    Of course, the bottom line here may be that the NBA can make money hyping rookie phenoms, and the younger they are, the more interested people will be to watch them. That means it is still attractive to get them in, regardless of whether they can play, and then forget them if they cannot. Sadly, a breakdown story gets as much press as a feel good story, and until that changes, these changes may not make a difference.


    Comment by Joshua Page -

  47. Mark isnt talking about the guy who have made it. The players you mentioned are all the exception, the small handful. And even if those guys had gone to college they would still be in the league because they are talented enough to make the cut as we have seen by all their performances this year. Those guys earned their salary this year. We are talking about the guys who didnt make it. All of the guys you mentioned were basically top 5 picks guaranteed so they arent an element in this conversation.

    Comment by Rickey Di Dio -

  48. That is a good idea ALTHOUGH if the contracts werent guaranteed the NBA might have missed out on great rookies like Kevin Garnett,Tracy McGrady, LeBron and Carmelo. Because they would be too afraid to go out for the NBA because of the risk. And would have waisted their talents and went to college. We wouldnt have had the current MVP that we have now or the Nuggets might not have made it to the playoffs this season. The NBA would be a much different place

    Comment by Cameron -

  49. Basketball would be better served if the NBA had their own minor league. Most high school kids are not ready for the job, but the opportunity cannot be denied to all.

    There has to be a fair system that gives younger players a chance to go. Yes, practice in the pros is not the same. There are more games. Atheletes have to learn how to take care of their bodies.

    We all know what happens when agents and colleges misuse young players (i.e. Ronnie Fields). But then we look at players like Kevin Garnett (ex Fields teammate). To great talents of equal ability. One makes it, the other does not. Money is a funny thing. And what happens when people fail in pursuit of it is catastrophic.

    The NBA needs to do a better job of grow high schoolers kids and underclassmen who who jump into the NBA. I am also reminded of Bobby Hurley and many others. Who face suffering injury and have no way of easing back into the game.

    A minor league would not only benefit younger players, but older players as well. Let’s face it, a vet cannot leave the NBA go play in Europe after an injury and then comeback. Again, a minor league would benefit all. Isiah Thomas had the right idea when he tried to sell the CBA to the league.

    Comment by Zucker Sports Management Group -

  50. Aren’t the international leagues and European leagues considered minor league ball? I agree with everything you said Mark. I went through this process but in another sport. Going from high school to college is a major step; I don’t care how good you are. I had a try out for the Cincinnati Reds between 10th & 11th grade, in Rome actually. They kept their eye on me as I came back to the states and played two years of high school ball and then went to college. College ball was a totally different level of excellence, conditioning & training, and really teaches you how to become a “Real” athlete. There are so many things you learn about exercising, taking care of your body, the right nutrition, rest, and healing from injuries. Competing at the college level really makes you get serious about becoming an athlete.

    After that being drafted and going to a pro team is much easier. It is comparable to the jump from high school to college, but I cannot imagine, not for the life of me jumping from high school to the major league in baseball. Not only was my body not ready nor was my ability to understand how to take care of myself but the most important thing was my mind was not ready.

    This is really the biggest issue of all. I want everyone out there to remember what it was like to go from high school to going to college your freshmen year, living away from home, doing your own laundry and being responsible for all the new things that happened the first month living away from home. Rooming with someone, learning to keep your place clean, realizing you could go partying anytime you wanted and didn’t really have a curfew, staying at girls apartments, and having them stay over all night. It was a totally freeform experience and you needed to learn to set boundaries to be able to go to class the next day, practice, workout, clean your dorm room or apartment, study, and then start all over again. Now imagine trying to go directly to the major league or the NBA and be around professional athletes, professional sports groupies, and all that those things entail, along with being paid millions of dollars, while trying to learn to set those same boundaries. Sorry, for most 18 year old kids that have great potential, handling the self realization of time management, sex management, self management is impossible.

    I don’t think they should let college athletes be available for the draft of any professional sport until after their Junior year or after they turn 21. Even then I think they should have some special training regarding handling some of these things much better then currently have (they have this but it really sucks as is).

    Comment by WM -

  51. Sorry, but I think that the real solution is to remove the rookie salary cap. The reason that kids are entering early is so that their (now) four low-salary years are their least productive, and that they have no cap thereafter. Putting an artificial ceiling based on number of years in the league means that graduating seniors can not earn as much at age 22 as high schoolers who came out early can earn at age 22. If you don’t believe that this is the problem, look at the correlation of its implementation and the number of high schoolers and underclassmen in the draft.

    Note that I don’t think Mark, unlike most owners, is not arguing against the removal of a salary cap out of cheapness because he has shown willingness to spend, to say the least.

    Guaranteed salaries are a red herring. Football doesn’t have guaranteed salaries and underclassmen are fighting in court to get in anyway.

    Justin: Did your paper take into account Wood v. NBA? Most experts agree that it is the correct case (judge winter had taught labor, antitrust, and the intersection of the two at Yale Law School, so its not likely incorrect), and it would decide against Clarett.

    Comment by Adam Gilbert -

  52. Why not pay kids to play ball at college, it doesn’t have to be much but it would help kids get by, i get the feeling a lot of these hoopsters are probably just making a dash at the money because they have gone through a lot of hardship to get where they are and aren’t really sold on the idea of being poor and having to go to school for another 1-4 years

    Schools sell tickets, merchandise and win big prize pools, why dont they give something back to the players that make that possible

    Comment by Aaron Clarkson -

  53. I understand your point of view, but I am just not sure it would totally work. Every system has flaws. It takes time for players to develop.

    I am reminded of Jerry Krause’s approach and what happened to the Bulls. Something needs to be done, but I just don’t thing it needs to be that. Maybe the NBA needs a minor league. Everybody would win. The players still get to develop and focus solely on their traits, and the Union keeps the guaranteed countracts.

    Comment by Zucker Sports Management Group -

  54. Thank you very much for blogging Mark Cuban. And a special thank you for the reader comments. Reader comments are the best part of the blog. Thank you for your courage and your leadership. I would like to see you blog about who you are supporting for President and why. Keep on blogging Mark Cuban.

    Comment by Doug Kenline -

  55. Hi Mark,

    Great blogging — keep it up. I like your idea, like most others I hadn’t thought of any options beyond an age-limit. I do think that the league ought to maintain a rookie pay-scale, so that if a team does sign their pick for any of the first four years, their salary is fixed and contract squabbles can’t occur. In some sports (e.g. NHL) this is really important because there is a long history of players holding out for trades to their favourite team, for more money, etc.

    One other modification I’d make to your plan is to ensure that rookie contracts are “full-year guaranteed”. That is, if a team signs a draftee sure they can cut him at year end, but they can’t just cut him after training camp when he looks like a dud. That should make teams more careful about their drafting in the first place, and also protect those people who come out of college before they are ready *because* they get a draft guarantee from being dumped after a few weeks when the team makes a mistake. If a team guarantees, they should have to stick with it for a year: the guy staked his future on it, after all.

    Comment by Itatsumaki -

  56. With all things that reach an agreement, there has to be a medium on the topic. Someone mentioned how players would hold out without guaranteed contracts, but theres another way around it. There should be set values without having to guarantee the length. Im 21 and was a visiting team ballboy 2 years for an NBA team here in TX so I got to see first hand how poor of skills and work ethic these young guys have. I always admired the players who recognized the NBA as a job and would work on their craft the minute they got off the early bus at the arena instead of worrying about will-call tickets and how much whataburger and pizzas they can get at halftime. It was nice seeing guys wanting to get better. By the way, Mark probably used the name “leon” in reference to leon smith. Ndubi Ebi should have went to Arizona and Kendrick Perkins should have went to Memphis. Anybody with eyes for “talent” and not for potential can see that both of these guys had serious flaws. Ebi is about 50 lbs too small to compete and Perkins is too slow and doesnt have the real postman moves. Pete Newell should do the kid a favor and pick him up at the airport.
    If we take a look at contributions from this past years first round a few stats come to mind. 6 players didnt play enough minutes the ENTIRE season to equal a complete game. 1 doesnt even have a page on The 15 guys(half the round) who played less than 1000 minutes averaged as a whole: 3.5 min/game. Only 6 guys averaged at least half a game for the season and they were all in the top 10. Only 2 of those 6 made it to the playoffs(hey we play in the nba for a reason right?). 8 more players logged enough minutes to equate to at least 1 qtr/game. So if you made it through all the boring numbers you can come to the conclusion that for most young guys the dream isnt to be good enough to actually PLAY in the nba but just good enough to get PAID in the nba. Because after all, if their family was in that much need for money couldnt their family get a job while that young athlete uses his talent to become the first person in their family to get a degree?

    Comment by Rickey Di Dio -

  57. Sometimes I don’t agree with you, Mark, but this time I do strongly…

    Bring back Cedric Ceballos!!!

    Comment by Alexander Mo -

  58. something like this should have been implemented long long long ago!

    Comment by vanlandw -

  59. didn’t the nba have non guaranteed contracts before, but the main problem became that players that were drafted would have contract standoffs with their teams so they could get a more lucrative offer? (correct me if i’m wrong on this)

    kind of like what we see now with some NFL players nowadays.

    Comment by larry h -

  60. You’re right. I cannot believe there are what? over 6 high school kids entering the draft this year. Who in the world would want these guys? What makes them think they can hang with men? Do you know how easy it is to dominate 5’10” white kids when you’re a 6’9″ monster? It’s really not that hard. Honestly, unless you’re Lebron you don’t know NOTHING about basketball until real college coaches teach you a lil something about the game. Just look at Charlie Villanueva. That guy was all talk coming out of high school. He was thinking about entering the draft and when scouts looked at him, they LAUGHEd. He didn’t even start for Connecticut this year. You really can’t rate someone out of high school until they play kids of their same talent. You just don’t know how they’ll play under the extreme pressure.

    I DONT CARE if sean livingston is 6’7″. Would you rather give him the ball in crunch time, or BEN “Flash” GORDON? BEN GORDON of course. Experience is everything, especially experience against GOOD TALENT!

    Comment by David Chen -

  61. I think there is something your mssing though. I’ve always thought this all along and agree with the age restriction, but as mark says, “don’t have guaranteed contracts”, OK, thats fine but what about endorsements. Hell they make more on those on average than the NBA salary. I cuold be wrong, but didn’t Lebron have 100 million in his pocket before playing an NBA game.

    Comment by John -

  62. You know why your idea has not been implemented? It is because it is logical and the ‘smart’ thing to do. Most corporations are run in such a manner. (And the NBA is run like a corporation.) They tend to do things that make no sense, and the really good ideas slip through the cracks. But hopefully someone will listen to your this one.

    Comment by Stephen -

  63. I like your thinking Mark. I’ve always been a strong believer in an age requirement of 20 because that’s the only logical thing I could think of to keep the younger players out. I hate teams that draft on potential.

    If teams want to see an improvement you can’t rely on potential. Guys like Ndudi Ebi who routinely airball shots in warm-ups. I’m in the crowd watching and wondering how a skinny scrawny kid airballing 3’s made it to the league. It’s just ridiculous in my opinion.

    If I’m a GM/Owner in the league, I’d want my team to be successful. I just don’t see how teams like the Bulls and Clippers are going to be good if they keep relying on potential. Sometime someday maybe they’re realize that they need to prepare for now because unless they do that, their future won’t mean squat.

    Comment by Brian -

  64. Eliminating the “guarantee” clause in the contract would create so much pressure for NBA players to stay in shape and improve their game. What a concept: the NBA would be more entertaining.

    We have come a long way from the pre-Cuban Maverick days of Jim Jackson holdouts and rediculous contracts of the Glen Robinsons of the world.

    You get my vote. Any decision to make the NBA even more entertaining is best for all 3 parties (players, owners and fans).

    (PS-thanks for the MFFL permission!)

    Comment by justjump -

  65. I still don’t think it would cut down on so many people foolishly leaving early or teams foolishly drafting strictly on potential (rather than actual production). So many guys have their mind made up that they can play that it doesn’t matter how many people tell them that they aren’t ready or would go higher in the next year. I love that some of the guys declaring really think they are going in the first round despite the fact that the number of early entrants declared is so far over the number of first round picks that it’s not even possible for half the early entrants to go in the first round. The guy who just left his JC instead of going to Louisville is a perfect example. He’s quoted as saying I probably am making a dumb decision but I’m gonna make it anyway even though I know it’s dumb and everyone is telling me it’s dumb.

    From an owner’s perspective I can see why not guaranteeing the contracts is an attractive idea but I still think the way to go is an age limit.

    Once the Court of Appeals and ultimately the USC rules in favor of the NFL in the Clarett case, and after writing a paper on it last semester I’m damn near certain they will, an age restriction won’t even give teams the option of drafting projects (at least not projects under 20). It also opens the door for creating a viable minor leagues that has a draft of under 20 players who can choose to get paid to play instead of going to college. The league can build stars through the minors and through the NCAA and allow the players to weed themselves out at a much cheaper cost.

    Comment by Justin -

  66. Why does the guy have to be named ‘Leon?’

    Comment by James Oliveira -

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