Do you remember Tyrus Thomas? You know, played for the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets? Fourth pick in the 2006 draft? He was always one great season away from putting it all together and turning into the mega-athlete that he truly was. But he, like many others, never did. He was out of the NBA before he even turned 29. He was also the very first college freshman selected after the NBA implemented the infamous “one-and-done” rule that haunts both college and professional basketball to this day and will continue to do so until it is disposed of.
Tyrus Thomas isn’t to blame for this terrible statute; he was the guinea pig. Thomas had a productive season in his lone year as a member of the Louisiana State University Tigers, averaging 12.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game on over 60 percent shooting. He also recorded 99 blocks in only 32 games. He was a superior athletic talent who could fly higher than practically anyone, even at 6-foot-9. It was clear that he would dominate college if given the time, but his inability to work effectively outside of the paint hindered – in hindsight – his NBA potential.
But what if the one-and-done rule never existed? What if we lived in a perfect(ish?) world where players could either go straight to the NBA out of high school, or be required to play at least two years at the collegiate level before declaring for the draft? Tyrus Thomas, for one, would have an entire different career. He was a three-star recruit out of high school but kept growing even once he arrived at LSU. He was never a finished project, but his successful freshman season at LSU was enough to push him towards the draft. He made Second Team All-Rookie in his first NBA season and had his best statistical season in his third season, averaging 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Then the injuries hit. Unfortunately, injuries are (for the most part) unpredictable. It’s hard to perfectly explain how good Thomas would have been had he not suffered a string of injuries, but he would have had to adapt to the new long-range style of play the NBA has become consumed with, which hasn’t panned out well for non-shooters. Thomas clearly wasn’t a draft prospect out of high school, but what if he was allowed the chance to grow into his body in college before being thrusted into the crowd of full-grown professionals who were miles ahead of him?
Let’s take it a step further. What if Ben Simmons never lethargically flopped his way through LSU. Simmons was obviously prepared for the NBA coming out of high school and his time at LSU was essentially a wasted season. Same goes for Markelle Fultz and his Washington team that drastically underperformed. After a decade of this rule, players are seemingly trying to find easier routes to the NBA instead of being able to jump straight to the pros where they belong. This is completely hypothetical, but Simmons may have never broke his foot had he jumped straight to the league and was drafted by another team. This list of one-and-dones is expanding every season and while it has worked for many players (the ones who would have been drafted straight out of high school anyways), there are several who are victims of it. Spencer Hawes, Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph, Jerryd Bayless, Xavier Henry, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Jahlil Okafor. All one-and-dones, all lottery picks and all have drastically underperformed. There has never been a player more ill-prepared for the NBA than Anthony Bennett and while he should have never been a number one pick in the first place, he should have never even left UNLV after one season. The one-and-done rule does help kids get to the pros, but they were likely going to get there anyways, it just took them a year longer than it would have 20 years ago.
Coming to the NBA straight out of high school isn’t a perfect system either (Sebastian Telfair and Darius Miles come to mind), but someone such as Tyrus Thomas would have never even thought about jumping straight to the draft. He needed an extra year or two in college to learn how to grow into the manimal he was becoming. No one-and-done rule would also make the decision much harder in some cases. Going from playing with teenage boys to 10-year veterans is a jump that can rattle you if your name isn’t LeBron James or Dwight Howard (However, money always talks and the NBA has plenty of it). Having one good season in college can be impressive, but even still it’s a small sample size compared to the brute of an entire NBA season. I would argue that you won’t learn how good a player truly is until he plays at least two years in the NBA. College play tells us next to nothing about how good a player will be when they’re 25.
Without the one-and-done rule, does the recent FBI-college basketball scandal, which was the most catastrophic and slimy the NCAA had seen in decades, even happen? If most of the potential NBA talent is already in the NBA, do universities and companies shell out the same type of under-the-table money for lesser recruits? My guess is hell no. Will they still cheat? Of course. That’s what college basketball is. The NCAA is still corrupt and shady shit will still happen. But, specifically, this most recent scandal could have been prevented and it’s going to cost universities money and people their jobs.
Where would this leave colleges? We surely wouldn’t have the John Calipari, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski teams that we’ve seen over the past several seasons – the ones that were built around one-and-dones with incredibly successful results. You could tell from John Wall and Anthony Davis’ first game at Kentucky they were too good for college. On the contrary, the one-and-done rule has made life for Calipari and Krzyzewski that much easier. They don’t need to cheat; they don’t need to find guys who will stick around for four years. They let their pedigree do the talking and the future NBA talent just flows in. This is fun for Kentucky and Duke fans, who have to deal with entirely new teams coming in at the start of every fall, yet still thrive because of an overload of talent. But the teams that do recruit four-year players hardly see the benefits. It takes years (and great timing) to compile college teams good enough to take down a team of future pros, just ask Villanova and Gonzaga (and even they have started to dip into the one-and-done pool).
Reform is on it’s way, however. It’s just a matter of when. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants change. But until it happens, we will have to make due with the system in place.
The post Imagine: A World Where the One-and-Done Rule Never Existed appeared first on Def Pen.