Adam Silver has long said that he wants to change the NBA’s draft age limit to 20. Adding another year on the age limit means players will have more experience, more conditioning, better skills, and maybe most importantly, be more mature. It means less teaching of fundamentals and less babysitting. The league is pretty uniform from a team perspective in thinking that’s the best option.
But with the league and players’ union in advanced talks towards a new CBA to avoid a 2017 lockout, it appears that Silver understands this probably won’t be changed in the short-term. From a Q&A with Bloomberg News:
Early on, you talked about one of your top priorities being moving the minimum age for players up from 19 to 20 years old. Is that still something you want?
It’s still something I care a lot about. I’m also a realist. Given that Michele has said her preference would be for an 18-year-old minimum age, my sense is that it’s not something that’s going to change in the short term. And by the way, I’ve always said I understand the other side of the issue, about a young man’s opportunity to make a living. But my view has always been that we’d be a better league if players came into the draft at 20 instead of 19.
So that pretty much closes the door on that, and it’s a wise decision by Silver to not press on the issue. It’s not worth a work stoppage, not worth harming the cash cow the league has created. It’s a wishlist item, not a need.
What it does mean, though, is that there may not be changes to the NBA D-League ever. There has been talk of moving the age limit while also strengthening the D-League so that if a player was academically ineligible they could then go to the D-League and earn a decent living (currently the best players earn less than $30,000 a year) while honing their skills. If the age limit isn’t coming, there could be minimal changes to the D-League structure, which would help the league way more than an age limit would.
Interestingly, several NBA coaches have commented that college is actually where players fail to learn many of the skills they need for the NBA. The perimeter-heavy over-passing, the use of zone, there’s just a lot in college basketball that fails to translate. So it’s unclear whether another year would really help in terms of basketball concerns.
Still, Silver clearly remains attached to the idea. Don’t be surprised if this becomes an issue down the line, even if Silver’s not willing to make it a hill to die on in the CBA talks.