The NBA season tips off tonight and as part of the league’s preseason media tour, commissioner Adam Silver was on Mike and Mike yesterday morning to promote the 2017-2018 campaign. In the interview, the trio discussed a number of topics (or at least I assume they did. I haven’t listened to Mike & Mike in years), and as usual, one of the topics that was eventually discussed was the one-and-done rule.
Of course it was.
The removal of the one-and-done has become Silver’s pet project, his personal crusade, the number one thing on his to-do list, even as the league enters a season with its greatest imbalance ever (barring injury, there is only one team that can win the championship). After all, who cares about stars joining forces or NBA players sitting out big games, when we can instead worry about an 18-year-old point guard being forced to spend a single season in Lexington, Durham or Tucson, right? Won’t someone please think of the children?!
Silver is thinking about the children, and in a vacuum I have no problem with it. He’s the NBA commissioner. It’s his league and his rule and he has every right to alter the rules as he sees fit. If he wants the best players to be able to enter the NBA out of high school, or put them in some kind of developmental program at 5, 10 or 15-years-old, so be it.
No, that’s not where my issue with Silver lies. Instead, my issue with Silver is this: In the midst of trying to make the argument against the one-and-done rule, he continues to twist facts and make up lies to prove his points. If Silver just wants the rule gone (likely to help beef up the D-League, which the NBA has invested millions in) that’s fine. But just say it. Don’t twist facts and alter the truth to hammer home the point.
Only that’s exactly what he’s doing, which is why I decided to write today, because if no one will call Silver on his B.S., I will. If he’s going to implement a rule which will fundamentally alter every level of basketball, and eventually impact hundreds of families let’s at least get the facts out there. Since no one else is willing to do it, I will.
Truthfully, my beef with Silver started back in the spring, when he went on my buddy Colin Cowherd’s show and began his smear campaign against the one-and-done rule. You may remember that conversation (if you don’t, the details are here) but in essence, Silver’s biggest argument was this: The one-and-done no longer served its academic purpose, and that players had stopped going to class after one semester. From there, they dropped out of school, only played in games and essentially used their final few months on campus as NBA Draft prep. He used Ben Simmons as an example, one that was highlighted by the documentary that was produced about his one year at LSU.
Now in Silver’s defense, the Simmons was a good example since — as the documentary lays out — Simmons basically did stop going to class after one semester. The problem with using it as an example however was that Simmons is the exception to the rule. He proved Silver’s point, even if there are dozens of other examples of one-and-done guys who’ve come through college basketball and finished their second semester before leaving.
Now, are there rare exceptions like Simmons? Of course, there always are. But you know how I know that Simmons is the exception? Because the NCAA has rules in place to make sure that kids don’t pull the same stunt he did. It’s called the “APR” and if too many kids leave without finishing up their coursework, the school gets punished for it. Therefore, if Silver’s claim that one-and-done players stopped going to class after their first semester was true, than schools like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Arizona would be banned from the NCAA Tournament every single season. Their APR score would be too low.
So basically Silver just flat out lied there — or at the very least manipulated facts to use one extreme example to prove his point — then he went ahead and doubled down on Mike & Mike yesterday. To be blunt, it’s so bad, I don’t even want to call it “lies.” Instead it’s just uneducated and misinformed and insulting to anyone who understands the basics of college basketball.
Silver’s points boiled down to a couple of key elements.
The first was his reaction to the latest FBI scandal, in which he said the system is “clearly not working for the college game.” First off, considering how uneducated Silver is on all things related to college basketball it’s probably best he doesn’t speak about the college game at all. In the same way I don’t want to hear Mark Emmert breaking down the Philadelphia 76ers’ salary cap situation, I don’t want Silver talking about what’s working and not working for Duke, Kentucky, LSU or Washington.
Silver later mentioned how the number of one-and-dones is increasing every year, topping out at 16 last year. Again, this is Silver using an extreme example (a once-in-a-generation high school class) to prove his point. Keep in mind, that on average eight one-and-dones are drafted per year. Sixteen is the most ever.
Still, Silver was just getting started, and really picked up steam when he began to make new arguments on behalf of removing the rule. It begins with Silver again using Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz as examples to norms that don’t really exist. Here ya go:
“What’s really interesting to me is the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA draft, Ben Simmons two years ago and Markelle Fultz last year, both played with teams that did not make the NCAA tournament. And I think not enough people are talking about that. That seems to be a sea change in the development of players coming into the NBA.
My goodness, stop it. Silver just twisted that argument so much I need to see a chiropractor after reading it twice.
Understand that Simmons and Fultz aren’t part of a “sea of change” but are instead unique outliers. Simmons ended up at LSU because his Godfather coached there, and Fultz ended up at Washington because they recruited him before he blossomed into a five-star prodigy. Saying they’re part of a “sea of change” would be like me saying that Dirk Nowitzki is part of a “sea of change,” and from now on all the NBA’s best scorers will be 7’0 foot Germans. Stop! It makes no sense.
Also, why is that a legitimate argument to remove the rule anyway? If Simmons and Fultz had gone to Duke and Kentucky instead of LSU and Washington, would that be reason to reconsider? If Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram went No. 1 in their respective drafts (instead of Fultz and Simmons) would the change not be necessary? By the way, I love how Silver mentions that Fultz went No. 1 overall from a non-traditional power, without mentioning that picks No. 2-5 (Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox) in last year’s draft went to arguably the four most successful college basketball programs of all-time.
Forget sea of change. I’m drowning right now in Silver’s sea of lies.
But then, Silver really doubles down on the hyperbole. And this is the part that makes me the most upset. Again, citing Simmons and Fultz as examples (instead of countless others that would make his point moot) Silver discusses how the college game isn’t properly preparing guys for the NBA.
“From our standpoint, if the players in that one year of college aren’t getting the kind of development we’d like to see them get coming into the NBA, aren’t playing in the NCAA tournament, aren’t competing against top-notch competition, I think we have to take a step back and figure out whether we are better off taking those players at a younger age and working on their training and development full time.”
First off, who is to say that they aren’t getting developed? I seem to remember Karl Anthony Towns averaging 18 and 10 as a rookie two years ago. Did the Kentucky staff have no part in that? I also seem to notice that Ben Simmons is one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year this year, even despite the fact that he sat out all of last season. Hmm, must be all that “developing” he did while sitting on the bench and rehabbing last year, and nothing to do with what happened at LSU.
Man, we gotta get rid of the one and done rule. Clearly college isnt properly preparing these guys for the NBA https://t.co/aeiqaYzcKA
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) October 17, 2017
And by the way, who is saying that if the NBA gets their hands on these players at a younger age they will develop them better than the college game? Sure, there are some developmental success stories (Thon Maker and Skal Labissiere last year for example) but there are just as many flops too. How did Anthony Bennett do in the NBA’s developmental system? How about Noah Vonleh? Remember him? What about Jahlil Okafor? Couldn’t I argue that Coach K did more to develop him in nine months at Duke (assuming Okafor still came to practice after the first semester anyway) than the NBA has in three years? I think I could.
As a matter of fact, you know what the most ironic part of Silver’s comments are? Most of the NBA’s best players were…. wait for it… DEVELOPED IN COLLEGE!!!!
Sure there are the one-and-done guys like Kevin Durant, John Wall and Kyrie Irving. But what everyone else?
Steph Curry was a skinny gunner coming out of high school and developed into a lottery pick at Davidson. Same with Klay Thompson at Washington State. Kawhi Leonard developed into a two-way monster at San Diego State, and Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas developed into stone-cold killers at UConn and Washington respectively. Paul George developed from a tools-y high school player to a first rounder at Fresno State and Jimmy Butler a tools-y junior college player to NBA first rounder at Marquette. And I haven’t even mentioned Russell Westbrook (two years at UCLA), Draymond Green (four at Michigan State) or Damian Lillard either.
All of those guys have been All-Stars within the last few years, and — I hate to tell Adam Silver this — it didn’t happen because of the NBA’s magical developmental powers. The foundation was set in college and evolved throughout their time in the NBA.
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. There’s no reason to discuss further, or dig deeper.
Look, if Adam Silver wants to remove the one-and-done, fine. But he needs to stop making up lies to make it happen.
Basketball fans — both in college and the NBA — deserve the truth.
Not some twisted, distorted version of it.
Aaron Torres is covering basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres or e-mail at [email protected]. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”