There has been a lot of speculation lately about the NBA possibly implementing a rule requiring a college player to be two years removed from high school before entering the draft. I think it’s pretty obvious what the reasoning behind it is, but as a Kentucky fan, you have to wonder what it means to the program. Besides the initial disappointment of having to drop the catchy “one and done” phrase, you have to ask yourself one question. Is this a good thing for Kentucky?
Well, for what it’s worth, here is the way I see it. The two year rule, by eliminating the early entry factor, basically returns college basketball back to where it was up until the mid-90s, when teams were able to accumulate more talent. By keeping players in school for the mandatory two years, this rule basically lengthens the gap between the mid-majors and majors and the gap between majors and elite teams. Advantage for Kentucky? Without a doubt – provided the talent is brought in to campus.
We’ve seen this rule, to a lesser degree, come into play over the course of the past two years and what it has given us, for the most part, is teams with elite recruiting classes moving to the front of the class. I’d say that this year is probably the best example of what the rule brings to the table, as it had been in effect already for the previous season, allowing for a small gap between the previous era to develop. Obviously, with another year of this rule or with the new two-year rule brought into place, the gap widens and the importance of the solid four-year college players like Hollis Price, Juan Dixon, Steve Novak, Brandon Roy, Erik Daniels, Gerald Fitch, etc. severely trends downward.
This allows coaches who are not great X’s and O’s guys, but great recruiters, like John Calipari and Rick Pitino to load up on talented players that could win the majority of one-on-one battles, hiding their coaching inadequacies. Say what you will about Tubby Smith, but he was ahead of the curve when it came to getting the guys who would be solid college players rather than NBA superstars. That recruiting strategy is what gave him his most successful seasons even though the top 5 recruits and lottery picks were going to the NBA or schools like LSU, Texas and Alabama. With the mandatory year – and even more so with the two-year rule – coaches using that strategy become basically obsolete and landing that star player becomes even more important.
For a perfect example, just take a look at the two sophomores that are leaving little brother for the greener pastures, fat paychecks and oversized chains of the NBA. Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter each had drastically different college careers, but they are both expected to be drafted – and there is a possibility, albeit small, that they could both be in the first round. Neither one even started for the majority of the year. The reason they were still around, for the most part, is because they could not test the draft waters out of high school. Then for varying reasons, they stuck around for a second season, giving the Filthy Cards frontcourt depth that few teams could match.
So, after all of that rambling, what will this mean for Billy Gillispie and the Kentucky program? I’m not absolutely positive, but I think it will help. Gillispie has proven himself throughout his career to be a great recruiter and this system favors that. I’m not knocking his coaching ability whatsoever, but any coach that can throw talent on the court in waves is going to have success. Gillispie has proven that he can get the talent to campus and, with the new rule, it will be sticking around and stockpiling. That’s the type of beautiful thing that hasn’t been seen in Lexington since the late 90s.
So, even though I firmly believe that a man should not be restricted from making a living for two years, I think this rule gives an advantage to programs like Kentucky and coaches like Gillispie. If it does end up coming into play, look for the Cats to be one of the 5-10 programs reaping the biggest gains from it. That is, until these guys realize that they can just go overseas and cash in for two years before coming back here. Then we will have to go back to the drawing board.