Kentucky has thrived in the one-and-done era under John Calipari, but the recent turbulence in the sport has amplified the calls for change. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been working with the Players Association to open a new route to the league via the G-League and get involved with top talent in high school in hopes of diminishing the influence of the AAU circuit/shoe companies.
A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.
The NBA is focusing on getting involved in two important periods in which they currently have minimal contact with prospects: the high school years and the time between high school graduation and when a young player is physically and emotionally ready to join the NBA.
What does that actually mean? More NBA developmental camps for high school prospects, potentially through a partnership with USA Basketball, and, once they’re out of high school, more lucrative G-League contracts.
The NBA already has created an “in between” for the G League and NBA rosters with two-way contracts, in which players earn the equivalent of $75,000 when in the G League and then earn an NBA minimum salary when with the parent club. A plan to create another version of this could be launched for 18-year-olds that would make it more financially attractive for them to stay in the U.S. and get more NBA-level coaching and training as they prepare to eventually be formally drafted into the league.
Calipari has been a vocal critic of letting kids go to the G-League directly from high school, arguing that it would devalue academics, resurrect the shadiness that brought on the one-and-done rule in the first place, and set up the majority of prospects for failure.
“I believe these kids should be able to go out of high school,” Calipari said at SEC Media Day back in October. “The problem with that is, the NBA then has to go back into putting scouts in high school gyms when kids are juniors. Then I ask you, how healthy is that for these young kids?”
“If you send high school kids to the D-League, how many of them will make the NBA? Give me a number. Five percent? You know that’s too high. Probably two or three percent. What do we do with the ones that don’t make it? Tell me.”
An expanded G-League is probably coming whether Calipari likes it or not, but fortunately, as he reminded us at the start of the season, Kentucky will benefit either way.
“If they say, either go to the D-League/NBA or to college, we’re benefitting. [Players] are going to say, do I go to the D-League, am I ready to be on my own? Or do I go to Kentucky for two years and build my brand and win and be a part of this? I’m going to Kentucky.”