MLB, not NBA, has it right to develop young talent

Posted: March 07, 2014

LET'S START by acknowledging that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Southern Methodist University basketball coach Larry Brown have different agendas. But both are looking out for the best interest of their level of basketball.

Earlier this week, Cuban said that top prospects coming out of high school would be better off playing in the NBA's Developmental League rather than going to college for one season before entering the NBA Draft.

On Wednesday, Brown, who has coached in the NBA and college over his nearly 4 decades in the game, said in a radio appearance on 105.1 The Fan in Dallas that Cuban basically did not know what he was talking about.

"I admire [Cuban] and I think he's one of the bright guys we have in our profession," Brown said, "but that was the worst thing I heard.

"They don't teach guys how to play, in my mind. The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of assistants do, but [college basketball] is the greatest minor league system in the world."

Ignoring the fact that Brown, a Hall of Fame coach with 1,198 victories, blatantly contradicted himself by saying the NBA does not teach guys how to play but then followed up by saying that NBA coaches do; the bottom line is that college basketball is not the greatest minor league system in the world, nor is it intended to be.

Major League Baseball has the best minor league system.

In reference to collegiate athletics, football is 100 times better at developing players for the NFL than basketball is for the NBA.

Because of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, football players must be at least 3 years removed from high school before they are eligible to play in the NFL. That means football players spend at least 3 years being taught and developed in college.

Because of that they are inherently more prepared and developed to play in the NFL than a kid who spends one season on a college campus and then jumps to the NBA.

For the sake of streamlining, I'm not going to get into the issues of the social maturity and life-skills development that athletes get by attending college. I want to concentrate solely on development in preparing players to compete at the highest level.

Brown is reflecting on an era of basketball that no longer exists.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when high school kids did not enter the NBA Draft and it was rare for a college student to declare before his junior season was completed. But that all changed in 1995 when future Hall of Fame big man Kevin Garnett became the first player in 2 decades to be drafted into the NBA directly out of high school.

More players with minimal college experience enter the draft each year.

In the 2013 draft, five of the 14 lottery picks were college freshmen. Only three players, Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic, C.J. McCollum of Portland and Kelly Olynyk of Boston spent at least 3 years in college.

If you include international players, 20 of the 30 first-round picks spent less than three seasons in college basketball.

Projections for the 2014 Draft have eight players with one season of college experience going among the 14 lottery picks.

So exactly what kind of teaching is going on in college that Brown is talking about?

Players aren't around college coaches long enough to be taught much of anything.

Next season Brown brings in SMU's highest-rated recruit ever in point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, but let's be honest, how much is Mudiay going to learn about "playing the right way" if he leaves for the NBA after just one season with Brown?

Brown won't even be able to start working with Mudiay until late in the fall and then there will be limited practice hours because of academic requirements to remain eligible. That could not compare to the 24/7 commitment to basketball the D-League would offer if the NBA truly made it about player development.

It would be a better option for players who truly are only interested in basketball and not the educational and social-growth opportunities college offers.

To me, Major League Baseball has it right.

Players who are drafted have the option of going professional or going to college. The ones who sign contracts are sent to a structured minor league system that has the singular purpose of developing them to make it to the big leagues.

Those who opt to accept a college scholarship must stay in college for at least 3 years before being again being eligible to enter the draft.

If the NBA owners and NBA Players Association could collectively bargain for a system like that, it would be ideal.

Draft picks would get their full salaries and lose none of their tenure toward free agency if they are sent to the Developmental League.

That's a win for everyone and would ultimately help the NBA put forth a better product.

"If a kid is good enough, like [LeBron James or Kevin Durant] to come right out of high school, let him go [into the draft]," Brown said. "If you decide to go to school, stay 3 years. Then all these NBA people wouldn't have to keep workout coaches because the kids would be prepared."

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