The unintended consequences of new NBA draft rules

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The unintended consequences of new NBA draft rules

Back in January, the NCAA made a bold move in favor of athletes by pushing back the date that they must remove their name from the NBA Draft to 10 days after the final day of the NBA Combine, as well as announcing that student-athletes may enter the draft multiple times without penalty.

It was a move hailed by those who champion the rights of athletes.

“Most coaches I know really like the opportunity for these guys to be able to find out if they came out, where they would go,” said Central Michigan coach Keno Davis, who also coached Drake and Providence. “So many guys are getting the wrong advice.”

Last season, the NCAA forced players to make a decision by April 16 in order to maintain their eligibility. That date was before the day that the NBA wanted players to make a decision by, which is 60 days prior to the NBA Draft (April 26 last year). This season, the date will be May 25, as the NBA Draft Combine concludes on May 15.

“The rule is a good idea because it provides men’s basketball student-athletes the opportunity to test their dream of going beyond the stage of amateurism into the professional level without completely sacrificing their collegiate career, should they find they are not as prepared as they had hoped for the next level,” said Cody McDavis, a member of the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, at the time of the decision.

But could there be any unintended negative consequences? Perhaps.

“I think one of the unintended consequences of this new rule is we will see more transfers,” said BTN analyst Jon Crispin. “It will be one or two kids who don’t work out and who are encouraged to go elsewhere. It typically will be the guys at the bottom end of the roster. But there always will be space for the elite players.”

It’s a delicate roster balancing act, as anxious coaches watch and wait to see if their players who are testing the NBA draft waters do indeed bolt. In the meantime, do the coaches need to open a scholarship to perhaps fill a void?

“The coaches are dealing with (the new rule),” said Crispin. “But how they are dealing with it isn’t always what is best for the kids. I don’t blame the coaches for that. They are paid a ton of money to win basketball games. And in some ways they are being held hostages by this new rule.”

Davis isn’t sure how to answer the problem of coaches being limbo as they wait on a player’s NBA decision, but he isn’t convinced the new rule will lead to more transfers or guys being run off.

“(Transfers are) a big problem in our game (already),” said Davis. “I don’t know that this will move the needle that much. There will be some instances where a transfer occurs because of this new rule. But I don’t think it will be wide-spread.”

So, what is a coach to do while he waits and wonders if his player who declared for the draft will return or not?

“I don’t know that there is a good answer,” said Davis. “You don’t want to over commit on players, because if a guy comes back from the draft you have to open a spot for him. I have not heard the exact answer to the problem.”

Getting a chance to audition and be evaluated by NBA teams and still retain eligibility is empowering for players and long overdue. Many times, a player just wants input from pros to see what skills he needs to work on—then return to college and hone his game. But perhaps some players will get a taste of what the pros are like during the evaluation process and opt to just go pro—regardless of the type of evaluation he receives.

“Basketball players are like regular students,” FOX basketball analyst Stephen Bardo said. “There are some people who just don’t want to go to class. They may figure they can be a second-round pick or even if they go to the D League, they still are working on their game and getting paid … and it beats going to class. They don’t understand the value of getting that degree.

“There also may be a guy from a tough economic background who is looking to take some pressure off his family.”

The new-world reality that has liberated players to test the draft waters could alter the landscape of college basketball’s future more than many people realize.

“I don’t think the NCAA really thought this thing through,” DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “They said they think it’ll cause guys to return to school. I think it’s going to have the opposite effect. I think the floodgates are going to open. Once you unleash guys and let them into workouts, and agents and training and all of that stuff, I think it’s a slippery slope.

“And I don’t see a lot of guys coming back after that.”

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in coming years. Stay tuned.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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