Wrote this a week ago, then shelved it when John Wall said he was going to college and wouldn't test the NBA Draft rules. Then Gary Parrish wrote a column about it on CBSSports.com that is getting all sorts of attention. That'll teach me.
Longtime readers know that I am opposed to the age limit in the NBA draft. (I am for the NFL Draft, too, but that's another story for another day.)
I think the NBA draft age-limit is artificial and virtually meaningless -- and my simple response to anyone who thinks we need to force kids to play college hoops for a year is "LeBron."
The argument is easy: Let the market decide. If a prep kid declares for the draft and goes undrafted, it sends a signal to other prep kids that their best interest is in going to college.
The reason so many preps came out was because the NBA market kept sending signals that it was the right choice to make. More often than not, NBA GMs would evaluate these players and decide that -- yes -- they are most certainly talented enough to be drafted, usually drafted very high.
That brings us to John Wall. Wall is the best player in the prep class of 2009 -- if there was no NBA age-limit, he would certainly be a Top 5 pick of the 2009 draft. Perhaps even the No. 1 overall pick.
(Folks who know Wall's game say he is a better version of Derrick Rose. So there you go. You could draft Blake Griffin, who is sort of like Al Horford -- no slouch, certainly -- or you could draft John Wall, who is sort of like Derrick Rose or Chris Paul. In a league increasingly dominated by great point guards, you can have one of your own.)
Meaning: There is absolutely no question -- even now -- about his NBA potential. You cannot argue in good faith that a player that would be drafted in the first round isn't NBA-worthy. The draft status alone confirms NBA-worthiness.
Here's where it gets interesting: Wall's high school class graduated in 2008. He played this past year as a post-grad; that's why he wasn't on any prep All-America teams.
Does that mean that Wall has effectively cleared the NBA's hurdle that draftees have to be one-year-removed from their high school class graduation?
This may sound familiar: Larry Fitzgerald was a true sophomore when he declared for the NFL draft, arguing that he was 3 years removed from his high-school graduation because he had a post-grad year between high school and college.
Remember: This was when the NFL was obliterating legal challenges to the draft's age limit. And yet the NFL was scared enough by the argument that they called his case an "exception" and quietly welcomed him in.
(Let's also consider that even though Fitzgerald had "only" two years of college experience, he was plenty ready for the pros -- as his draft status and NFL success prove.)
I would imagine the NBA would be similarly scared by a challenge to their draft restrictions, which don't have nearly the historical or logical resonance of the NFL's version.
Besides: If Wall is so good that he would be drafted anywhere from FIRST OVERALL to, say, No. 5 (at the outside), what sort of claim could the NBA have that he NEEDS a year of college development?
I hope Wall challenges the NBA's age-restrictions -- I suspect it wouldn't be much of a challenge. Given the Fitzgerald analogue, I think the NBA would find a way to rationalize Wall's entry.
Oh, and he'd probably end up the No. 1 overall pick -- of the 2009 draft.
(h/t: Mike DeCourcy)