The injury to Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel -- at worst, a Top 3 pick in next year's NBA draft (at least before last night) -- affirms a tenet around here:
It was cruelly unnecessary and didn't have to happen. Noel would have been a Top 5 pick in last year's draft, but the NBA age limit forced him to college for a year.
The NBA's age limit is, among other things: Arbitrary, anti-competitive, irrational, not in the best interests of the game and certainly not in the best interests of the kid.
As it looks like the NBA has no interest in changing the rule, if I was a one-and-done college player with huge NBA potential, I would skip college anyway and spend the year before the draft working out with the NBA trainers that these kids end up hiring the day after the college season ends anyway.
The real opportunity here is to create a non-profit company, bundle the Top 10 NBA prospects from each high school graduating class, and give them each $500K and a year-long training program featuring the best NBA development coaching staff in the world. I guarantee you that these kids would be more NBA-prepped than any college player -- the college hoops system still revolves around coaches with an overriding incentive to win games, not maximize the professional preparation of each player on their roster.
The only obligation to my non-profit is that over the five-year life of their first NBA deal, they have to "pay forward" $250K -- $50K a year, which is very little, relatively -- into the program to help the next class moving up, plus 1% of the value of their first NBA free-agent deal, also going directly into the program for funding. Between that and corporate sponsorship, the program is self-sustaining.
Now, we see the worst example yet of how awful this rule is: The presumptive No. 1 pick of the draft -- and a clear-cut Top 5 pick a year ago, had he been "eligible" -- hurt in every possible way by a system that forces him to play college basketball for a year before he can enter the NBA.
If I was a one-and-done college player -- or a high school player looking ahead -- I would be very very troubled by what happened to Noel last night. Here is to his full recovery and a long, productive NBA career.