L.A. Lakers: Jerry West not impressed with highly-acclaimed NBA Draft Class

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NBA LogoHall of Famer Jerry West has done it all in the NBA.  As a player he has won an NBA championship, NBA Finals MVP, 14-Time All-Star, and an NBA scoring champion to name a few.  As an executive he has won four NBA championships and a two-time Executive of the Year recipient. Mr. West has been excellent on the court and in the offices in the NBA; let’s not forget that he is also know as “The Logo” in reference to his silhouette being incorporated into the NBA logo.  So when he says anything pertaining to the sport of basketball, it’s nothing but wisdom that he is speaking.

This week Mr. West caught the NBA Community off guard after his interview with ESPN Radios’ Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Rusillo.  He mentioned that he was unimpressed with this group of college freshman (which consists of Duke’s Jabari Parker, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, ) and that he wouldn’t tank the season in order to try and get one of these players out of the draft.

“And everyone is talking about a great draft class this year, I think it’s just the opposite,” West said, ”I think it’s a poor one myself.”

West’s opinions are down on the NBA as a whole, and he thinks organizations depending on these young players is a major problem that would damage the league for for years.

“Just look at the league — this is the weakest I’ve ever seen this league,” West said. “We are depending on people who go to school for a year to come in and change a sports franchise. Rarely does that ever happen.”

Jerry  West (NY Post)“At one time you could get a branded name. These kids are not branded today. They’re not branded. And by that I mean kids who have played in school for three or four years and [he] comes out and people know who he is. He’s tutored, he’s more mature, more experienced. Those kinds of players come in and make an impact right away. But if you look at some of these kids, it takes about three years for them to get going. And for a team that’s really struggling, you’re selling your fans that this player’s going to make us better. Most of the time it does not happen today.”

Mr. West isn’t the only one he feels this way.  The new NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on the same accord and looking into officially change this exodus into the league.  The Silver era of the NBA began this month, and one of the hot issues on the new commissioner’s docket is the age limit for players entering the league.

The current limit of 19 years old, or one year removed from high school graduation, has resulted in the “one-and-done” spectacle in college basketball. Many college coaches would like to see the eligibility rules change for the professional ranks, and Silver has said that he is hoping to raise the age limit by one year.

In a conversation with USA Today’s Sam Amick, Silver explains his reasoning behind raising the age limit.

The NBA draft age limit has been a hot topic since its inclusion as part of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement between the league and the National Basketball Players Association. The rule stipulates that no player can play in the NBA until he’s been eligible for at least one draft; in order to be eligible for the draft, you must be at least 19 during the calendar year in which that draft takes place, and if you’re an American-born, you have to be at least one year removed from high school.


Adam Silver (USA Today)We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful. And increasingly, I’ve been told by many NBA coaches that one of the issues with the younger guys coming into the league is they’ve never had an opportunity to lead. By having come directly out of their first year of college, those are the moments in their lives where…they were put in positions as upper classmen, where they first learned how to lead teammates. And ultimately, if you look at our most successful teams, they’re successful because they play as a team and I think that’s one of the beauties of this game is that it’s such an interesting mix of team play and at the same time individual (skill).

A team plays together with individual attributes. It’s that blend that teams are always constantly trying to achieve, the perfect blend. Again though, it’s one of those issues (where) it needs to be collectively bargained, and for good reason. It’s something that during collective bargaining the last time, we had lots of discussions about it with the group of players who were representing the union at the time and I think it’s something that we should continue to discuss.

Let me just throw in that at the same time, I think maybe, just to broaden my horizons a little bit, I’m trying to look at it not just from the perspective of the NBA because I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial to the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it’s not terrible for the NBA right now, at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletic director) friends, their view is (that) one and done is a disaster. I think this is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well.

Former commissioner David Stern desired to move the minimum draft-eligibility age up to 20 since 2009, making one-and-done players into two-and-done players, to increase the maturity of the players entering the professional ranks, to give collegians another year to develop their games, and to give the NBA’s 30 teams another year in which to scout young players against “first-rate competition” before having to make decisions on whether to select them in the annual NBA draft, limiting the number of busts in the ranks of young draftees.

Even former and current players, such as Charles Barkley, Steve Kerr, Tracy McGrady and current Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion have expressed a desire to see the league raise the draft-age minimum to 20, or even higher, under the guise of improving the quality of play at the pro level.

I have to agree with the “two-and-done” group.  Players like McGrady, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Moses Malone (players who leaped from high school into the NBA) were just “flash-in-the-pan” individuals who found success in the NBA; just because they were successful doesn’t mean that everybody can travel down the same road.  There’s nothing wrong with staying in school until you are mentally and physically prepared to handle the rigors of the NBA. Ask Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird — players who stayed in school for at least three years and came out to have a Hall of Fame careers.

Moving the age limit from 19 to 20, which I think will pass in the near future, will benefit the player, the NBA, college basketball and the fans by improving the quality of play in many ways, just like Mr. West said.


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