NBA reportedly considering major change to draft eligibility rules
Former Celtic Amir Johnson had the distinction of being the answer to one of the most popular sports trivia questions – ‘who was the last NBA player drafted directly out of high school?’ Johnson was the ninth of nine players drafted directly out of high school in that draft in 2005, going 56th overall to the Detroit Pistons. Martell Webster (6th overall, Blazers), Andrew Bynum (10th overall, Lakers), Gerald Green (18th overall, Celtics), C.J. Miles (34th overall, Jazz), and Monta Ellis (40th overall, Warriors) were also high schoolers drafted that year, the final draft before a new NBA collective bargaining agreement raised the minimum draft age to 19, requiring players to play at least one year collegiately or oversees before being eligible to be selected.
With a new CBA currently in the works though, that class may soon lose the status as the final group of ‘prep-to-pro’ NBA players. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, “the league and NBPA are expected to agree on moving the age eligibility for the NBA Draft from 19 years old to 18, clearing the way for the return of high school players who want to make the leap to the NBA.” Charania adds that this change could be put into place as soon as the 2024 NBA Draft.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 23: NBA commissioner Adam Silver announces a pick by the San Antonio Spurs during the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 23, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
This revision doesn’t come as much of a surprise, even if it is 17 years in the making. Back in July during his annual press conference during league meetings, NBA commissioner Adam Silver voiced his support for the change. “I think there’s an opportunity [to change it],” he said at the time, via ESPN. “”It’s [based on] larger conversations than just whether we go from 19 to 18, but I’m on record: When I balance all of these various considerations, I think that would be the right thing to do and I am hopeful that that’s a change we make in this next collective bargaining cycle, which will happen in the next couple years.”
Silver went on to say recent developments such as NIL deals and “societal changes” helped him and the league reach this point. “It may be the case that it’s in all of our interests that we start impacting with these young players, especially because in our sport they are identified at such a young age,” he noted at the time, “and begin working with them on their development then, not just basketball skills but increasingly there’s a focus on their mental health, their diets, just helping them build character and all of the important values around the sport.”
The NBA Draft isn’t the only thing that could change with the new CBA – which is set to replace the current deal that has a mutual opt-out date of Dec. 15 this year. Luxury tax penalties are also a focus, which Charania calls “be arguably the biggest issue to resolve in the next CBA.” He notes having a hard cap would be “a non-starter for the NBPA,” but stiffer luxury tax penalties are “a point of emphasis for the league and some team governors.”
Another topic of discussion has been adding a mental health designation to the injury report, which would be used similarly as when players are dealing with physical injuries. This comes after Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons missed last season due to mental health issues. Other NBA players such as Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have been very vocal about raising mental health awareness.
Through Charania, NBPA Tamika Tremaglio says she “remains optimistic” the new deal will get done in time. The 2022-2023 NBA season begins on October 18.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.