The NBA has submitted to the National Basketball Players Association a formal proposal that will lower the draft-eligible age to 18 from 19. The NBPA and its executive director, Michele Roberts, plan to review the proposal Monday at a post-All-Star weekend meeting in the Bahamas.
The league and union have had informal discussions about lowering the age limit, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on record saying the current 19-year-old age limit is not working for the league or college basketball.
This is the first step in formal negotiations to lower the age limit by the 2022 draft. The issue is collectively bargained between the NBA and NBPA, and both sides need to agree to any rule change.
The timing of the proposal is coincidental in relation to Duke star Zion Williamson’s injury, but his injury re-ignited the debate about one-and-done college players who may otherwise enter the draft after high school rather than spending a season in college and bypassing millions of dollars.
At the July NBA owners’ meeting, Silver told reporters: “My personal view is that we’re ready to make that change. … When I’ve weighed the pros and cons, given that Condoleezza Rice and her Commission (On College Basketball) has recommended to the NBA that those one-and-done players now come directly into the league, and in essence the college community is saying we do not want those players anymore. That sort of tips the scale in my mind that we should be taking a serious look at lowering our age to 18.”
Why the 2022 draft? The league wants to give teams ample time to prepare for the change, and with the NBA submitting a proposal to the union now, it’s clear it would prefer to reach an agreement, or at least a framework of the deal, in the next few months.
As is the case in CBA negotiations, obstacles remain. ESPN reported in October that the NBA wanted agents to provide medical reports on players and mandate attendance and some participation in the draft combine. That would give teams more information to make better selections in the draft. There is some pushback from agents to divulge information, but teams may not be willing to draft a player out of high school without a physical.
But the union is not opposed to lowering the age limit, and in July, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told reporters, “Stay tuned … I suspect that we’ll have some news in the next few months.”
Both sides seem willing to get a deal done, and there is confidence it will get done. Even though the CBA doesn’t expire until the end of the 2023-24 season, both sides can agree to amend rules before then.
Image: NBA commissioner Adam Silver during 2019 All-Star Weekend.