The Pistons' Andre Drummond spent a year in college before jumping to the NBA. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — A hot-button topic in NBA locker rooms, perhaps more there than in any other professional sport, is the issue of age limits.
Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion believes new commissioner Adam Silver should go a step beyond the current rule, which states players should be out of high school for at least one full year before entering the NBA draft.
“I think the age requirement for coming into the league should be higher,” Marion told the Dallas Morning News. “It should be at least two years (out of high school).”
Marion, 35, said players should learn the “A’s and B’s” of basketball at the collegiate level, so players will be more experienced and coaches can do less teaching.
“I think that college experience helps develop them, so when they come here we don’t have to try to develop them,” he said.
Reaction to Marion’s idea in the Pistons locker room was mixed.
“It’s tricky man, because do I think it would be good for the league and the players? Yeah,” Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said. “But I also feel if you can serve in the military at 18, you should earn a living at 18. It’s a double-edged sword for me.”
Billups, like Marion, is an elder statesman in a league that seems to get younger by the year. Billups entered the NBA as a 20-year old with two years of college experience. Marion went to junior college for two years and UNLV for one before reaching the NBA in 1999 as a 21-year old.
“I’m not sure (more time) would have helped,” Billups said. “My maturity level was ready, 1,000 percent ready. My game wasn’t up to par yet. But being mature and working my behind off, that was never an issue for me. It was for the first time, I was playing against guys better than me. Bigger, stronger, faster. It took awhile to adjust to that.”
The issue comes at a peculiar time for the league, considering so many teams are allegedly tanking in the attempt to get better positioning for this June’s draft, which many feel will be the best in over a decade.
The players teams hope to obtain, such as Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, wouldn’t be eligible if Marion had his way. But contrary to popular opinion, the old rule, which allowed high schoolers to enter the draft, brought more successes than outright failures.
“I don’t think guys should wait one year. That’s my personal opinion,” said Pistons forward Josh Smith, who entered the NBA out of high school in 2004. “What if something were to happen in college and you commit to the wrong program? You end up in a bad situation where your stock goes down. You’re playing for free, No. 1, and all you have is a year of education.”
“Now they have it in college where you’re not guaranteed a full ride. If they’re not satisfied with your play, they can just drop your whole scholarship. You won’t have anything, you’ll be back at home.”
Smith acknowledges it’s a “delicate situation” for the league, which has to protect its product on the floor. He said he doesn’t believe a ban on younger players would be airtight even if it were bargained into the next collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s always a loophole around rules,” said Smith, in reference to Brandon Jennings spending a year in Europe as opposed to going to college. “But I don’t want guys to do that. It shouldn’t be a limit on a person’s dream.”
Smith didn’t include football players among the sports that shouldn’t have an age rule, because of the physical nature of that game, but believes everything else is fair game.
“Baseball players can go to the minors or the majors,” Smith said. “Tennis players, golfers, actors, actresses. If you’re (good) enough to hang with the big dogs, I think you should get an opportunity and it shouldn’t be a limitation.”