Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The NBA rule would have to be collectively bargained and there’s no reason to think the Player’s Association would give in on such a change.
“The owners are going to have to give the players something before the players agree to the two-year deal,” one former NBA executive told SNY.tv.
Calipari might be long gone from Kentucky by the time such rule could take effect.
Who knows? He could be back coaching the Knicks or some other NBA outfit by that point.
But Calipari, who has had 11 one-and-done players so far during his four years at Kentucky, has already said he favors changing the rule.
“I’m the one guy out there saying we’ve gotta change this somehow,” Calipari told Kentucky Sports Radio in 2013. “We’ve gotta encourage these kids to stay two years. But the NCAA’s gotta do some stuff, and if they don’t do it we need to separate from them. I’m not afraid to say it. Look, they’ve embarrassed me. I’ve done nothing, so they’re not gonna come in, show retribution to me and do stuff. I don’t really care. But something’s gotta change with this one-and-done rule. I seem to be the [only] coach saying anything.”
How might such a change impact Kentucky and some of the other top college programs in America?
For one thing, it might help players who’ve struggled to adjust to the NBA.
For every John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, there are guys like Daniel Orton, Archie Goodwin and Marquis Teague.
While Wall and Cousins have found success in the NBA, Orton, Goodwin, Lamb and Teague have spent extended time in the D-League and/or found themselves playing minor roles for NBA teams.
“They definitely would be better suited for the NBA with two years of college experience,” the former NBA exec said.
This year, seven of the top 10 projected picks in the NBA Draft are college freshmen, according to DraftExpess.com. The eighth is an 18-year-old Australian Dante Exum. The two others are college sophomores — Marcus Smart and Gary Harris.
We’ll have to check back in 3-5 years to see how these guys have adjusted to life in the NBA, but virtually everyone now agrees this draft class was over-hyped and that most, if not all, of these guys would benefit from at least another year in college.
Some, including NBA analyst Greg Anthony, staunchly argue that even presumed No. 1 pick Joel Embiid of Kansas should stay another year to develop.
The same logic certainly applies to less talented freshmen like current Kentucky frosh Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson, players who were initially projected as one-and-done, but now are thought by NBA personnel to need at least two years on campus.
Given the track record of some of his pros, there is a debate about the extent to which Calipari is developing his players at Kentucky, as opposed to just riding their talent in the college ranks.
One current NBA exec said: “The Calparis of the world would actually have to develop players after they recruited them so players may take coaching more into consideration than just superficial reasons when choosing a college.”
Asked if he thought Calipari was developing players, the exec answered rhetorically, “Ask Alex Poythress.”
Still, other NBA types say Calipari is doing a good job developing talent.
“Absolutely, both mentally and physically,” the former NBA exec said.
Added a veteran NBA scout: “John can adapt better than all of them. He will go from one-and-done to the two-year plan and continue to thrive.”
Meantime, a two-and-done rule might mean that schools besides Kentucky, Kansas and Duke would attract some of the elite talent because players want to go where they can play, as opposed to playing behind another elite player.
Case in point: current uncommitted senior big man Myles Turner.
If Embiid opts to stay at Kansas, Jayhawks head coach Bill Self has told Turner he probably should look elsewhere instead of coming to the same team Embiid is on.
If there were a two-and-done rule, Embiid would still be at Kansas in 2014-15, as would Andrew Wiggins, which might then have a carryover impact on a guy like Kelly Oubre, who was recruited to Kansas to take over Wiggins’s role.
The same logic would apply to other one-and-done-type talents and their schools, such as Julius Randle at Kentucky and Aaron Gordon at Arizona.
“I think Kentucky, Kansas and Duke may not reload every year like they do now because players will stay for two years,” the former NBA exec said. “Other top colleges may get some of these top recruits because of the two-year requirement before going into the draft.”
For now, it’s all just speculation and material for Calipari to joke about.
But one day it might just become reality in the basketball world.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.