NBA: How Many Years of College Basketball Do the Best Players Need?

Source: Brent Soderberg (bikeride) / Flickr Creative Commons

Since 2006, when the National Basketball Association raised its eligibility from 18 to “one year removed from high school,” there have been murmurs that the league would want to bump it up even further. Commissioner Adam Silver said so himself, describing it as the NBA’s top priority as recently as two months ago. Cynically speaking, the only reasons to follow through with this are to bolster the bleeding ranks of the NCAA, which has criticized the NBA’s current policy of encouraging a one-and-done mentality among its students, and to alleviate draft pressure on the 30 professional basketball teams that make up the league by restricting the potential pool of players.

That is to say, an 18-year-old wunderkind can turn into a 19-year-old bullet best dodged very easily, and keeping eligibility down helps NBA general managers pick more seasoned prospects, which help them keep their jobs. No one wants to draft the next big draft bust, and while some of them — think Greg Oden — have enough talent for the No. 1 spot but don’t have the durability to match, the other half are players that just aren’t meant for the NBA.

An astute GM can hedge the bets and roll the dice on players that are red flagged and get lucky from time to time. FiveThirtyEight has brought up Jared Sullinger as one of the players with top five talent that ended up going in the back end of the first round. Nate Silver looked into the best time for an NBA team to draft currently eligible players and what that might mean for the league going forward.