The NBA is prepared to lower the age of draft eligibility to 18 for the first time since 2006, NBA insider Shams Charania reported.
Beginning with the collective bargaining agreement of 2005, players had to be at least one year removed from high school and turn 19 by the end of that draft’s calendar year to be drafted. This spurred the “one-and-done” era of college basketball in which more high school prospects went to college for a season before turning pro. Now that era may be over as early as the 2024 NBA Draft.
The NBA Players Association and NBA commissioner Adam Silver appear united in wanting to lower the age limit at a time in which court rulings have upheld college athletes’ rights to make money. The NCAA has allowed players to profit from “name and image” rights, and the NBA founded the G League Ignite team two years ago, offering high school prospects up to $500,000 per year to play professionally instead of going to college.
In addition, high-profile players such as LaMelo Ball have chosen to play professionally overseas instead of going to college while other high school stars have joined the new Overtime Elite league. With a number of professional options — including one the NBA itself created — high schoolers going directly to the draft became inevitable again.
Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby were drafted out of high school in 1975, but there were no other high school draftees until Kevin Garnett in 1995. (Shawn Kemp never played in college, but he was a year out of high school when selected in the 1989 NBA Draft.)
After the success of none-and-done players Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady, a flood of high schoolers went directly to the NBA until the league imposed a 19-year-old age limit in 2005. Now that each NBA team has a minor league affiliate, teams have an infrastructure to support young players that didn’t exist previously.
The new rule may prove to be a boon for college basketball. Though schools will lose elite talent, players who choose to attend college will be far more likely to stay for a few years, giving teams more stability. It could also curtail the most unsavory element of college basketball — recruiting scandals.
Regardless, the real winners are teams that have extra picks in what projects to be a loaded 2024 NBA draft, featuring the best players aged 18 and 19.