The League is pushing hard to raise the current age limit for first-year players to 20 from 19. It’s a battle that will take place during the negotiation of the next collective bargaining agreement (likely following the 2016-’17 season.) In a wide-ranging chat with USA Today, Commissioner Adam Silver lays out why he thinks it makes sense (financially and basketball-wise) for players to enter the NBA when they’re a bit older:
It’s hard to tell. I never quite understood the player opposition. Of course it’s a zero sum game in terms of numbers of jobs, and amount of salary we pay out. We pay out roughly 50% of BRI (basketball-related income), and that’s divided among the players in the league. So there is absolutely, and by definition can’t be, a financial savings to us by increasing the age to 20. It has been our belief that we have a better chance to grow the (financial) pie that gets divided 50-50 if we increase the age and create, in essence, a more competitive league. And it has been our sense for a long time that our draft would be more competitive if our teams had an opportunity to see these players play an additional year, whether it be in college or professionally in the Development League or overseas.
We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful. And increasingly, I’ve been told by many NBA coaches that one of the issues with the younger guys coming into the league is they’ve never had an opportunity to lead. By having come directly out of their first year of college, those are the moments in their lives where…they were put in positions as upper classmen, where they first learned how to lead teammates. And ultimately, if you look at our most successful teams, they’re successful because they play as a team and I think that’s one of the beauties of this game is that it’s such an interesting mix of team play and at the same time individual (skill).
A team plays together with individual attributes. It’s that blend that teams are always constantly trying to achieve, the perfect blend. Again though, it’s one of those issues (where) it needs to be collectively bargained, and for good reason. It’s something that during collective bargaining the last time, we had lots of discussions about it with the group of players who were representing the union at the time and I think it’s something that we should continue to discuss. Let me just throw in that at the same time, I think maybe, just to broaden my horizons a little bit, I’m trying to look at it not just from the perspective of the NBA because I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial to the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it’s not terrible for the NBA right now, at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletic director) friends, their view is (that) one and done is a disaster. I think this is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well.