Gorch on the Porch: NBA needs to change draft eligibility

Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNSDuke men's head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski gives his annual summer briefing to the media in May at his basketball camp on the campus of Duke University in Durham, N.C. Krzyzewski thinks players should be allowed to go straight into the NBA Draft out of high school like they used to.

It pains me to say this, really it does.

I actually agree with something Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Excuse me while I throw up and hit myself in the head with a brick.

As a guest on a national sports talk radio show on Tuesday, Coach K stated that high school basketball players should be eligible for the NBA Draft, which takes places tomorrow night in Brooklyn, New York. And instead of the one-and-done mantra that has been part of the NCAA-NBA relationship, he has a different suggestion that also has merit.

“In baseball, actually in theater, in music, if you're 16 and you're really good, you go on a different path,” Krzyzewski said on the ESPN radio program. “I really think that high school players should be allowed to go. And once they get to college, if you don't do that, I think a two-year period — so you legitimize being in college going for an education. You don't just kind of use the college system as a training ground.”

Some of the greatest players in history never went to college — LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Moses Malone. And there are others who played two or three years to hone their craft before heading to the NBA — Michael Jordan (three years) and Magic Johnson (two years) were pretty good.

Instead, the one-and-done system will result in at least five of the top seven picks in the draft having just one year of college basketball experience. And most of those one-and-doners will need a year or two of maturing before they live up to their hype.

The exceptions are few and far between. Derrick Rose was fairly polished after just one year of college. Same for Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony.

Making kids stay in college at least two years would result in a better college game since right now, it’s not very good. Apologies to all college basketball fans, but watching bad shooting isn’t as appealing to me as watching the best players in the world in the NBA.

By the way, if you want a specific example of bad shooting, look no further than UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, who will likely be picked No. 2 by his hometown team, the L.A. Lakers. Ball made 187 shots last season. Only seven of them were not 3-pointers or dunks. Only seven 15-footers or runners in the lane or layups.

That’s not the statistical recipe for NBA success. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can hit a 15-footer. In fact, they hit quite a few, but 3-pointers get the highlights. LeBron hits more shots than just dunks and 3-pointers.

But that’s the way basketball has devolved. Less fundamentals in general — not just shooting — and too much flash.

The 1980s Lakers may have been labeled “Showtime,” but they were still fundamentally sound while producing a beautiful brand of hoops. For those of you too young to remember, just watch the latest ESPN 30-for-30 on the Lakers and Celtics rivalry called “Best of Enemies” … it’s awesome. But I digress.

Just when I thought Krzyzewski was starting to grow on me with a smart statement, he says something hypocritical in the same radio interview.

“People say that we've changed our recruiting philosophy,” Coach K said. “We haven't changed our recruiting philosophy. We’ve always recruited really good players who are good students and good kids, and now that combination has produced one-and-dones. Grant Hill and Elton Brand … Elton Brand was a two-and-done. We’ve had a number of guys who early on, like 10, 20 years ago, they would be one-and-dones right now. So that's who we have attracted. We’re not going to stop recruiting them, but it doesn't mean we’ve changed our philosophy. The world of basketball has changed, and we're trying to adapt to those changes.”

So Coach K went back to his holier-than-thou mantra. Sure you’ve always recruited ‘good students and good kids.’ Kyrie Irving was such a good student, he left after a year and was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Same for Jabari Parker, who left Duke after one season, too, for the Milwaukee Bucks.

And Grayson Allen is such a good kid that he keeps tripping players on purpose and only gets a one-game suspension from Krzyzewski.

Oh, and just to clarify the English language for you, Mr. K, adapting to change is actually changing, so you can’t say you haven’t changed your recruiting. Of course you have and everybody knows it, so just admit it.

To me, being a hypocrite is just as bad as being a flat out liar.

But let’s conclude with Krzyzewski’s non-condescending coherent thought. It would be so much better for certain high school seniors — La Lumiere’s Brian Bowen, for example, since he took so long to pick a college when the kid may be good enough to be a first round pick — to go straight to making money in their profession of choice, like many red-blooded Americans.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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