With the growth of both the NBA D-League and international leagues, it is time to fix college basketball. The "one-and-done" phenomenon (or even the proposed "two-and-adieu" - my nickname, not Adam Silver's) caused by the NBA age minimum of 19/one year removed from high school weakens both the NBA and NCAA.
On the brink of the 2014 NBA draft, it's unbelievable that the at least 3 of consensus top 4 picks (Embiid, Wiggins, and Exum) will require multiple years of development before they become competent NBA players. The NCAA schools that they leave (minus Exum), meanwhile, have nothing to show for their one year of play, and furthermore, the college coaches have no incentive to develop these kids into complete basketball players.
I propose that the NBA adopt part the MLB's draft philosophy. High school seniors get 3 options:
1. Hire an agent and declare for the draft. This option forfeits amateur status, thereby taking college athletics out of the picture. There are generational talents (Lebron, obviously) that do not need to step on a college basketball court. I also believe that legal adults should be allowed to find professional work in their field if they so choose. If they don't get drafted/signed, then there are other professional options to pursue.
2. Go to college. Similar to MLB rules, this would suspend draft eligibility for 3 years. This strengthens college basketball and incentivizes college programs to develop their players rather than exploit their talent for a single year. College juniors then have the option to come into the draft much more polished, or they can still wait until after their senior year. If someone were to drop out of school, they can play in other professional leagues until they reach their junior year draft status age.
3. Skip college, but do not declare for the draft. Here is where the NBA D-League and various international leagues come into play. For high school seniors with no intention of staying in college for 3 years but without NBA ready bodies, they withhold their rights from being a late draft pick to instead play in the another professional league to develop for a year or two in hopes of improving their draft stock. This gives the player control of their future, and it will add some more legitimacy to the NBA D-League.
This will change the landscape in a variety of ways. It will bring back the potential for college basketball dynasties when multiple talented freshmen join one program. But it will also even the playing field in most cases as highly touted recruits will pass on a top program where they know they would be playing behind say a stacked front-court for a few years. So while certain teams currently get the top recruits every year as freshmen turnover is expected, there would be much more strategy in recruiting to continually attract top recruits.
This will not only make things better for the NCAA but also create more parity in the NBA. More years of college basketball equates to more developed players and more information for drafting teams. That would mean less chance of busts at the top of the draft and more impact ready players capable of altering a franchise immediately. This still does not make the drafting easy. Age doesn't necessarily force maturity (think Arnett Moultrie), but it's generally better to give players time to flame out in their 2nd and 3rd year of college than in the NBA. So you would see less perennial bottom feeders as teams would get more polished players ready to step into starting lineups.
There have to be losers in every deal, and there certainly are in this case. This change weakens the market for high school/young players. With the potential for 3 year college players at the top of the drafts, teams will be less likely to take a gamble on high upside youth unless they possess undeniable franchise changing skills. This means highly skilled 18/19 year olds will be drafted lower than they would be otherwise (19 year olds in the current climate). They would be missing out on money on their rookie contracts by being drafted lower in general.
The current system of restricted free agency would eventually need to be changed to increase free agency after rookie contracts since players would be older/more developed coming into the league. There will of course be other unintended consequences. But the opportunity to strengthen both college basketball and the NBA is too good to pass up.