Column: How an NCAA rule change is shaking up the NBA Draft

Kentucky coach John Calipari disagrees with a ruling by the referee during a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, March 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The professional future of college athletes can be a sensitive topic, so it’s easy to see why recent changes to the NBA draft process have created a bit of a stir.

The NCAA has amended the rules to enable college basketball players to submit their names for the NBA draft and then withdraw up to 10 days after attending the NBA scouting combine. The new rules also allow players to attend one workout with an NBA team before withdrawing.

The ruling is intended to help college athletes make more educated decisions about their future, but I believe it is going to do more harm than good in the long run.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, well known for his ability to turn a college program into an NBA factory, has stated that all of his players, walk-ons included, are going to participate in NBA pre-draft activities. You can imagine NBA coaches, GMs and scouts aren’t going to be thrilled with Calipari’s abuse of the new system, but that’s the can of worms that the NCAA opened up.

The rule change was put in place to give players a better idea of how they stack up to other NBA prospects, particularly at the combine. That’s all out the window if coaches like Calipari encourage their players to take advantage of the rule this way.

Scouts and GMs aren’t going to want to waste their time watching walk-on players with no realistic chance of playing in the NBA run through drills and five-on-five scrimmages. The combine is going to be a zoo and the talent level is going to be decreased dramatically. That’s the scouting perspective, but this rule could be a detriment to players as well.

It is well known that part of the job as a college head coach is to collect information to help players understand what their draft stock will be if they decide to leave school. Players with any curiosity about their NBA future can now throw their name into the draft and have plenty of time to drop out if they don’t like the feedback they get.

Keep in mind that players are now going to receive personal feedback at the NBA combine and not just the feedback that their coaches decide is valuable. This this does is put more power in the player’s own hands to determine if they are ready, something that has misguided many overzealous players in the past.

College head coaches used to be the ones to determine which opinions were truly valuable enough to relay to their players concerning their future. Now that burden is being shifted to NBA scouts at the combine, who might not have the players’ long-term interests at heart.

Now all it takes is one or two inaccurate opinions around combine season to skew a player’s perception of their draft potential. Nobody has a better understanding than college coaches when it comes to who’s ready for the next level, so it’s risky to cut them out as the middleman when it comes to the future of talented players.

The recent rule change could also have a ripple effect all the way down to the high school level. The previous declaration date always coincided with the National letter of intent signing period. This was by design so recruits had an understanding of where roster spots are opening up as players forego the rest of their eligibility and enter the NBA draft. You don’t want to sign a letter of intent and later find out that two players at your position are returning to school.

Sure, this rule change will allow some players more time to realize they might not be ready for the next level, but in the long run it might tempt more players to make uneducated and overzealous decisions. The temptation of the NBA can’t be overlooked and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple players dip their toes in the water at the combine and subsequently dive into the draft.

On the surface it appears to be a nice opportunity for players to make informed decisions, but the temptations of professional basketball are many. The actions of coaches like Calipari could turn the NBA scouting combine into a mockery and cloud the decision making process of NCAA student athletes.


Aaron Esposito is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at aaron.esposito@uconn.edu.