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The NBA needs to step into the future and make every eligible underclassmen available to be drafted

The MLB and NHL does it, why can’t the NBA?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs Texas Tech Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

To the surprise of very few, Zhaire Smith made it official Tuesday afternoon and signed with an agent, making him ineligible to return to Texas Tech.

Smith had previously declared for the draft without signing with an agent, giving him the opportunity to return to the university. This move has become very popular among college athletes as players try to gain every advantage they can to get in the NBA. Just last year, Zach Smith did the same thing, except he inevitably decided to return to Texas Tech.

Prospects go through this process for several reasons:

  • To get a feel of the process for the future.

By entering the draft you get to see how the draft process is. You get to go through workouts and see just what a draft prospect endures. By going through these drills one time, when the athlete officially enters the draft, he will already know what to expect and be better prepared to impress.

  • To find out where they stack up against other prospects.

NBA scouts don’t speak to college athletes, however once they declare, they are no longer college athletes. By declaring, these athletes get to speak to these scouts and compete against other prospects and see where they may get drafted. For a player like Zhaire Smith, entering the draft without an agent gives him a chance to see if he’d truly be a first roound pick. The worst thing he could have done is hire an agent from the onset just to find out that he’s not as highly regarded and could slip to the second round where the contracts are not guaranteed.

  • To be more noticeable.

Scouts scour the world to find the top prospects but don’t always find every top prospect. By entering their name in the draft, prospects automatically get to put themselves out in front of teams. When Zach Smith entered last year, there was a slim chance that he wouldn’t return to Tech, but going into his senior season more NBA scouts knew who he was than if he had not declared.

This practice of entering the draft without an agent seems harmless and for all intents and purposes a good deal for athletes to maximize their draft-ability yet it seems as though some people don’t agree with some of the athletes entering the draft.

Now there is a 99% chance that Nojel Eastern returns back to Purdue this upcoming season, but there truly is no harm in him entering. With that being said, there has to be a better way for athletes to show themselves without having to temporarily leave their college team and get scrutinized. The solution is simple: make every eligible underclassmen available to be drafted.

In baseball, once a player has been in college for three years, they are automatically eligible to be drafted to the MLB. They do not need to declare, they simply get drafted by an organization and then decide whether they get to join the team or not. In the NBA, seeing as there is only 60 draft selection, it is unlikely that a player turns down the opportunity to make at least six figures to come back to being a broke college kid.

In my opinion, the NHL model is even better. All eligible athletes are drafted into the NHL and from there they get to do off-season workouts with there NHL franchise. If the player does not make the NHL or AHL team and is still young enough to play on their Junior Hockey League team then they get to stay there. It is very similar to how the NBA treats European players. Manu Ginobli was drafted in 1999, where he instead decided to stay in the Italian league. The Spurs kept his rights until he was ready, and after dominating Italy for three years, he then signed his contract and started playing with the Spurs in 2002.

The NBA needs to have that policy for their collegiate athletes as well. There is nothing against the NCAA rules that permits the players from being drafted and if these players haven’t signed with agents, drafting them and letting them stay in college for 1-3 more years allows your player to mature at the collegiate level while still having their rights to sign them at a future date.

I think I may have just solved the NBA Draft, everyone can thank me later.