The most prevalent counter-argument to this morning's angry post about the NCAA's ridiculous new draft deadline is summed up nicely (and in ellipsis-heavy fashion) by commenter Heels4Ever2009 in the comments under that very post. From Mr. Heels:
They have all year to decide..... Not just eight days..... Please take that BS some where else..... Either you are good enough to go to the NBA or you are not.......
This is a pretty widespread assumption. In fact, this argument underpins -- and has been used to justify -- much of the discourse from those in favor of this rule, not just from fans but from the very coaches who designed and submitted the change in the first place.
The problem, of course, is that it's patently wrong.
Why? Because during his playing career, whether it's one year or three, the most an underclassman prospect can do to learn about his draft status is Google himself or talk to his head coach. Because the NCAA disallows contact with agents, the player can't talk to a potential representative with a league Rolodex about his status, at least not if he wants to follow the rules. Because the NBA disallows its personnel contact with amateur players, he can't talk with NBA general managers or scouts directly, at least not if he wants to follow the rules.
The only time he can do either of those things is the early-entry period. In the past, that period was two months. That was ample time for a player to enter the draft without an agent, work out for NBA teams and scouts, and get honest feedback on his chances of being drafted in the top five, top 10, lottery, first round or at all.
Why is this period important? Because sometimes players are better prospects than they are college players. Sometimes, players need a chance to showcase their skills outside the restrictions of the college game. Even more importantly, players need information. It's only fair. Otherwise, they're left relying on some combination of their coach's word and draft list rankings on sites like this one.
And as we've seen this year, that information can change throughout the draft entry period. Top forwards like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones can stay in school; lower-ranked forwards like Jordan Hamilton can use those decisions an opportunity to boost his own draft stock. Can players really get that feel in eight whole days?
There are always players who know, from the time they set foot on a college campus, that they're ready for the pros. But far more boil their decisions down to the finest of criteria: whether they're in the lottery range, whether they're a lock to get a guaranteed first-round contract, which franchises fancy them most, whether their competition at their own positions are staying or leaving.
Do we really want players thinking about this decision as their college season unfolds? Do those players want to take on that burden as they chase conference and national titles? No! We want them -- and their coaches want them -- to focus on their college games, not their pro futures.
It's tempting to paint this thing with broad strokes, to say that everyone who belongs in the NBA should know as much right away, and everyone who doesn't should know enough to come back to school. But anyone who follows college basketball even casually, and anyone who understands the abstract nuances of the NBA draft and rookie salary scale, should know that that's now how it works.
Maybe NBA prospects don't need two months to make these career-defining, dream-fulfilling, million-dollar decisions. But with this much on the line, and these many threads to untangle, those prospects absolutely need more than one week -- and better, more impartial information than their coaches' words -- to figure it all out.