COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- USA Basketball assembled 58 of the best high school players for their junior national team mini-camp here this past weekend, an event that has been on hiatus since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically a who's who of American hoops, this year's camp was notably missing some of the best juniors and seniors as USA Basketball is still working through the fog of the pandemic and attempting to re-enter a space that is dramatically different than in 2019.
USA Basketball junior national team minicamp wrapping up after two fantastic days in Colorado Springs. Some really high level scrimmages to end the camp headlined by Cam Boozer and 14-15 year olds showing their talent against the older players. Full report coming on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/vOB2Pc015I— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) October 10, 2022
The NBA age limit isn't being eliminated anytime soon
One of the big questions parents, stakeholders and industry members in attendance wanted to know: How long would it be until the NBA went back to drafting high school players, something that could have a significant effect on virtually every player in the gym? The answer seems to be not anytime soon.
One glance around the section of the gym dedicated to NBA scouts revealed the clear lack of urgency teams felt in sending evaluators to attend this camp. While all 30 teams were each allowed one representative, several teams declined to send anyone, while others elected to send only entry-level scouts. Just two general manager/president level executives -- Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors -- were in the building, along with a handful of assistant GMs. If the NBA age limit elimination is indeed looming, no one had bothered to inform those most affected by that change.
Conversations with representatives of the NBA Players Association, the league office, agents and team executives indicate nothing has changed recently, or in the past four years for that matter, regarding the same disagreements key stakeholders had in negotiations for eliminating the one and done rule which ESPN reported on back in October 2018 and April 2019.
Agents have no interest in guaranteeing full NBA combine participation or giving up control of players' medicals -- the only real leverage they have currently in steering clients away from undesirable franchises with poor track records for player development. NBPA members say they see little benefit to allowing a new class of teenagers to come in and take roster spots from veterans. And NBA executives are openly dreading the idea of returning to high school gyms and being forced to make career-altering decisions with limited information at their disposal. Sources say the union is indicating that in order to give Adam Silver -- who is the clear-cut driving force behind the elimination of the age limit -- what he desires in collective bargaining agreement negotiations in 2024, they expect to receive major financial concessions from team owners in exchange for this bargaining chip, something that may not be attractive to franchises since many believe that making the league even younger will water down the talent level. The fact that college basketball's biggest stars are now able to earn six- and seven-figure deals thanks to name, image and likeness deals softens some of the ethical concerns some had regarding preventing teenagers from earning a living when there is clearly a significant market for their services.
Nevertheless, Silver is on the record as being adamant that changing the age limit is "the right thing to do," this past July, pointing to "societal changes" and saying he is "hopeful that's a change we make in this next collective bargaining cycle, which will happen in the next couple years."
It seems we're in the exact same place now that we've been for many years, and though Silver certainly has the cache to push this through in 2024 if he desires -- with an expected start date no earlier than the 2026 draft, according to what teams have been told -- there are still huge hurdles all sides will need to overcome to get there by then, with this topic being one of many bigger issues the NBPA and NBA will need to reconcile during upcoming labor talks.