When you look at the NBA, you’ll notice that the majority of current and former players played basketball in college and didn’t skip the part of their lives that to some is essential. Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, to name a few, all went through the NCAA and were top prospects coming out of college. On the other hand, there are players who never bothered with the NCAA and being collegiate stars. Players such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and soon to be NBA lottery pick, LaMelo Ball, all went straight to pro out of high school. In modern times, there are still players on both sides, being on an NCAA team and getting drafted out of college or going pro (not so much the NBA) straight out of high school.
Recently, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and G-League president Shareef Abdul-Rahim have made a program for prospects that don’t want the collegiate experience, to sort of rival the NBL, the National Basketball League of Australia. Prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton took the route through the NBL and will be getting drafted in the 2020 NBA Draft. The program that Silver and Abdul-Rahim have made ensures that the prospects choosing to enroll will get paid a salary and get mentorship, while not having to play full-time in the G-League. Some prospects taking this opportunity include Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd, and Daishen Nix all of whom are 5-Star prospects. Young players may see these highly ranked players and follow in their foot steps, leading the G-League route to become more mainstream.
A very popular speculation as to why these highly ranked players are going pro rather than to the NCAA, is that they were lured by the potential contracts. The NCAA only recently made the rule that players can earn money from their name being used. However, this does not mean they will be paid a contract. This could make more players uncertain about going into college.
The G-League could be very beneficial to these young players. They could get a taste early on of what NBA basketball feels like, while not actually being in the NBA. This could prepare them quicker than the players who are deciding to go to college. If you look at players like Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, you can see that they grew up overseas and never went through the NCAA level. They are two names that pop up a lot when it comes to talking about the future of the NBA. Seeing this professionalism and maturity from other guys can cause these young players to become more mature themselves and become leaders from a younger age.
While there are plenty of benefits to going pro straight out of high school, there are also those benefits that come from going through the NCAA. Playing against guys who are going to be drafted around the same year as a player, can help them get a feel for what type of player they are and how to deal with them when they both get drafted. The player can also learn from them and try to implement different styles into their own games. You get to test new things out when playing at the college level and scouts won’t blame you heavily for it because they will see it as effort being put in to perfecting your game.
While scouting will probably be more frequent with guys who are already pro and under the spotlight of NBA scouts, they will face more challenges and scrutiny compared to those taking the NCAA route. If a player makes a certain mistake frequently, it will be shown more often against the better players and they will be judged more on their weaknesses and will have a harder time trying to fix them.
In the situations of Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd, they were already committed to teams, UCLA and Michigan respectively, before deciding to go pro. They would eventually both decommit from their teams. This would open up a spot on the team for a new player to get recruited by these colleges and put on a team. So, if a star player decides to go pro and not go to a college, that college has a spot now for a lower ranked player. This would open up the opportunity for the lower ranked player to show what they can do and hopefully for them, raise their draft stock.
At the end of the day, any player can make their own decision on what path they want to take to try to make it to the NBA. Some players will be drawn to the G-League or even the NBL to make early money and get professional mentorship while still playing basketball. Others would like to follow the more traditional path of NCAA basketball to try to train and raise their draft stock in college. Either way basketball is basketball and every player will try their hardest to make it to the NBA and to play with the best of the best.