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December 9, 2010, 01:01 AM ET
One-and-done’s a really small bargaining chip

by John Gasaway

If you’re a college hoops fan you’re used to the sport’s most central issues being weighed and indeed decided as peripheral matters. For instance in 2010 conferences have been busily expanding and realigning with nary a thought given to basketball. Cases in point: Apparently the Pac-10 and Big Ten actually wanted Colorado and Nebraska, respectively, to join their conferences. I’m serious, they did. Clearly this is a strange, alien, and wholly hoops-blind world.

In a similar fashion the fate of one-and-done’s about to be decided in a strange, alien, and wholly college-blind world called the NBA, where the Players Association and the owners are widely expected to wage all-out war over the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. Yesterday at ESPN.com Chris Broussard reported that the Players Association will seek to eliminate one-and-done, aiming for a return to the days when the nation’s top prospects could go directly from high school to the NBA.

I have no doubt the players are sincere in their desire to do away with one-and-done. I just think there will be other matters that are far more contentious and weighty – namely the presence or absence of a “hard” salary cap. Conversely something as trifling as the league’s eligibility requirements will be an afterthought, tossed in at the end of negotiations as a concession to whichever side has lost out on the more substantial matters.

Be that as it may, we’re in for months of rollicking good punditry on one-and-done, kind of like that whole 96-team tournament expansion scare last season. Very well, what follows is my punditry on this here topic. If I’m doing this right I’m done already.

First, put everything you read on one-and-done through my handy screening device.
My one-of-a-kind screening mechanism weeds out all the hackery with a simple two-pronged test. Now we can proceed to the matter at hand!

Just because one-and-done’s “central” doesn’t mean it matters all that much.
Did you spend the late 1990s and early 2000s wailing and moaning that you didn’t get to see Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Amar’e Stoudemire, and LeBron James play collegiately? Neither did I. Sure, it was fun seeing John Wall at Kentucky, just like it was nice to watch Kevin Durant at Texas, Kevin Love at UCLA, and Michael Beasley at Kansas State. But we don’t miss what we can’t see. One-and-done is “central” to college hoops because it goes a long way toward defining who the stars will be. Still, whether we’re speaking of one-and-done, two-and-through (are you spending this season wailing and moaning that you don’t get to see Wall as a sophomore?), or even players going straight from high school to the NBA, there will always be stars in college hoops. Always.

That being said, this is important for college coaches — even if they don’t know it.
From the book a couple years ago:

Allowing high school seniors to enter the NBA draft means that college coaches will unavoidably waste time on prospects that will eventually bypass college entirely to go pro. Worse, those coaches will waste time on prospects that will commit to their program, scare other prospects at the same position away, and then jump to the pros, leaving the coach with a gaping hole at that position. College coaches don’t want to waste time and they don’t want gaping holes.

Too bad for coaches the right thing is for one-and-done to go away.
It’s nothing to stage a hunger strike over, of course. We’re talking about two very similar outcomes for a handful of insanely blessed players, where both outcomes (being a huge star as a freshman, being a smaller star in the NBA initially but getting paid) are highly desirable. But, if you care to raise the question, yeah, one-and-done should go away:

It needs to go away because for a very tiny minority of the most elite 18-year-old prospects, the NBA really is the proper place for them to play. To force them to wait a year not only leads to all kinds of messy mishaps, it’s also, well, wrong.

Basically whatever emerges from the NBA’s negotiating fracas is fine with me, as long as it doesn’t expand the NCAA tournament somehow.

Email: johngasaway@basketballprospectus.com; Twitter: @JohnGasaway 

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