Michigan State Basketball: Izzo’s right, NBA should nix one-and-done rule

Mar 16, 2017; Tulsa, OK, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo during practice at BOK Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Tulsa, OK, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo during practice at BOK Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo is not a fan of the NBA’s one-and-done rule, and he’s got the right idea.

Michigan State basketball will be in a rare situation next season. Fab freshman Miles Bridges has decided to return to MSU to play another season for the Spartans, putting a multi-million dollar contract and NBA fame on hold. The rare decision from a sure-fire one-and-done player was lauded by most, but questioned by some who wondered if Izzo was holding Bridges back. While Miles has made it clear that the decision was his own, it has prompted Izzo to offer his thoughts on the college basketball model.

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Since 2005, the NBA has enforced an age requirement of 19 for its draft. While there have been a few elite high school prospects who successfully transitioned right to the NBA, many kids who made the jump did not land on two feet. By pushing the age requirement up a year, the NBA forced prospects to spend a year maturing in either the NCAA system or in another professional league. The league and the players union saw the rule as win for all parties. In reality, the players and the college game have suffered.

While the rule has certainly improved the collective level of talent in the NBA, it has forced players who have no interest in attending college to do so. These players spend a few months on a college campus, make little progress at attaining a degree, and then head off to the NBA. The college programs lucky enough to land these players are supposedly benefitting, but that’s debatable.

Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently admitted he is considering a change, and one model the league will consider is the baseball model. In the MLB, high school stars can go straight to the pros, but also have the option to go to college if they don’t feel ready. That said, if they decide to go the college route, they must stay for a minimum of three years. It’s a model that Izzo believes is truly in the best interest of everyone involved.

"“I think the baseball rule is the right option,” Izzo recently told CBS. “Some think that the agents will really be swarming in on them. Those will always be a problem. I want to do what’s right for the guy, but not for just three or four guys. The thing agents said to me about Bridges, they make it seem like I’m ruining his life.”"

Izzo has not dealt with this situation often — his only one-and-dones were Zach Randolph in 2001 and Deyonta Davis in 2016 — but he’s spot-on. Agents are going to do their jobs regardless of the current rule. If a player feels they’re ready, they’ll go pro. If they feel they could use a few years in a college system to mature and make progress towards a degree, they should be able to do so without an agent second-guessing them every summer. It’s those players, the potential two-and-dones who aren’t ready but are coaxed out, that worry Izzo the most in the current model.

"“Everyone thinks we’re screwing the kid by holding them back, but are we screwing them by pushing them out?” Izzo said. “How about all the ones that are falling on their ass because they make their one or two million dollars a year and then they’re out of the league?”"

While the baseball model may not be perfect, as some players who commit to play in college will inevitably change their minds, it’s better than the current model. In this model, elite players maximize their earnings, those who make the jump too early can still develop in the improved NBA G-League and those who need extra development take full advantage of the college system. The option to play a year or two overseas is still an option for the 18 year olds, too.

On top of it all, college teams would look and play like teams again. Sure, Spartan fans wouldn’t get to see Jaren Jackson Jr. in green and white, but they would still see Denzel Valentine and Draymond Green.

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It’s a compromise the NBA and the NCAA must make for the players. The fact that it improves both the college and pro games as well makes it a home run.