It was revealed last month that the NBA developmental league, otherwise known as the G-League, has begun offering six figure salaries to top high school prospects. This gives prospects a new pathway to the NBA instead of the conventional NCAA or overseas route. Unlike the NCAA, this path will only be available to exceptionally special prospects.
So far only former Michigan Wolverine commit Isaiah Todd and five star Jalen Green have chosen this new route. Both prospects were highly touted and are undoubtedly going to attract a new fanbase to the NBA G-League. This pathway will also supply prospects with NBA training and the chance to play against more NBA caliber players than they would likely see in the NCAA.
The only problem with this new pathway is what it could do to the NCAA. For a long time now, NCAA players across all sports have vented frustration over not being able to receive money for their name or likeness. That rule is likely to change soon, but if you gave an 18 year old star the options of going to class and playing basketball for free or getting paid six figures and playing basketball full time, I think we all know what option they would pick.
Some top prospects don’t even care about a college education. The time they spend on their schoolwork could go towards top level training and trying to prepare for the NBA Draft. The higher the pick the prospect is, the more money they are susceptible to making in their rookie contract. Therefore, training and grinding to be picked higher would also put them in a position to make more money.
If things continue the way they are right now, more top prospects will go to the G-League and the NCAA will lose ratings. Imagine if this pathway had been available for Zion Williamson. People rave over him and would’ve watched his games in the G-League instead of watching Duke basketball. People love their college teams, but they also love watching the highest caliber of talent they can. Losing Isaiah Todd and Jalen Green isn’t disastrous, but the possibility of more prospects following suit would be.
Ticket sales, television ratings, and merchandise could all go down for the NCAA. As the years go by high school prospects are only getting more and more talented, and more and more people love watching them. I predict in five years the masses could flock to the G-League’s games and tournaments rather than the NCAA and March Madness.
The NCAA can counter though. Last month the NCAA’s top governing body said it supports a rule change allowing players to receive compensation for their name and likeness. This would make the NCAA route much more appealing, but players would still have to go to classes and maintain an average GPA. Players that are ready for the NBA right out of high school have shown an annoyance with having to keep up with the college workload.
While I do not think danger is immensely imminent for the NCAA, I think it could be if the NCAA doesn’t change with the times. If they let the G-League grow popular among young athletes and it becomes the new way to watch NBA prospects, then the NCAA could be set to fall.