NEW YORK — Even as the NBA prepares for a draft that could be headlined by freshmen, Commissioner Adam Silver remains committed to keeping them in college.
So much so that NCAA President Mark Emmert was invited to discuss his involvement with owners.
Silver is moving cautiously on potential changes to areas such as the lottery format and playoff structure, but makes it clear that raising the draft age limit to abolish the so-called “one and done” is one of his priorities.
Freshmen Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke are expected to be top-five picks in June, but Silver believes teams are taking those players young because of the system in place, not because it’s their preference.
“The fact that our teams would draft these players if they were coming out of high school as they used to, or one year out of college, I think doesn’t mean change isn’t necessary,” Silver said Friday.
The age limit requiring American players to be 19 and a year out of high school was implemented in 2005, creating a system where players would simply go to college for a year and then declare for the draft. Silver and predecessor David Stern have long spoken about the desire to increase the limit to 20. But no change, which would have to be discussed with the union, was made during the last round of collective bargaining in 2011.
The sides haven’t been able to have much serious discussion since then. The union has been without an executive director since ousting Billy Hunter.
14 months ago, but Silver’s desire for change remains.
“We’re ready to go,” Silver said. “We’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time.”
Silver said a change was unlikely for next season, and a transition period would be necessary whenever one was made. In the meantime, he wants the NCAA part of the discussion, so Emmert addressed owners during the two-day meetings.
“One thing that we also agree on is that historically what you’ve heard is that the age issue is one that needs to be negotiated almost in isolation between the NBA and its union. What Dr. Emmert and I agree on is that the NCAA needs to have a seat at the table, as well, for those discussions,” Silver said, “that if we are going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel of those negotiations go to the treatment of those players on college campuses, that closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their other incidental expenses, having a longer discussion about eligibility periods so they can make the best decisions for them and their families if they do decide to come out early.”
Overseeing his first board meeting since replacing Stern in February, Silver seems open to considering anything to improve the league. Owners heard a discussion on ways to change the lottery system, which could be a way to erase the desire to “tank” — seeking a poor record to have the best chances at the No. 1 pick. Silver said there was also discussion about redesigning the playoff structure to qualify the top 16 teams, rather than the top eight in each conference. Phoenix, which finished ninth in the West with 48 wins, would’ve tied for third in the East.
But Silver said those items should be discussed first at length by the competition committee.
“For me, the league is doing so well right now, I just want to be very deliberate and cautious about any major changes like that,” Silver said. “It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make changes.”
Silver also said owners weren’t ready to vote on the potential sale of the Milwaukee Bucks yet, though that could happen soon once owners could review all the financial documents. Owner Herb Kohl reached agreement to sell the franchise to New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for about $550 million.