The NBA Age Restriction Unnecessarily Harms Teenage Players

Dwight Howard

[credit provider=”AP Images”]

Since 2006, the NBA has banned high school players from entering the NBA draft until it has been at least one year since their high school class graduated.With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in the NBA set to expire following this season, we can be certain that the topic of draft eligibility for high schoolers will once again be a major topic.

The question is whether the ban hurts the NBA and the top prospects more than it helps.

If we look through the history of the NBA, we see that players have a long history of successful seasons prior to turning 20. If we look at Win Shares, a measure of how many wins a player contributed to their team, there have been 40 players that contributed at least 0.5 Wins in a season under the age of 20.

And if we look at all the players that were worth at least 1.5 wins as a teenager, we see there are 26 such seasons. And it is a who’s who of today’s top players…

NBA teenagers

The list is led by Dwight Howard in 2004-05, who was worth 7.3 Wins to the Orlando Magic at age 19. That ranked 41st in the NBA that season. Not All-NBA by any means, but still a very productive season.

But if we look past Howard, we also see solid teenage seasons from Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tony Parker, and Tracy McGrady, some of the biggest names in the NBA. Of those players, only Anthony and Bosh played college basketball. And both of those players left college after their freshman seasons.

If there is a concern about the marginal player entering the NBA draft, there are easy solutions. The NBA could require players drafted before their 20th birthday to spend a minimum number of games in the Development League. Let’s say 20, with an option to remain in the D-League until their 20th birthday, if needed.

There are just too many examples of successful teenage NBA players. Keeping those players out of the league is only hurting them and the NBA.