Discussions on lowering the minimum age to enter the NBA draft are no longer a part of the league’s labor talks with the National Basketball Players Association, clearing the way for the “one-and-done” era to continue into the foreseeable future, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Talks on lowering the minimum age limit for American players from 19 years old to 18 and allowing players to again jump to the NBA out of high school had been a part of ongoing talks on a new collective agreement, but neither side ultimately felt strongly enough on change to make it a significant bargaining chip, sources said.
The NBA and NBPA are facing a Friday night deadline to avoid a league opt-out of the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2023-24.
Sources told ESPN on Friday afternoon that the sides are progressing in talks on a new long-term CBA and a deal appears within reach ahead of the deadline. However, there are still gaps to close on an accord.
NBA owners and executives were largely indifferent or fully against returning to high school gymnasiums to evaluate players, and even less enthusiastic about that idea without concessions from the NBPA on providing increased access to pre-draft player medical information and increased participation in several elements of the draft combine, sources said.
Players are allowed to leave high school for a pre-draft year in the league’s development system as part of the G League Ignite team, which offers sizable six-figure salaries and endorsement opportunities.
NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio has spoken publicly of veteran players’ concerns about 18-year-old players taking away roster spots as a reason for pause on lowering the age. Also, the rise of significant financial opportunities for players before joining the NBA — including name, image and likeness rights in NCAA basketball and actual contracted pay with the G League Ignite and Overtime Elite programs — has softened the NBPA’s belief there needed to be an aggressive push for lowering the draft limit, sources said.
“We recognize that we really do need to make sure that we have the structure in place, if we’re going to have people join the league at the age of 18,” Tremaglio said on All-Star weekend. “We also appreciate that there is a lot of benefit to really having veterans who can bring those 18-year-olds along. And so, certainly anything that we would even consider, to be quite honest, would have to include a component that would allow veterans to be a part of it as well.”
The NBA raised the minimum draft age to 19 in 2005. Several preps-to-the-pros players in the prior era blossomed with Hall of Fame-caliber careers, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard.