Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brandon Jennings Questions

What does it mean that this man has chosen to play basketball professionally in Europe for a year rather than go to college and play in the NCAA?

Hopefully, one result will be an increased popularity for the fade haircut in Europe. I'm imagining a bunch of Italian dudes sporting it all of a sudden . . ..

More to the point: Jennings makes a few hundred thousand dollars extra while waiting to go to the NBA, which is nothing to sneeze at. The NCAA loses a chance to make money off of a domestic star, and the NBA gets the first response to the age limit.

This most probably won't happen, but what if Jennings is a huge success in his first year over there, and becomes a big star and is offered a contract paying several million euro per year? That's more than the max he could make during his first 3-4 years in the NBA (considering the strength of the euro and the weakness of the dollar, and rookie salary scales), and plus the European teams also cover housing and transportation costs. Would he skip the NBA altogether and choose the life of a Euro star?

The reason I say that won't happen is because European teams are heavy on the development. By the time they reach the senior teams, players have been practicing and playing regularly together daily for many years, developing individual skills and team chemistry. Player development is taken very seriously, and isn't controlled by shoe companies as it is here. It's unclear how much an American high school star could contribute to a team there in just one year. But then why would any European team sign him, knowing he won't be around for long?

Will this start a trend, turning Europe into an alternative to college for the top players and effectively converting European basketball leagues into NBA minor leagues? I doubt it at this point, but if that did happen then eventually somebody would have the sort of success I described, and then we'd perhaps see a top player choose to have a career in Europe instead of the NBA. Keep in mind that very few high school players in any given year would even be talented enough to make the jump to a professional European league, so this option is open to very few individuals. Also, the risk is that since the level of competition is so much higher in European Leagues (vs. the NCAA), a player's draft position could drop considerably compared to if he stayed in the U.S.. So there's a lot of obstacles out there to stop this from becoming a trend.

One facet that will be interesting to watch is how Jennings develops skill-wise. The NCAA, often with only one year to work with top-flight stars, doesn't always do a great job of developing well-rounded pro-ready players. From a basketball standpoint, is Jennings better served by focusing full time on becoming a better player and playing within a team concept? (This isn't meant to be a comment on the value of a college education -- obviously anyone would benefit from that, this is just from a basketball perspective, and everyone who doesn't finish their college education as they pursue a sports career should totes go back to school a la Vince Carter or Shaquille O'Neal once they've made a few bucks, etc etc.).

I don't know. I will say, good luck Mr. Jennings! Hope to see you in the NBA next year!

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