Yesterday, class of 2016 five star recruit Thon Maker declared for the NBA draft. This of course is big news due to the fact that Maker is still in high school and NBA draft rules say you must be one year removed from graduating high school as well as be at least 19 years of age. He is already 19, making him eligible in one aspect, but it’s the other part that makes it a tough decision for the NBA. Maker graduated in June of 2015 but is currently doing a post grad year in Canada so the NBA must decide if the academic year he is currently involved in actually counts as another year in high school.
If they decide to allow Maker to enter the draft, it would be the first time since 2005 that a player would enter the league directly from high school. Before this rule change occurred, making the jump from high school to the NBA was common, with players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Lebron James being some of the notable names that had taken advantage of the opportunity.
Maker and his camp believe they have a strong case to present the NBA so that he is eligible for the draft, but there’s still a chance he does not make it. When the NBA made the rule change, their reasoning was that players coming out of high school did not have the mental and physical makeup to be successful in the league and that by forcing kids to attend college first, teams could more easily tell the difference between a player who dominates against lower competition and a player that truly has a chance to have a productive career.
Most top NBA prospects now only spend one year in college before making the jump to the NBA so there is much debate on why this rule is even in place. Maker, an extremely skilled 7-footer with an outside stroke and ball handling abilities, seems to feel that he is NBA ready and playing in college will not do much for his development. If there was ever a year to take that stance, it may be this year.
Consensus top two prospect Ben Simmons played his lone year of college ball at LSU and for the most part it was viewed as a waste of time. He often looked disengaged even while dominating and ran into academic problems; it was clear he was just waiting to head off to the NBA. With a player like Simmons making it almost known that spending one year in college is useless for top picks, Maker may have shot. By the time these kids make it to college they have already been scouted for 3-4 years and NBA scouts have a good idea of how good they actually are.
Every year the lottery is filled with one and done players and this rule is constantly debated. If Maker makes it into the NBA draft players may begin to follow his lead, and the NBA’s draft rules may become a hot topic.