With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between NBA owners and the Players’ Association set to expire this summer, most agree that a lockout is on the horizon. Union head Billy Hunter has gone on record saying that the chances of a lockout are 99%.
I’m not here to speculate over whether or not the lockout will happen or how long such a lockout would last because, in all honesty, I am totally clueless. Since I’m a college basketball fan first, I want to know how a lockout would affect the college game.
In the abstract, I’ve heard many people speculate that a lockout could cause many college stars who otherwise would have turned pro to return for an extra year of college to ensure that they are at least playing basketball somewhere next season. Only three of the players projected as first round draft picks according to Draft Express in 2011 are college seniors. Four of those players are international players who currently play professionally on club teams. The remaining 23 are college underclassmen who could return to school next year (including Enes Kanter, who is ineligible).
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Here’s the problem though: the next NBA Draft is scheduled for June 23 and players have to make a decision on whether to enter the draft in May. The current CBA doesn’t expire until July.
So, players will have to decide on entering the draft without complete information on whether a lockout is going to happen. Is that fair? No. Is that the way it is? Yes.
Underclassmen will basically be stuck in a guessing game. We’ll probably have a better idea of the lockout situation come April and May, but we won’t have anywhere close to complete information.
So, what are underclassmen going to do?
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The best thing I can think to do is look at the last lockout, which took place in 1998-1999. That lockout lasted until January 20, 1999, shortening the season to 50 games, but not canceling it. Looking at the draft from that season, 13 underclassmen were drafted in the first round, including eight of the top 10 picks.
So, what do I conclude from that? I believe that players in line to be picked in the lottery as underclassmen won’t be swayed a great deal in their draft decisions. If you are projected as a top 10 pick, it will be difficult to to pass on the opportunity.
However, the guys that I think could be affected in their decision-making are those players who are projected toward the bottom of the first round and into the second round.
How sure am I about this? I don’t know. Players will do well for themselves to learn as much as possible about the ramifications of the lockout.