Does being a One-&-Done in the NBA Hold a Player Back? | Swish Analytics

Does being a One-&-Done in the NBA Hold a Player Back?

Many argue for raising the minimum age for players to go pro in the NBA, but more time as an amateur doesn't necessarily equate to better results

By Josh Planos
on August 14th, 2014 at 6:25PM PST

Commissioner Adam Silver is very clearly a proponent for raising the age limit in the NBA.

I think it would make for a better league," Silver said in April. "I believe and continue to believe it will be in the best interest of the league. I think that the extra year in college will be a benefit for these young men to grow and develop as people and basketball players."

With this year's top four overall draft picks and six of the last seven No. 1 overall picks being college freshmen, the novelty of young basketball players achieving the ultimate dream has, in many ways, worn off.

The current minimum is 19 or one year removed from high school graduation, part of a stipulation that was established in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement.

As the New York Times reported, more than half of the league's all-stars since 2011 have either turned professional out of high school or been one-and-done.

But are one-and-done players overwhelmingly better than their peers?

"I think that the extra year in college will be a benefit for these young men to grow and develop as people and basketball players."

History gives us a pretty notable track record for teenagers in the league: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, and Kevin Love are just some of the standouts on the list.

Tyreke Evans, who has since digressed significantly, had one of the more remarkable rookie seasons ever. After jumping off John Calipari's train at Memphis, the one-and-done Evans became one of only four rookies in NBA history to average more than 20-5-5, joining Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Roberston.

Seven of the top 20 players a year ago in scoring and player efficiency rating (PER) played more than one season in college. Of those players, only Portland's Damian Lillard played all four, and likely wouldn't have had he not broken his leg his junior year after playing just 10 games.

The last seven Most Valuable Player awards went to players who began their NBA careers as teenagers.

In order to gauge whether or not playing more than one year of college ball ties a metaphorical anchor to your leg upon entering the league or if entering the NBA as a one-and-done prospect paints more opportunities, I looked at the Top 20 players in terms of PER, with the stipulation that they must average more than 20 minutes per game and have played in at least 40 games. From there, I tallied one-and-done players versus those who stayed past their freshman year of college. The sample size will be the years since the collective bargaining agreement's change prior to the 2006-07 season.

For reference: PER is summarized by columnist John Hollinger, who developed the metric, as "summing up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracting the negative accomplishments, and returning a per-minute rating of a player's performance."

Here's the formula, as broken down by

All calculations begin with what I am calling unadjusted PER (uPER). The formula is:

Most of the terms in the formula above should be clear, but let me define the less obvious ones:

Despite the recurring notion that staying in college leaves you susceptible to stock-plummeting injuries (true) and that it can drop your value (may be true), those that stayed in college for more than one season were more efficient players, at least in the uppermost tier of the league anyway. Sure, most of these players end up on the Top 20 list continually, players like Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan. But even when international players—who are eligible if they turn 19 in the calendar year of their draft—like Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili and Nikola Pekovic are factored into the formula and are added to those who forwent their college years like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, there's still a larger sum of those who played one or more years of college ball than those who didn't or those who skipped college/are international players.

Clearly, player efficiency rating isn't the one metric to rule them all, but it certainly has merit. If these numbers indicate anything it's that those who compete more than a single season in college can still be effective players.

Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, Chicago Tribune's RedEye Chicago, Rivals, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He currently writes for Washington Post Sports, the ESPN TrueHoop Network and The Cauldron. Start a dialogue with him on Twitter (@JPlanos).

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