Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Support of Stern

My colleague Earl da Goat, in his post immediately below, wants to know why the NBA is happy to re-distribute the rents from young players to the NCAA.

As Bissinger notes in the article, the NBA benefits from drafting proven talent with an existing popular following, rather than nobodies from rusty gyms in the Mississippi Delta. Of course, without the age rule in place, no GM wants to be the guy who misses out on the next Garnett, so he feels compelled to take the risk. The age rule in the collective bargaining agreement solves the coordination problem and achieves an outcome that is better for all teams. (It seems to me that a similar problem bedeviled Wall Street in recent years; traders, fund managers, etc. felt compelled to take on more risk to keep up with the Joneses [or the Goldmans] even as the collective volatility of portfolios became untenable.)

Additionally, it is not even clear that the NBA loses anything economically from forcing Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, etc. to delay their entry into the league by one year. Despite the extra mileage on their wheels from the college games, the players will likely play the same number of pro seasons as they counterfactually would have without college; everyone feels he is entitled to "get paid" a certain amount. Jersey sales and other merch will likely be the same over time, even discounting the cash flows.

As for "Why do the players agree to this nonsense?" have you ever heard of negotiation, Earl? You give some, you get some. In the last round of bargaining in 2005, players received a bigger cut of revenues and the NBA won shorter contracts (as well as the age limit and dress code).

I support the age limit, and furthermore, I hope the limit is raised to age 20, so that players are forced to spend at least two years in college. Or perhaps the NBA could adopt Major League Baseball's model, where high school players must choose to either enter the draft at age 18, or commit to three years of college. "One and done" players who show up on a university campus for eight months and don't even bother attending class during their second semester make a mockery of the whole exercise. I do believe that college is a useful transition period for young people to test their independence in a controlled environment and learn the folkways of adulthood. What's more, a variety of prep-to-pros such as LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Monta Ellis, and so on have become illegitimate fathers since entering the league. (To be fair, James reportedly spends time with his children.) Surely a bit of campus time with peer counselors waving around condoms could have helped them. Additionally, a little time with some college hotties would have relieved Young Mr. Bynum's hot desire to make a spectacle of himself at the Playboy Mansion.

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