Shawn Marion on Unfair Labor Practices

Via Sheridan Hoops, I found this lovely quote from Shawn Marion:

“I think the age requirement for coming into the league should be higher,” he said.

...

“You’ve got to be ready to come in, step in and contribute versus trying to teach them the game still. (In college) they get their A’s and B’s of basketball, so by the time they get here, they’ve got the game plan, know how to run a pick and roll, learn the defensive sets. That should be instructed to them in college.”

What's amusing about this is that, if you read this in a certain context, it sounds very much like Marion is saying that it's the players job to learn "the A's and B's," as it were, and that the NBA shouldn't have to pay to teach them this stuff. And that's fair, I guess...

Oh wait, it's actually not fair at all! Because you know what most people who do their jobs get?

PAID.

The simple fact is that any player good enough to make an NBA roster is good enough to be making an NCAA program a lot of money (for the moment, we will gloss over the fact that some very bad talent evaluators use draft picks on guys like Austin Rivers and Marcus Teague). There's also plenty of evidence that further years in college playing by different rules versus inferior talent is not, in fact, better at preparing you for the NBA, and that the learning period just gets delayed. When you play against a 2/3 zone that doesn't need to abide by a defensive 3-second rule for 40 minutes a game, you probably aren't going to run a shitload of pick-and-roll (most attack-the-zone offenses in college don't run it, or don't use it to get the same types of looks that an NBA pick-and-roll/pop would). Hell, when your coach makes you play defense in a 2/3 zone for 40 minutes a game, you don't learn much about defending in the NBA either.

By advocating that players stay in college, Marion is advocating that the NCAA should continue to exploit the best players. And sure, that's great business for the NCAA, and maybe even for the NBA, but it sucks for those players. Take it from John Calipari (as related by DeMarcus Cousins to Grantland):

Cousins met with Calipari after the season. “Stay at Kentucky if you want to help take care of my family," Calipari said. "Go if you want to take care of yours.”

“Once he put it in those words, it wasn’t really a tough decision at all,” Cousins said of declaring.

Indeed it isn't. Calipari hits on something we talk about all the time here: when the NCAA claims that sports programs lose money, we immediately ask "Then why do you pay coaches millions of dollars for it?" Calipari knows quite well that he and his fellow coaches (and their families!) are the main beneficiaries of all that free labor. And, yes, it's great that he's honest about it with his players. But is a system in which fariness depends on the integrity of the guys earning the big paychecks really a system that players with NBA talent want in place?

It seems to me that Calipari is doing something that Marion is not willing to do: tell it like it is to young players in college. I would hope that players like LeBron, Garnett, and Kobe, who didn't have to go through a year of exploitation in the NCAA, might speak up and disagree with Marion, or that players like Anthony Davis and John Wall, who only spent one year in college ball, might ask Marion to keep his opinion to himself.

Or maybe Brandon Jennings can speak up and explain to todays high schoolers that you can get paid to "get your A's and B's"; you don't have to let the NCAA rip you off. Despite a very underwhelming tour in Europe, Jennings still went high in his draft based on the hype he had as a high school player. Sure, playing in March Madness is a dream for many young men. But getting paid to play basketball against professionals while travelling the world sounds like a good deal too.

"... Jennings still went 5th in his draft based on the hype he had as a high school player... ". Are you sure?, maybe it was 10th...
I actually agree and disagree with you on this one. I don't have any problem with individual NBA teams deciding that they require X number of years experience after high school prior to hiring. Since the NBA is anti-competitive I guess I'm even ok with the whole league making that ban. I've done consulting work with a number of Fortune 500 companies that require a college degree for even the most basic job. Nothing that some of those people do would tell me they needed college but the company still has that rule in place.

Now I would claim that the league is being silly with such a rule because extremely talented players are missing out on a year of basketball and are not learning that much in college that will help them with their professional careers (same as with the Fortune 500 companies). If they want to have that requirement though I don't really have an issue with it. Companies making dumb hiring decisions based on criteria that has nothing to do with actual ability is American as apple pie. For the life of me I'll never understand people who claim the business world in general is well run - I've worked with a lot of these people and intelligent management is pretty low on the list of skills at a big corporation.

Does that stink for the people with the ability and desire to get paid by the NBA? Yes. But when you want to enter into a league where veterans and management make decisions about how much you can make instead of market forces than you will have to take some lumps. If a number of enterprising high schoolers wanted to set up their own league without those rules than I would be all for that as well.
That being said I don't really see any benefit to how college sports in this country is run. That truly is exploitative and its great Calipari owns up to it. It is also intelligent on his part because it will ensure a continuous line of talented skill that he won't have to pay for since the talent will know that he'll be honest with them (whereas other college coaches get free labor while making millions but are disingenuous about the process).
I think Marion's comments actually set the stage nicely for a revamped D League, where players are paid to play basketball, but the type of basketball that is played more closely resembles the NBA game.

Of course, the NCAA would fight this tooth and nail. But, if the concern is getting young players ready for the NBA - not making the NCAA piles of money - I think this is the best solution.
Kobe brought this up recently.

http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/23/kobe-bryant-college-basketball-system-really-isnt-teaching-players-anything/
Just a few comments:

1. You're giving Shawn motivations (ie, thinking young kids shouldn't be paid) that are unsubstantiated. It's far more likely that he would prefer to have less competition for a roster spot from a lot of 18 to 20 year olds. and I say that just as speculatively as this article did the former. It's unfair to lay motivations on top of Marion that he hasn't expressed vocally.

2. Basic rule of business: whoever has the money wants to make more money, not less.

a. Why would the NBA ever even THINK of revamping their D-League in order to pay potential star a lot of money when they have a ready-made D++-League in the NCAA?

b. Why would the NBA want to risk shelling out for players that might wash out once they face real competition?

c. Why would the NCAA pay its players when they know they have a virtual monopoly on the NBA pipeline as it stands now? (Yes, Europe would be a really nice option, but Jennings is an exception for now).
falejano,

If it comes across that I am attributing motivations to Marion, then I expressed myself poorly.

To me, it seems more likely that Marion is simply not considering this aspect of it, and is only thinking that the quality of play would be better if rookies had more solid fundamentals (whether or not this is true is a matter of opinion. We know how Marion feels about it, but others clearly disagree with the notion that more time in college equates to being better prepared for the pros).

Dodgson,

That's all well and good in industries where companies can choose from large talent pools. Professional basketball is no such industry. In industries where there isn't enough talent to go around, companies can't be so picky. And by the way, this isn't unique to pro sports. Dre and I will be talking about this during the podcast.

Stern was, of course, very aware of this, which is why the NBA's owners use a cartel-like structure to form a monopsony (the NBA is a monopsony, or very close to it, in the sense that they are the only buyers of basketball labor). This is why the NBA came down so hard on Minnesota during the Joe Smith fiasco -- keeping the cartel together is MUCH better for the NBA (and worse for the players) than having a free market would be.
And here's the clue:

"Nothing that some of those people do would tell me they needed college but the company still has that rule in place."

This tells me that the talent pool of people capable of doing the job is huge. So you have jobs at a place many people want to work (fortune 500) where many people are qualified. Of course the company puts measures in place to narrow the pool.

Although obviously many people WANT to play in the NBA, the number that are actually capable is extremely tiny.
Also we talk about the short supply of tall people a lot but if teams are bad at talent evaluation, then I want to know to what extent. Because if their evaluations are as bad was I suspect, then there are a lot of players to be had very cheaply. Nick Fazekas is killing it right now and I remember the post about John Bryant so I wonder. Watching the Seahawks success, I wonder what if Russell didn't get that opportunity because if his height. All these biases affect player evaluation and leading to this island of misfits that go under appreciated and if I was a GM, I would be taking advantage of this. Trying to get two dleague teams and keeping the last 3 roster spots open for tryouts would be just a few things I would do if I ran a team.
"a. Why would the NBA ever even THINK of revamping their D-League in order to pay potential star a lot of money when they have a ready-made D++-League in the NCAA? "

Because the money the NCAA makes doesn't benefit the NBA?
Just want to point out that Teague's first name is spelled Marquis.

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