How An NBA Lockout Might Affect College Players

By Marcus Shockley

David Stern NBA
Photo: Nets Basketball

There’s a lot of rumors swirling about the NBA labor situation and the potential for a work stoppage, more commonly known as a ‘lockout’. The very word creates a feeling of apprehension and distaste for fans, many of whom remember the last strike-shortened season all too vividly. Many experts and people close to the situation feel a lockout is not only a possibility, but inevitable.

However, one area that has remained somewhat unclear is where this puts the potential college players who would be entering the draft this year, and those who are considering early entry possibilities.

There are a lot of rumors circulating about what would happen to these players in the event of an NBA lockout. Fans of some high profile college programs may be hoping that a lockout will keep some of their star underclassmen from leaving early, while others state that these players can still be compensated by agents.

Darren Heitner, Founder/CEO of Dynasty Athlete Representation and the Founder/Chief Editor of SportsAgentBlog.com, talked about some of the questions regarding the potential NBA labor problems and how it might affect college players this year.

If there is an NBA lockout, how does this affect potential players entering the draft? If, for example, the lockout extended for over a year, would the players effectively be prevented from getting paid or signing?

Heitner: NBA Draft eligible players who have put their names into the draft would still be selected by NBA teams and those teams would retain the rights over those players. Players would only get paid based on the amount of games they play. If there is not a full season, players would earn a pro rata share of the total value of their contract for that year.

If players cannot sign or collect a paycheck during a lockout, would this likely affect players deciding to go pro early?

Heitner: It certainly is affecting players’ decisions to leave college early to play professional basketball. We already have witnessed Sullinger state he is coming back, and more recently, Harrison Barnes has indicated he will return to North Carolina. These are two players who had a very strong chance at being selected in the top 5 of the first round. Others such as Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, and Brandon Knight are rumored to be waiting and listening as to what will occur in CBA discussions between now and the deadline to withdraw from the Draft.

There are mixed reports that some agents are attempting to gather funds to help their players during an extended lockout. Is this accurate, or just speculation, and if true, would it extend to players entering the draft?

Heitner: At this point, it seems to be mere speculation, but I certainly would not count that out. I remember last year when Xavier Henry would not sign with the Grizzlies because the team refused to sign him at 120% of his slot (which many teams do without even questioning the player selected). His agent, Arn Tellem, told a newspaper that he was ready to pay his client the difference if the team would not oblige. The bigger agents and agencies with large reserves will certainly be in a better position to provide funds to clients in the event of an extended lockout.

For players who are seniors entering the NBA, is there a possibility that a long term lockout would lead some to try playing overseas for a year?

Heitner: It is not only a possibility, I see it as a likely consequence. Many of these players do not come from the best socio-economic backgrounds and need to start earning money as soon as they leave school. The domestic leagues other than the D-League leave much to be desired in terms of level of play and payments. Furthermore, players need to continue to develop and not lose any part of their games. I do believe that in the case of an extended lockout, players will look to go overseas, but it will not happen until it is clear that the lockout will cancel a majority of the NBA season.

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