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Column: Raising age requirement may increase competitive balance

By Spencer Mayfield
On March 26, 2014

The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 25 straight games. A loss tonight against the Houston Rockets would tie them with the Cleveland Cavaliers for an NBA record in most consecutive games lost. It is no coincidence that the 76ers have the most inexperienced team in the league with the average age of a player at a league-low 23.7 years old.
Perhaps the most amazing part of all this is despite this losing streak, Philadelphia does not have the worst record in the NBA. That belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks. Both these teams are at the bottom of what has been an awful year for the Eastern Conference.
The competitiveness in the conference makes games hard to even watch because of the quality of play on the court. Especially during the month of March when basketball fans are engaged in the dramatics of March Madness, the NBA takes a back seat to college basketball. And for good reason too. Right now college basketball is a much better product than the average Eastern Conference NBA game.
There may not be an easy way to fix this but NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that a 20-year-old age minimum may be what is best for the league. I think that this is evident because some players just may not be developed after only one year in college.
Of course there is always the exception to every rule, such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant who were able to enter the NBA straight out of high school and succeed. But for every LeBron and Kobe there is a Sebastian Telfair, who was not able to live up to the hype.
With today's Internet sensation age, there seems to be a new "next LeBron" every other week and huge expectations are placed on young players. If a player has two years to develop in college they will have a better understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses.
The NBA game is more predicated on individual ability rather than the team basketball that is played in college. Players with multiple strengths are more likely to succeeded and having an extra year in college players will be able to develop. Also the teams making the decisions to draft players will be able to make a more educated decision on if a player will be able to succeed at the next level.
Increasing the age requirement may not guarantee that the league will be able to avoid teams like the 76ers from losing 25 straight games or drafting players that do not live up to expectations. It will however provide a little more balance in the skill level of players and more competitive regular season basketball.

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