The myth of a potential lockout as a rationale for UK players entering the 2010 NBA Draft
As many as five University of Kentucky players could soon declare for the 2010 NBA Draft. There are many legitimate and personal reasons for them to declare for the draft, but the threat of an NBA lockout in June of 2011 is clearly not one of them.
The distinct possibility of an NBA lockout during the 2011-2012 season certainly exists. A lockout in 1998 cost the NBA a substantial portion of the 1998-1999 season. The United States economy is emerging from an economic recession. Attendance is significantly down at arenas throughout the country. NBA owners are unhappy with the current collective bargaining agreement and claim to be losing hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are numerous points of contention between NBA owners and players. Owners want a hard salary cap, but the Players' Association adamantly opposes one. Owners want to reduce the length and amount of guaranteed deals and kill most or all salary-cap exceptions. Despite these and other disagreements, the NBA rookie salary scale is not a major point of contention and unlikely to radically change if there is a lockout and new collective bargaining agreement. Currently, NBA rookie contracts are four years in length. The first two years are guaranteed and the last two years are optional if NBA teams wish to exercise them. Any future NBA collective bargaining agreement is likely to include at least two year minimum contracts for rookies at a similar or even greater salary than today.
A final point often overlooked is that even NBA players with guaranteed contracts would not get paid during a lockout. If Eric Bledsoe declares for the 2010 NBA Draft and is selected with the 20th pick, he’ll receive a two year guaranteed contract- about $1.1 million for 2010-2011 and about $1.2 million for 2011-2012. If there is a lockout during the 2011-2012 season, he will be paid nothing for the second year and hence end up receiving about $500,000 per year for two years of service in the NBA. The NBA has said players can play overseas during a lockout, but FIBA, the governing international body, has refused to admit NBA players if they are bound to rejoin the NBA after a lockout.
There are numerous legitimate rationales for why University of Kentucky players should declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, but the potential of a lockout in 2011 is not one of them. UK players should listen to the advice of Miami Heat forward and union board executive James Jones, who recently told the Sun Sentinel, "I would advise guys to not look at the lockout or the possible lockout scenario as a reason for coming out, but if they're ready to come out, come out. If they don't think they're ready, then hold off and continue to grow. Because at this stage, no one knows what the future holds. If you start to make all your decisions based on what could happen and that thing doesn't happen, you could find yourself in a tough spot."