The NBA and its player development affiliate the G League have reportedly launched a program that could have a sweeping impact on the amateur landscape.
The leagues are reportedly offering top high school players a pathway to professional basketball before they turn 19, the current age for NBA draft eligibility, according to ESPN.
Under the new plan, set to start for the coming season, blue-chip prospects will be paid north of $500,000 and partake in a one-year developmental plan outside of the typical routine for minor league teams, with an overall emphasis on development on and off the court, according to the report.
It was unclear how players will be chosen or may apply for the initiative, which is sure to be a contentious issue.
The age threshold was instituted in 2006 in response to a generation of players who went directly from high school to the NBA, with mixed results. For every LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, there's a Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, and Sebastian Telfair. For the owners, it was also about keeping salaries down for younger players, and to keep a steady pipeline of talent streaming to their partners in the NCAA.
The age policy has fueled the rise of the "one-and-done" college prospect -- a player who plays in the NCAA ranks for one year before jumping to the pros -- as well as a wave of teenage defectors seeking lucrative contracts in pro leagues overseas before they return to the US for the NBA draft.
Countless top players have gone "one-and-done," or spent time in pro leagues abroad in recent years. Projected No. 1 overall pick LaMelo Ball is one such case, having played for and later purchased the Illawarra Hawks of Australia's National Basketball League upon finishing high school, as is fellow American and NBL interloper RJ Hampton.
The plan was revealed by its first confirmed participant. Jalen Green, a top high school recruit out of California, announced in a Thursday Instagram post that he was bypassing college to join the G League.
The NBA appears to be motivated to fix a flawed system, while trying to thread the needle of keeping its young talent on the relative cheap.
"That's a real program that the NBL has," former NBA star and current G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim told ESPN. "It's appealing. We have kids leaving the United States -- Texas and California and Georgia -- to go around the world to play, and our NBA community has to travel there to scout them. That's counterintuitive. The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn't have to go somewhere else to develop for a year. They should be in our development system."