There is a one year difference in eligibility requirements between the NBA and NBDL: in the NBA a player must be at least 19 years old, while the NBA Development League allows 18-year-olds to play. Can the Miami Heat use that age gap to its advantage?
Normally the Sioux Falls Skyforce doesn't have any 18-year-old players on its roster. With the Skyforce open tryouts coming up on September 27 and October 10, the possibility of adding talented 18-year-olds to the roster would be an intriguing possibility.
The advantage for the Skyforce is that 18-year-old players on their team cannot be called up by any NBA team during the season. Most other players are considered free agents and can be snatched from the Skyforce during the season.
If commissioner Adam Silver had his way, the age limit for the NBA would be 20. The issue was pushed aside during contentious negotiations for the last collective bargaining agreement that resulted in the 2011 lockout but it could be revived for the next round of negotiations before the 2017-18 season.
Due to current NBA rules a player must enter the NBA through the draft process, so the Heat might lose their most promising 18-year-old prospects to another team when he is NBA-eligible. That is a chance that might be worth taking.
18-year-old basketball players have a choice of going to a college program, joining an overseas team, or playing in NBDL. The D-League salary of $25,000 or less discourages all but the most dedicated to play there. The Skyforce's $170,000 team salary cap further limits how many "A" players earning $25,000 can be on the team.
From a player's perspective though, the D-League might be a better choice than college hoops in the long term. He could focus on developing his basketball talents to their utmost without having to take classes he has no interest in, deal with constant media requests, and have the chance to gain experience competing against players of various ages.
The other alternative of international play can be a daunting experience for an 18-year-old. To be suddenly living abroad, away from family and friends, and asked to play against more experienced competition straight out of high school could be overwhelming.
Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports discussed on a podcast that this strategy is a pipe dream until the compensation for D-League players is set at more realistic levels.
Should the Skyforce recruit top high-school prospects for their open tryouts, knowing they probably will be grabbed by other NBA teams in the draft? Knowing Pat Riley's basketball prowess, he might somehow find a way to keep a quality player for the Miami Heat. With Riley anything could happen.