Earlier this month, Jalen Green became the first elite high school recruit to bypass college basketball for the G League Professional Pathway Program, signing a one-year deal for $500,000. Former Michigan commit Isaiah Todd quickly followed suit, and now, several of Kentucky’s top prospects are considering the alternate path to the NBA.
John Calipari has frequently spoken out against the expansion of the G League, and today, brought up the professional pathway program during his “Coffee with Cal” conversation with Charles Barkley. Calipari and Barkley both voiced their concerns about the program, specifically, the number of kids who will think they can make it to the NBA through the G League but fail.
“My issue with the G League trying to entice players by giving them more money is not the kids that you’re getting, it’s the thousands of ninth and tenth graders that think that’s how they’re going to make it when you and I know it’s going to be two percent,” Calipari said. “We’re not talking 50 [percent]. It’s going to be thousands and thousands and thousands. I think kids should go directly from high school to the NBA if they can. If not, go to college if you have a lifetime scholarship. And I don’t want to hear, ‘Well, we’ll give lifetime scholarships.’ If a kid as a ninth or tenth grader wasn’t preparing himself for college, he can only go to a trade school. So, if he doesn’t make the G League, he’s in a trade school.”
Barkley actually believes players should be required to go to college for two years before entering the NBA Draft, but like Cal, doesn’t think the G League’s new program can compare to a year on a college campus in terms of development.
“First of all, I hate drafting high school players because they’re not ready for the NBA,” Barkley said. “People look at Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron [James]. They don’t look at the rest of the guys who sucked who came to the NBA. They’re not physically, emotionally, or mentally ready to play in the NBA. I think they should have to go to college for two years. I’m able to look at the big picture. I’d love to see these guys go to college for two years. It’s not going to hurt them. They’re not ready for the NBA. It’s all about the money and I understand that but I hate that.”
“And first of all, I hate the G-League thing because what the G-League thing is, they’re going to cherry pick the top players, they’re going to be playing in small little cities, they’re not going to be playing against great competition,” Barkley added.
“They’ll be playing against professionals instead of college players,” Cal piped in.
“Hey, not good professionals!” Barkley exclaimed. “If they were good professionals, they’d wouldn’t be in the G-League. Come on, man. There’s going to be one or two players — and I hate to talk bad about the G-League — that may make it to the NBA. Now, more are going to make it because they’re going to cherry pick the best high school players but most of the players in the G-League are never going to step foot in the NBA. And I don’t like that.”
“What are the chances that you’re going to be LeBron, Kobe, or Kevin Garnett?” Barkley continued. “Let’s be realistic: Kobe Bryant struggled and he’s one of the greatest ever. Kevin Garnett struggled. LeBron is the only player in my 30, almost 40 years in the NBA who was ready to come out of high school and go directly to the NBA. And you’re talking about the top guys. The rest of these guys, they are not ready.”
As for the $500,000 Green will make for his year in the G League?
“They were making a big deal that he made half a million dollars,” Barkley said. “First of all, Cal, you and me both know that ain’t half a million dollars. By the time he pays taxes, pays his agent, he’s gonna have $200,000.”
Despite the increase in salaries, Calipari argued that a year at a school like Kentucky will still result in more money for prospects down the line.
“I want to see in the next four to five years, the kids that chose to go college, how they did because the money you’re going to get is negligible compared to what you will get if you really are good and get to your second contract. You have to get to your second contract. If you want to have that money that you have Charles, you have to get to that second deal. And if you’re young enough, you want to get to that third deal but that’s where it all is.”