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How the Spurs will be affected by the new NCAA rules

A good number of things are changing, but how many will affect San Antonio requires some investigation.

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Following the FBI’s investigation into the crooked world of college basketball, the NCAA released a new set of rules aimed at curbing illegal tactics, particularly in recruiting. Here are some of the most significant ones pertaining to the NBA and what they could mean going forward.

All players who get invited to the NBA Combine but go undrafted will have the option to return to their former school.

My take: This is a good rule in my mind — for the players, at least. While most players who leave college early and declare for the draft only do so because they have been all but assured they will be drafted, there are those who decide to take a risk and make the extremely tough choice of declaring for the draft with no such assurances. Giving them the option to get a feel for where they stand in NBA circles and returning to college to further both their basketball skills and education if it doesn’t work out is not a bad thing. However, that doesn’t mean this rule is perfect.

The challenge: This is great for the players but difficult for colleges and coaches. Players have until the first Monday at 5 PM after the draft to inform their college’s athletic department if they are returning, but we’re talking about late June here. By this point, recruiting season is almost complete for college basketball, and rosters are all but set. This will cause a challenge for coaches who don’t know if a player’s position needs to be filled.

There’s also a matter of if an undrafted player decides to try his luck with Summer League, the G-League or overseas. If a college coach has been holding an open roster spot assuming his player will return, only be rebuffed, there won’t be many high-end players left to recruit at this point.

Fortunately, this rule won’t apply to many players — although an extreme example of this would be Texas A&M; it would have applied to two players who somewhat unexpectedly left this year only to go undrafted (Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg), and their departure has taken them from a Sweet 16 team to who knows what next season — but it will be interesting to see what happens when these unique circumstances do arise, and if changes to the recruiting schedule will make a big enough difference.

How this affects the Spurs: Barely, if at all. This rule will mostly pertain to fringe-NBA players, so we’re mainly talking about Summer League and training camp invitees being lost back to college. Sometimes miracles happen with undrafted players (albeit rarely before what would be their rookie season), but not often enough to truly have an impact on the NBA.

Pending a decision by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, high school basketball players can be represented by an agent beginning July 1 before their senior year in high school, provided they have been identified as an elite senior prospect by USA Basketball. In regard to high school athletes, however, the rules will not go into effect until the NBA changes its current age-limit rule.

My take: I’m not so sure about this one. One of the more common NCAA infractions are elite players accepting illegal benefits from agents who hope to one day represent “the next big thing” in professional sports. So the solution is to just make their interactions legal (granted, still without illegal benefits)? Not only that, but the NBA has to make changes first (presumably do away with one-and-done) before it can even go into effect. More than anything, this feels like a cop out on the NCAA’s part. “Hey, you can’t say we didn’t try.”

The challenge: As in, besides the fact that USA Basketball currently not only doesn’t have the personnel or resources to take on this task, and neither they or the NBA ever agreed to take on these duties? For starters, how will “elite” players be determined? Will it be all players who are invited to USA Basketball mini-camps, top 50 or 100 players on recruiting boards? Will the AAU — which these rules seem to be trying to de-emphasize — be playing a role in all this?

Also, what about foreign players who do not come overseas to play high school or college ball? It’s not Team USA’s job to scout them, so how will they be declared elite, and when will they be allowed to hire agents? There’s still a lot of unanswered questions here, and obviously everyone needs to get on board before it can happen.

How this affects the Spurs: If the Spurs continue to be a team that picks in the 20’s, they won’t be dealing with “elite” high school prospects too often. However, their continued interest in foreign players will force them to keep an eye on how they are affected and how they can be interacted with.

Then of course, there’s the Team USA duties. If USA Basketball does get the funding and decides to take on the job of identifying and labeling “elite” prospects, being head coach would require overseeing these duties (assistant coaches are usually the U-20, U-18, etc coaches) and could become more of a full-time job. While it likely won’t happen during Gregg Popovich’s tenure there (if at all), it’s at least something to keep an eye on.

The rest of the rule changes are mostly the NCAA changing how harshly players, coaches, and programs can be punished for breaking the rules, as well as how they can be investigated. Obviously those don’t pertain too much to the professional level, but as previously mentioned the rules that do are putting a lot of onus on the NBA to change its ways first before college basketball takes action.

While I personally feel like the one-and-done rule is relatively nonsensical and more than anything just forces elite high school athletes to go to school and wait for one pointless year before being drafted, it will be interesting to see if the NCAA can achieve its goal of forcing the NBA’s hand in eliminating it.

Adam Silver has always appeared open to that idea, so we shall see when/if he decides to eliminate another one of his predecessor's controversial rules.