Everybody wants to get drafted by an NBA team because it looks wonderful on a resume and it’s proof somebody values your skills.
In the case of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, drafted isn’t the only way to the NBA and it’s not necessarily the best way.
If mock drafts are to be trusted, neither has a great chance of getting drafted on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN). This will be a frustrating exercise for many fans, who will watch NBA teams grab many players from overseas and many players with minimal college accomplishments. Kansas’ Cheick Diallo projects as a first-round pick after averaging 7.5 minutes a game for the Jayhawks.
That’s the way of the NBA (and not much different from MLB drafting 19-year-old pitchers who throw 98 mph, Freddy Adu or teen tennis sensations). As VanVleet says, “For some reason, the draft hates 22- and 23-year-olds.”
If the NBA allowed Internet voting to determine the No. 60 pick, I believe VanVleet wins. People love his game, his personality and his story. Unfortunately for him, NBA people love guys who might turn into Amar’e Stoudemire, Manu Ginobli or Andre Drummond more.
▪ Draft Express lists Jakob Poeltl (No. 16), Wade Baldwin (No. 17), Damian Jones (No. 22), and Stephen Zimmerman (No. 28) as first-round picks. The Shockers went 3-0 against those teams this season. Zimmerman and Poeltl both scored 11 points. Neither Jones nor Baldwin cracked double figures.
▪ For undrafted players, their agent will begin fielding calls from teams immediately to grab them for a summer league roster. The NBA runs leagues in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and Baker and VanVleet (plus other ex-Shockers such as Toure Murry) will hit one or more of them. VanVleet, in particular, could be a coveted player because NBA types are going to see him as a person who can get a summer-league team organized on the court and run things.
“I wouldn’t be saddened if his name doesn’t get called,” said Chris Thomas, a trainer who worked with VanVleet this spring. “It might be better to go undrafted. Pick the team that makes the most sense. There’s always a need for a point guard who can get it done. That’s what Fred offers. He can be a second-rotation guy who keeps a lead or can knock down a lead.”
▪ Many NBA teams will “draft and stash” overseas players in order to save a roster spot, keep from overburdening the roster with youth, save money and see the player develop. This scenario might also be an option for Baker or VanVleet.
For them, a team with a second-round pick(s) might call their agent during the draft and say “We’re thinking about him at No. 44. Would he go to France for a year?” The players will have discussed this scenario.
What does that mean?
It means a player could go to France and make good money for a year and try the NBA again. However, the NBA team holds that player’s rights until he comes to camp and either makes the team or gets cut. So that scenario could limit a player’s freedom of movement.
▪ Most second-round contracts are not guaranteed. Some early second-round picks — former Shocker Cleanthony Early got two years at No. 34 — can grab a guaranteed contract. Once you get past the late 30s, it’s unlikely. Many NBA teams so little value second-round picks they will sell them for cash. The cases of teams finding a Draymond Green (No. 35 in 2012) are rare, but they exist.
▪ At some point, Baker and VanVleet may decide between overseas or the NBA Development League.
There is significantly more money (close to or above six figures in some cases) to be made overseas (although that money may be drying up. If you’re interested in learning more about the economics of playing in Europe and the D League, listen to this podcast from The Vertical). Players of the level of a Baker and VanVleet, if not drafted, might expect to start around $65,000 in Europe. Of course, there are also risks associated with playing so far from home for teams that may be run quite differently from a college team.
The D League offers the lure of being close to the NBA, although its arguable what that really means, and living in the United States. Similar to minor-league baseball, the D League is often about 10 guys getting paid $20,000 for five months (plus housing) so they can set picks and pass to the two real prospects on the roster.
The D League is making strides with its NBA ties and better coaching. It will have 22 teams next season, all with affiliations with NBA teams. The D League claims about 40 percent of NBA players have D League experience, players such as Shaun Livingston, Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert and Danny Green as its alumni. However, the road to the NBA is much tougher for undrafted players, many of whom could be making more money overseas.
▪ Follow @WojVerticalNBA if you’re on Twitter. He is the king of NBA scoop and will update the draft before ESPN, if past performance is an indicator. The Yahoo vs. ESPN battle on draft night is fascinating.
Mock draft roundup
- When: 6 p.m. Thursday (ESPN)
- Where: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Shockers in the NBA Draft
2014 — Cleanthony Early, New York Knicks, second round
1987 — Henry Carr, Los Angeles Clippers, seventh round
1985 — Xavier McDaniel, Seattle SuperSonics, first round (No. 4 overall)
1985 — Aubrey Sherrod, Chicago Bulls, second round
1983 — Antoine Carr, Detroit Pistons, first round (No. 8)
1982 — Cliff Levingston, Atlanta Hawks, first round (No. 9)
1981 — Randy Smithson, Kansas City Kings, eighth round
1979 — Cheese Johnson, Golden State Warriors, third round
1977 — Bob Elmore, New Jersey Nets, fourth round
1976 — Robert Gray, Seattle SuperSonics, fifth round
1974 — Bob Wilson, Chicago Bulls, third round
1972 — Terry Benton, Detroit Pistons, sixth round
1972 — Ron Harris, Milwaukee Bucks, fifth round
1968 — Warren (Armstrong) Jabali, New York Knicks, fourth round
1967 — Jamie Thompson, Los Angeles Lakers, seventh round
1965 — Nate Bowman, Cincinnati Royals, first round (No. 7)
1965 — Dave Stallworth, New York Knicks, first round (No. 3)
1962 — Lanny Vn Eman, Syracuse Nationals, sixth round
1962 — Gene Wiley, Los Angeles Lakers, second round
1961 — Ron Heller, Chicago Packers, seventh round
1956 — Bob Hodgson, Minneapolis Lakers, 11th round
1955 — Cleo Littleton, Fort Wayne Pistons, fifth round