- The dream of every NBA hopeful is to finish his collegiate career, train hard in April and May, have a string of strong June pre-draft workouts, build buzz and eventually hear his name called by David Stern (or Adam Silver) on the final Thursday of June at the NBA draft. In their wildest dreams, they are first-round picks, with a guaranteed rookie deal for two years and two extra team options, a contract that brings wealth and also signifies a commitment from an NBA franchise toward their development, which is critical to having a long career in the league.
- But it doesn't always work out this way. The vast majority of top amateur performers don't hear their names called by the commissioner or deputy commissioner. Rather, they get a phone call from their agent, informing them that they have a summer league offer to join a team. The hope is to get into a situation where they can show their work ethic and talent, get playing time in front of team executives and latch onto an NBA club. In 2009, Wesley Matthews turned exactly that type of opportunity into a training camp invite, which turned into a partially guaranteed one-year deal, which turned into a rookie campaign that was so strong it resulted in a five-year, $34 million contract.
- Here are five players who entered this summer with Matthews-type dreams of proving to the world that NBA teams were wrong to pass on them in the draft and have the chance to stick on NBA rosters this season.
- Matthew Dellavedova | PG | Saint Mary's
- Summer league team: Cleveland Cavaliers
- NBA role: Backup PG
- An Aussie point guard from Saint Mary's who excels in the pick-and-roll game and is a terrific 3-point shooter ... no, we're not talking about Spurs backup guard Patty Mills. Dellavedova was one of the national leaders in assist percentage last season, orchestrating a Saint Mary's offense that ranked fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency. He burst on the national scene as a freshman, when he helped the Gaels upset the ninth-ranked Villanova Wildcats in the tournament, outplaying All-American counterpart Scottie Reynolds.
- Dellavedova isn't long or quick, but he brings good size to the position at 6-foot-4 and is deadly in pick-and-roll situations as the rare pass-first player who can make teams pay if they choose to go under screens. He'll struggle defensively when put on an island, but he has a high basketball IQ and could play himself into a third-string PG role somewhere in the league with a strong summer league showing.
- Phil Pressey | PG | Missouri
- Summer league team: Boston Celtics
- NBA role: Backup PG
- The first time I saw Pressey, the son of former Milwaukee Bucks legend Paul Pressey, was at the Nike Global Challenge in 2008. I scanned the court for a player who was long and lanky and was shocked when I discovered that the smallest player on the floor with short arms and legs was the one I was looking for. He was leading three or four teammates through some informal warm-ups on the court; as I continued to watch him, I noticed how naturally he led and his teammates followed. When the games began, his talent as a distributor and playmaker began to shine, as Pressey did an excellent job of not only finding the open man but also communicating and orchestrating the offense in true point guard fashion.
- Fast-forward to his college career and Pressey was one of my favorite guards to watch, particularly during his sophomore season, when he led the Tigers to a 30-5 record and the most efficient offense in the nation. He struggled last season as he tried to assume more of a scoring role, which isn't his strength, but if Pressey can show some consistency from the perimeter, he would make a fine backup point guard in this league.
- Durand Scott | PG/SG | Miami (Fla.)
- Summer league team: San Antonio Spurs
- NBA role: Defensive specialist
- Durand Scott
- AP Photo/Bob Leverone
- Durand Scott's versatility and shooting ability could earn him an NBA job.
- The evolution of the role player in the NBA puts a premium on guys who can defend multiple positions and be effective from 3-point range. Scott has the makings of someone who fits that description -- maybe not right away, but if given some time. At a shade under 6-3 without shoes and a 6-8½ wingspan, Scott gives you the size to guard either backcourt position. He has excellent lateral quickness and great anticipation on the defensive end. He can get up into ball handlers in pick-and-roll coverage and force them to take inefficient dribbles away from the basket.
- Offensively, Scott brings the prototypical New York City guard ballhandling skills, and he has a great first step going to the basket. He needs to get better in catch-and-shoot situations, but he's shown the ability to knock down 3s at a high rate. The fact that Scott isn't a finished product highlights why he wasn't drafted. (If he could shoot the lights out and defend, he'd be on an NBA roster.) The challenge for him is to show teams that he has improved and will continue to do so while keeping his defensive intensity up.
- Khalif Wyatt | SG | Temple
- Summer league team: Philadelphia 76ers
- NBA role: Bench scorer
- Wyatt doesn't look the part -- undersized as a 2-guard and a bit big for his frame -- but he brings an incredible knack for scoring in a variety of ways and has the opportunity to carve a niche as a bench scorer in the league. He's well-versed in throwing his weight around by using his girth to keep defenders on his hip. Wyatt also does a great job of creating and initiating contact, and he gets to the free throw line at a high rate as a result. Don't be fooled by the 32 percent 3-point mark during his senior year; that dip is more a factor of having to carry Temple's offense than lack of touch from range.
- Defensively, Wyatt is disinterested at best and a liability at worst, so he needs to show more of a commitment on that end if he expects to progress in his career. But the main draw for Wyatt as a bench scorer is the fact that he's played that role for most of his college career and could find a similar role on an NBA roster.
- Kenny Kadji | PF/C | Miami (Fla.)
- Summer league team: Cleveland Cavaliers
- NBA role: Stretch big
- The knock on Kadji has been his age. At 25, he was one of the oldest players eligible to be drafted. NBA talent evaluators often will discount an older player for two reasons: first, he has less of an upside than a player four years younger, and second, he was a "grown man" playing against younger competition.
- Having said that, Kadji might still find a spot for himself in the NBA by virtue of his unique skill set as a 6-10 big with range. The stretch big has become an important role on many NBA teams, particularly if they already feature a low-post presence or a strong roll man in pick-and-roll offense, but the best stretch bigs are the ones who can bring a strong presence on the defensive glass. Kadji brings the threat of a pick-and-pop big man who can space and stretch defenses out while protecting the boards on the defensive end. As an added bonus, he was a decent shot-blocker at Miami, and if he can bring any sort of weakside defensive presence, it would be a coup.
- It'll be interesting to see him play on the Cavs' summer league entry paired with a great pick-and-roll guard in Dellavedova. Kadji definitely can win himself a camp look from a team looking to add size and shooting.
a guest Jul 13th, 2013 43 Never
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