Which prospects have the best chance at succeeding in the upcoming NBA Summer Leagues? Do any of them have a legitimate chance at breaking onto an NBA roster?
In the past, undrafted rookies have not fared too well in succeeding at the NBA level. The sheer volume of players competing for roster sports in the NBA is staggering. In order to do so, standing out in the summer leagues is the best chance for these undrafted prospects.
Scott Machado, PG, Iona
Machado’s biggest weakness is nothing that he has any control over. His decision to play basketball at mid-major Iona was the best he could have made at the time.
Now that the world has seen what he can do—pretty much everything—it’s hard to figure out why the multi-talented guard wasn’t drafted. One thing is certain—he will catch on somewhere this summer and make a tough case for an NBA team to part with his talents.
First, Machado is an absolute baller with the rock in his hands. His vision, handles and ability to create for his teammates is bar-none the best available from the undrafted (better than most drafted as well).
Concerns about his size should be dispelled by the drafting of Damian Lillard in the top 10 of the draft. At 6’3” and 195lbs., Lillard is every bit as “undersized” as Machado. Also, Lillard recorded a mere 4.4 APG at Weber State (another mid-major) but was tagged as the best point-guard prospect in the draft. Why then, was Machado relegated to the undrafted pile when he is clearly able to produce on the same level, if not better than Lillard?
Lillard has the scoring advantage on Machado. That may be appealing to teams drafting in the top 10, but a true point guard like Machado is what contenders need to be looking to add for depth.
William Buford, SG, Ohio State
Buford played for a high profile program at Ohio State for four seasons under Thad Matta. His abilities, weakness and everything in between are commonly known around the NBA.
It’s surprising, though, that given his shooting ability—especially from beyond the arc—that a team didn’t take a chance on him as they did with shooting specialist and his former Buckeye teammate Jon Diebler. Diebler signed a contract overseas and is playing in Greece for one year.
The biggest deciding factor for Buford to catch on somewhere is his big game experience. This factor will either draw interest in his services or make teams shy away from them. He has the tested experience of having played in the biggest of games throughout his college tenure.
However, he has been known to under perform in these instances. This is true especially when defenders contested his shot in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Do teams want a player who disappears in the big moments? Or is his already having those experiences enough for someone to say he’s battle tested and ready to play at the NBA level today?
His shooting ability alone will earn him a place on a summer league squad. If he can get over his struggles to score with pressure on him, he has a very real chance of catching on somewhere as a gunner and spot shooter off the bench.
Kevin Jones, PF, West Virginia
At 6'8", Jones is somewhat of a “tweener” at the NBA level. His size may have helped him somewhat at the NCAA level, but that will be a different story in the NBA.
The fact that he lacks elite athleticism didn’t help his case at the NBA draft and he went undrafted for these reasons. However, there is a lot to like about Jones’s game—enough that he may be able to catch on somewhere with a solid performance in the NBA summer league.
His high-motor and his drive to battle down-low will go a long way towards convincing a team to take a chance on him. He perfectly fits the off-the-bench characteristics teams are looking for when looking to add a depth big to enhance and even out their rosters.
In 2011-12, Jones averaged a respectable 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. His perimeter game is respectable and that makes him a very capable dual-threat option for teams in need of a big who can stretch defenses.
Don’t be surprised to see Jones overcome his detractors, soar through the NBA summer leagues and catch on somewhere next fall.
Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico
Gordon is another 6'8" power forward who went undrafted because of size concerns. His ability, though, should not be underrated. Even with size concerns, Gordon fits the mold of a Jared Sullinger-type player who can play bigger than he really.
The difference with Gordon is that he is tougher around the basket and makes up for his size with relentless play and effort. He is a solid rebounder that can also step into the paint and stuff opposing offenses’ attempts at the basket.
For a big man, he runs exceptionally well and can get himself open by moving around without the ball. This helps him free himself up on the perimeter where he employs a good mid-range jumper that is crucial for a power forward of his size to utilize.
Look for Gordon, like Jones, to catch on somewhere that needs a tough as nails rebounder who can also score in droves off the bench.
Follow Mike on Twitter @BigHoagowski