Marquette combo guard Vander Blue made a shocking decision in declaring for the 2013 NBA draft, despite the very real possibility of not being selected on June 27.
That possibility became a reality Thursday night, but that doesn’t mean he made the wrong decision.
Blue waited patiently to hear his name called on Thursday, only to watch 60 players come off the board. While he wasn’t one of them, Blue didn’t let it break his spirits, using Twitter to express his happiness for those who found a new home with an NBA franchise:
Like Portland Trail Blazers swingman and former Marquette standout Wes Matthews, Blue will look to take the long road to an NBA career after going undrafted. He seems excited about the opportunity, though:
As Blue suggested, the climb to an NBA future is going to be steep. D-League success stories are few and far between, though there are some notable exceptions, including Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin and Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat.
But in forgoing his senior season at Marquette, Blue may have opened some much bigger doors to reaching the NBA level.
As is often the case in the NBA, non-lottery selections face an uphill battle at the professional level. Apart from foreign prospects who choose to hold off their NBA debut, most draftees spend years just trying to crack an NBA starting lineup, stunted by the inability to develop with significant playing time.
Even if Blue had returned to Marquette, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have even been a first-round selection in a loaded 2014 draft class, left to face a similar battle to develop into a legitimate NBA starter following next year’s draft.
In the D-League, Blue won’t have a problem earning playing time to aid in his development. In fact, he’s now in position to stand out from the crowd as a player NBA teams will have their eye on; he won’t be just another college prospect to scout next season.
That’s not to suggest the combo guard will be the first player teams look to when they begin filling roster spots this summer, but Blue has at least put himself out there as a legitimate option. Should he remain at the D-League level this season, he’ll have an opportunity to prove why 30 teams made a mistake in not drafting him.
Blue has to work on his ball-handling and passing skills—as well as his offensive consistency—if he is to make a name for himself in the D-League, but he’ll have a much better opportunity to do so against potential NBA competition than he would at the college level.
In the D-League, teams are focused on development—not winning. The pressure is off. Blue can simply focus on his game and what he must do to become an NBA-caliber guard.
Time will tell if Blue can find enough success to earn an NBA roster spot, but he certainly didn’t take a massive risk in declaring for the draft. In reality, he put himself in better position to succeed—perhaps, in better position than many of the players actually drafted on Thursday.