Remember Aquille Carr?
He was that flashy point guard from Baltimore who backed out of his commitment to Seton Hall for a career overseas.
This summer, Carr found himself playing on a Legends (old man's) Tour in China with guys like Tracy McGrady, Jason Williams and Gary Payton. Carr was eventually offered a contract from Qingdao Double Star of the Chinese Basketball Association, though the two sides never came to an agreement.
And just like that, he's back.
But not to Seton Hall or any other Division I program. Carr has decided to sign on with the NBA D-League and enter its draft next month.
It's a unique route to take, though one that just recently has proven can pay off. Glen Rice Jr., who was booted from Georgia Tech's basketball program, passed on transferring to another school and opted for the D-League.
Over the course of the season, Rice evolved into the key guy for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, eventually guiding them to a title and putting up monster numbers in the process.
But unlike most D-Leaguers—guys who've struggled to stick in the NBA—Rice Jr. was still a young prospect with plenty of room to grow. His play generated buzz in pro scouting departments, ultimately leading to the Washington Wizards selecting him No. 35 overall in last June's draft.
If Carr wants his shot at the NBA draft, Rice Jr.'s footprints will be the ones to follow.
In the D-League, Carr will be suiting up against former NBA players and first-round picks—not 19-year-old kids who've got post-game frat parties and exams in the morning. The D-League is the real deal; it's made up of young men fighting for their basketball lives.
For Carr to revive his NBA draft stock, he has to look convincing against better athletes and pro prospects. He drew negative reviews for his performance at this summer's Adidas Eurocamp in Italy, a showcase event packed with NBA coaches, scouts and executives.
Unfortunately for Carr, he has a little more to prove than just his ability to play the game—at only 5'7'' on a good day, he has to show he's capable of matching up physically. The hurdle would have been more manageable had he taken his talents to college, where the size, strength and IQs of opponents aren't as developed.
Carr is a point guard—one with elite-level quickness and a handle that triggers motion sickness. But he's got to prove his speed and ball skills can translate to more than just YouTube hits.
Scouts want to see him run an offense and make some smart decisions. They're going to want to see Carr make plays that help his ball club win games, the way Rice Jr. did when he averaged 25 points in last year's D-League playoffs.
Carr has to find a way to get recognized—a way to turn scouts' heads and keep them coming back for more.
From a fundamental standpoint, he's going to have to limit his turnovers, compete defensively, hit some jumpers and monitor his shot-versus-pass selection.
At the end of the day, Carr's chance to spark his draft stock will come down to production. He'll need to earn a spot in the rotation, stick, and then ultimately become a guy who brings it every night.
This isn't about promise or flashing upside—that's for raw big men and underdeveloped scorers. Carr doesn't have much of a ceiling, given his physical limitations. Scouts aren't looking for the next Chris Paul here—they're looking for a lightning rod who can help their team without the possibility of hurting it.
Carr's skill level is undeniable. Scouts will want to see whether he's got the intangibles for that skill to translate to team success.
"Can he make his teammates better?" is the question that will headline every scout's profile on Carr. And the answer is likely the difference between a shot in the pros or a career overseas.
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