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Thursday’s NBA draft needed to come with a translator, and not because so many players from so many nations were selected.
The first round of the draft is straightforward enough. The 30 players picked in that round will get guaranteed contracts. But you aren’t sure what the teams have in mind with the 30 second-rounders. Neither are many of those 30 players.
This year’s second round was of great interest and intrigue in Iowa. Of the draft-eligible players from Iowa schools or the state itself, you figured Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff was the most-likely player to get picked.
But Iowa State’s Georges Niang went 50th overall, Marcus Paige of Linn-Mar and North Carolina was 55th, and ISU’s Abdel Nader was 58th. Uthoff was undrafted.
Does that make any of the draftees certain to make NBA rosters this fall? No. Does it make Uthoff a bust? No.
Uthoff will play for the Sacramento Kings’ summer league team, but while being unattached to the Kings. He’ll use that exposure to try to get a fall camp invitation. It’s an extension of him auditioning for the entire league.
“I was a little surprised not to hear his name called,” said Uthoff’s former Iowa teammate, Aaron White. “He did have draft-and-stash options, which he didn’t want to do. He needs to do what’s best for his career, and he’s in a good situation. He can kind of handpick, play in multiple summer leagues and test the waters.”
White was a “draft-and-stash” last year. He was the Washington Wizards’ second-round pick, made with the understanding White would spend his first pro season playing in Germany before coming back to the Las Vegas Summer League with the Wizards in July 2016 and trying to latch on to the team’s 2016-17 roster this fall.
Washington only has six players under contract, and didn’t have a draft pick Thursday.
“I liked my situation,” White said. “I really trusted the Wizards organization, and they’ve shown a lot of interest in me the past 12 months.”
Almost all second-rounders have tough roads to rosters. Miami’s Josh Richardson and Toronto’s Norman Powell were the only 2015 second-rounders to make any kind of impact in the NBA last season.
Uthoff was a consensus mock-draft guy. Niang was not. But Niang now appears to have the better shot at drawing an NBA salary come the start of the 2016-17 season.
“We don’t see him just as a guy who’s going to the D-League,” Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard said. “We think he’ll compete for minutes.
“His game translates because he can shoot and make plays. He’s a point forward that way.”
Paige is headed to the Utah Jazz, a franchise saturated with point guards including former Michigan star Trey Burke and 2015 first-round pick Dante Exum. Utah traded with Indiana Wednesday to get veteran point guard George Hill. Counting Paige, the Jazz have seven players who can be classified as point guards.
At least Paige has a starting point. The fact Utah thought enough of him to secure his NBA rights for a year counts for something.
If he ends up with the Jazz’ D-League team, that wouldn’t be the easiest way into the NBA. But it is a way. Forty-seven different D-League players got call-ups to the NBA during the 2015-16 season.
Nader getting drafted by the Boston Celtics was a surprise, but it sounds like he told the team he was willing to spend the season with Boston’s D-League affiliate in Maine.
It’s taken for granted in the U.S. that good American college players have no trouble finding basketball jobs in Europe, but White said that isn’t the case. The pro leagues there are better than many realize.
ESPN’s Seth Greenberg concurs. He recently tweeted “Jobs are limited and money is limited.” Nonetheless, it should be a viable alternative for Uthoff if he can’t crack an NBA roster.
For those who say a player will just go overseas. Jobs are limited and money is limited. Europe not for everyone. Huge cultural adjustment— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) June 24, 2016
If you ever wonder how far the Big Ten is from the NBA, look at Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Hammons of Purdue lasting until the 46th pick. Look at first-team all-league players Uthoff of Iowa and Yogi Ferrell of Indiana going undrafted.
Look at all-conference sophomore Melo Trimble of Maryland returning to school after facing the realization he would have been a second-rounder at best.
Many things about major-college basketball feels like a professional racket. But the talent level isn’t one of them.