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By: Justin Lester, Sports Radio KJR
Call me crazy for watching the NBA Summer League, but keeping an eye on the third-stringers in Orlando and Las Vegas has given me a new perspective on professional basketball.
Tony Wroten’s 1-for-14 performance against Cleveland this past Sunday insinuates that he is not ready to back up Mike Conley at point guard for the Grizzlies. Jon Brockman is in an unfavorable battle with a dozen other players for the right to be the 13th man in New Orleans next season. Brock Motum is riding the bench for Philadelphia’s summer squad, and Abdul Gaddy has scored one point in two games with the Bobcats.
It's no secret that the state of Washington is a hotbed for generating top-notch basketball talent, producing high school All-Americans and having its collegiate players get drafted almost annually. But just how hard is it to make an NBA roster?
Gaddy was rated the second best point guard prospect in his class behind John Wall, and 20-year-old Wroten was compared to Rajon Rondo after becoming the first-ever freshman to be named to the All-Pac-12 first team. Motum led the conference in scoring during his junior and senior years. Brockman was a five-star recruit by Scout.com and is the UW's all-time leading rebounder.
The NBA is point guard-driven and lacking in quality post players, yet none of these guys appear to be destined for a meaningful career in the league at the moment.
Sure, there are plenty of players with local ties whose jobs in the NBA are safe: Jamal Crawford, Klay Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Avery Bradley, and more. But only 360 people in the entire world get to suit up each night of the season. Fans in this country don’t realize how spoiled they are when they watch NBA games.
Following a remarkable postseason with the Bulls, free agent Nate Robison is drawing very little interest around the league. Think about how impressive Robinson was – especially considering his size – at the UW and during the past decade he spent in the NBA, and then try to imagine hundreds of people being undeniably better than him.
Meanwhile, former Gonzaga stars Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau, and Jeremy Pargo are each out of the league after bouncing around from team to team. Seattle natives Aaron Brooks and Terrence Williams were waived by their respective clubs in June, and Kyle Weaver is stuck in the D-League five years after being drafted 38th overall out of WSU.
My point? Just appreciate the quality of players that do get the chance to lace up their sneakers every night. The NBA is a special organization. Even among the best of the best, there are sizeable gaps between the 150 starters, the hundreds who come off the bench, and those who are forced to play overseas. The vast amount of money the stars make is well-deserved because of the countless hours they spent in the gym to reach the pinnacle of basketball.
(Photo by Nick Laham / Getty Images)
There's also a lesson to be learned for players thinking about leaving college early.
Wroten should be preparing for his junior year at the UW. Yes, there’s still an ample amount of time for him to develop NBA-caliber skills before it’s too late, but the 6-foot-6 lefty would improve so much more by playing in the Pac-12 than he will by sitting on the bench in Memphis. Wroten and former UW teammate Terrence Ross could end up just like Morrison – who left Gonzaga one year early – unless they make good impressions this season.
College guys should try to emulate the path of Brandon Roy: stay in school for all four years, improve your stock each season, get drafted in the lottery, and become an NBA All-Star. They need to realize that the NBA doesn't have room for all 60 players who get drafted each year. It's wise to wait as long as possible before making the jump.
The NBA is a cutthroat league, one that leaves numerous young men heartbroken, and one that fans must cherish while they have it. Sonics faithful can attest to this.