The top players, like the top students, have it easy. Great jobs and money are waiting for them. First round NBA picks are living it large with multi-year million dollar guaranteed contracts and usually big time sponsorship dollars. Second round picks are on a little less stable ground – at least a team likes them enough to pick them, but usually a spot on a NBA roster isn’t guaranteed. For the undrafted player it is do-or-die, sink-or-swim time. There are no sponsors lining up to fill their pockets and often no teams lining up with guaranteed money and training camp invites. This would lead one to believe that any undrafted player who does crack an NBA roster is doomed to a short career as the last man on the bench. Well au contraire mon frere, you’re dead wrong.
Last season in the NBA approximately 20% of the league’s players, 88 in total, were undrafted players. Now many of these only played a handful of games and enjoyed a miniscule amount of court time. However, there are quite a few who have enjoyed long and lucrative careers. A team consisting of Ben Wallace, Brad Miller, Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell and Mike James starting, with Udonis Haslem, Troy Hudson and Earl Boykins coming off the bench wouldn’t be too shabby. And yes, all these guys were undrafted coming out of college and had to scratch and claw their way onto an NBA roster.
While it is too early to tell if there are any players of this caliber amongst this year’s rookie free agents, there are quite a few guys who look to have a good shot at cracking a roster. Here are the leading suspects:
Despite going undrafted in June, Pops is sitting pretty after signing a one year contract with the Mavericks, with a team option for a second year. He will make NBA chump change – about $400 000 a year according to Hoopshype.com. Pops showed enough promise playing in two NBA summer leagues with Dallas – averaging about 8 points, 5 boards and a block – for the Mavericks to lock him up. So far in the preseason he is averaging about 11 minutes per, putting up 3 points and 3 boards a game. With some guy named Dirk and veteran Austin Croshere ahead of him at the power forward spot, Mensah-Bonsu probably won’t see much NBA court time this year.
The Celtics already have a full roster of 15 players, so for Ray to crack the opening day roster Boston would have to buy out a contract. Draftexpress.com reports the C’s have given Ray a partially guaranteed contract – with $100 000 the amount guaranteed – so the team seems to be taking him seriously. Boston have also played three small guards on the court at the same time in the preseason, similar to what Ray’s Wildcats did last season, with Ray sharing the court with Sebastian Telfair and Rajon Rondo. Ray is putting up 6 points and getting 13 minutes per game in the preseason thus far.
Barea is another free agent that Draftexpress reports has a partially guaranteed contract (he gets 25 Gs guaranteed). Barea is one of 4 guys battling for the Mavs’ last roster spot, going up against CHN Draft Diary writer Darius Washington among others. So far Barea has been the most impressive of the four – 25 minutes, 9 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds per game.
Ivan McFarlin –Philadelphia (Oklahoma State ’05)
The Sixers only have 12 players signed this season and 16 players in camp total, so the team would only have to cut 1 player to get to the limit of 15 if they choose. McFarlin, who averaged 16.4ppg and 9.9rpg in France’s second division last year, is averaging about 3 points and 5 boards in his 12 minutes per game in the preseason.
Chris Quinn - Miami (Notre Dame ’06)
Quinn is making a strong push to stick with the Heat as a back up point guard, getting about 20 minutes of court time per game and averaging 4 points, 3 assists and 2.5 boards. Draftexpress says the team owes him at least 75 grand whether he makes the cut or not.
Louis Amundson – Sacramento (UNLV ’06)
Amundson already has some heavy hitters in his corner – coach Eric Musselman and Ron Artest have praised his play. Amundson is battling with another undrafted free agent – Wyoming’s Justin Williams.
Powell is another player guaranteed a little money ($125 000 by Draftexpress’ figures). After playing extremely well last year in the CBA and for the Jazz in this year’s summer league, Powell might have a better shot at making the squad than his drafted former college mate Dee Brown. Powell is averaging more minutes (13.5 to 7.5) and points (5.5 to 4.0) per game in the preseason than Brown.
Washington is the camp to be in if you are looking to work your way onto a NBA roster with the Wizards having lots of open roster spots. Hall impressed the coaching staff in training camp and is averaging about 16 minutes and 3 points per game in the preseason.