An open letter to undrafted players:
On Thursday, June 23rd, you were sitting either in the stands in Brooklyn, with family and friends, or with your manager. You sat through 4.5 hours, 60 draft picks waiting to hear your name called. It never happened. I can only imagine how disappointing that must feel, as you have worked all your life for that moment.
“Even if I just could have been a second round draft pick, even picked number 60 – the last pick in the draft,” you must have said to yourself.
I’m here to tell you it’s not a career-ender, and is definitely not the worst thing that could have happened to you. Let me explain why:
If you’re drafted in the second round there is no seldom any guaranteed money with that pick. Not only that, you’re stuck with the team that drafted you. While you may be worthy of being drafted, it is not always the best situation. If you’re a guard, and are drafted by Golden State or Oklahoma City, as a non-guaranteed player you have little chance of making either of those teams. As an undrafted free agent, you have your choice of teams to pick from, and can choose the team that fits your style best. That happened with a few players this year. Let me give you a few examples:
Ron Baker was a four-year starter at Wichita State and it was a surprise to many that he did not get drafted. Rather than being forced to go to a team where he would not have a chance, he signed a partially guaranteed 3-year deal with the New York Knicks. Baker has one great NBA skill-he can shoot the hell out of the ball. Baker is a hard worker, a hustler and a very intelligent player. On the Knicks roster right now the only shooting guard listed is Sasha Vujacic. Baker will have a chance to prove himself in Summer League, and has a legitimate shot at making the Knicks roster.
Gary Payton II was an All PAC-12 player at Oregon State. Being an undrafted free agent he chose to sign with the Houston Rockets. This could be a great fit, as Payton is good enough to come off the bench for Houston, plays both ends of the court, and can fit alongside a dominating ball handler like James Harden. This is another case where the player made a smart choice and picked a situation he could easily fit into.
Fred Van Vleet was the point guard and on-court leader at Wichita State. He was not drafted, most likely due to his size. Van Vleet signed a free agent contract with the Toronto Raptors. Although only being six feet in height, he is the same size as Kyle Lowry. Anyone who watched the Raptors this past season realized how much their offense slowed down when Lowry was out of the game. Van Vleet will have an opportunity to fight for that backup position in Summer League and in training camp.
These are just a few examples of players who were passed over on draft day but have legitimate shots at playing in the NBA. They may have to start in the D-League, but others have and it has worked. Two recent examples are Langston Galloway and Jeremy Lin. Their career’s have taken off, which is proof it can be done. So don’t sweat not being drafted, go to Summer League and prove that you belong.