Kai NBA draft watch

Column box-Rick Olivares - Bleachers' Brew

IN 52 days by the time you read this column, basketball-loving Filipinos will be watching the annual National Basketball Association (NBA) draft that will take place at the Barclays Center in New York City.

This 2022 draft will be the league’s 76th edition.

Everyone will be glued to see if Kai Sotto will be drafted by any NBA team. Any round of the draft will do and be hailed as a major victory for Philippine basketball. For Kai himself, this is where he will see if he can fulfill a lifelong dream to play in the world’s best basketball league and at the same time, make history as the first homegrown Filipino to be drafted.

It is difficult to speculate how he will do or who will even possibly select Sotto given the playoffs are still ongoing and the list of hopefuls isn’t done. As of this writing, there are 284 applicants.

However, there will only be 58 picks.

Dreams will be fulfilled at some point while others will see their road to the association a little harder.

Of course, not getting drafted doesn’t mean one doesn’t have a chance. There are many undrafted players who became stars in the NBA.

There’s JJ Barea who became a pivotal player for the Dallas Mavericks and their 2011 title run.

Avery Johnson won a championship at the starting point guard of the 1999 NBA champions, San Antonio Spurs.

Brad Miller became a solid player for the Indiana Pacers and a two-time All-Star for the Sacramento Kings.

Spanish star Jose Calderon retired as the Toronto Raptors’ all-time assists leader.

Fred Van Fleet made history for signing the richest contract ever for an undrafted player in 2020 after his stellar role with the 2019 champions, Toronto.

Udonis Haslem was a three-time champion for the Miami Heat and is credited with helping establish the culture that Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra envisioned for the club.

Bruce Bowen is another undrafted and three-time NBA champion w2ith the San Antonio Spurs.

There’s New York Knicks’ John Starks, Phoenix’s Connie Hawkins, and Detroit’s Ben Wallace. If those names and their achievements are unfamiliar then you don’t know NBA basketball.

So it is possible.

Kai will have an opportunity to attract some attention when he attends the NBA Draft Combine from May 16 to 22 in Chicago, Illinois.

Incidentally, the NBA Draft lottery will be on the 17th of May, a day after the draft combine begins.

I for one am super excited.

When Kai made the decision to forego school and his University Athletic Association of the Philippines career, I wholeheartedly supported this.

One does not get this opportunity all the time. To ask him to stay is selfish.

Look, if he doesn’t have the tools to make it then I can understand a fool’s dream. But fool’s dream this is not.

Risks? I don’t think there are any.

If he doesn’t make it there, he could play in Europe, Japan, or stay with the Australian league. Or, he can play in the Philippine Basketball Association. Kai will find a home somewhere.

Being drafted and signed means other Filipinos will get the lookover.

I thought that for Ray Parks’s goal of making it to the NBA, he made a mistake with going to National University and should have instead gone on to Georgia Tech.

If the NBA is your goal, then put yourself on the path to that. The UAAP is not the path to the NBA.

The Australian National Basketball League has increasingly become a pathway to the NBA. Aside from Australians Chris Antsey, Andrew Gaze, Josh Green and Josh Giddey to name a very few who have cracked NBA teams, there have been Americans LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton and Justinian Jessup who played first in the NBL before making the NBA jump.

And Sotto’s meager stats aside, he has tremendous upside (and yes, he does need to bulk up).

The Kai Sotto NBA Draft Watch is about to reach fever pitch.


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