Non-drafted players usually get a single shot at the NBA, so the timing of their attempt is absolutely crucial. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The same year a draft-eligible player is not drafted is the worst time to try for the NBA.
- Again, scouts exist for a reason, and usually, a player is not drafted for a reason.
- The NBA’s overall opinion about a player is not likely to immediately change.
- Professional experience on the international level improves a player’s NBA chances.
- The reasons are clear: players mature as people, get more experienced, get physically stronger, and improve their skills.
- The chance of getting a serious look from NBA teams depends highly on a player’s level of international play.
- If he plays on the highest level, many games will be scouted by NBA personnel. Conversely, a player in a lower-level league will not garner serious consideration by NBA scouts.
- The smartest path to a serious look from an NBA team is to patiently advance in international play, dominating each level of competition
- A non-drafted player who wants to work his way into the NBA as a free agent must do so one step at a time, moving up one level each year and dominating each season.
The Costs of Pursuing A Basketball Career
NBA players can’t expect a paycheck until November. Undrafted free agents must seriously consider the financial risks of hoping for the NBA versus signing months earlier with an international team.
From trainers, transportation, special diets, lodging, insurance, and more, there are thousands of dollars of potential debt to be accrued during this time.
Compare that to playing immediately for a non-NBA team and earning an immediate paycheck.
There is also the chance that players will be cut during training camp having amassed all of that debt and having nothing to show for it.
The risk of irrationality that may come with pursuing an NBA dream is one more reason why agents, as objective and knowledgeable experts, are indispensable to players.
If a Player Gets Drafted
First-round players are paid according to the NBA rookie scale. This scale is non-negotiable. First-round players usually get 120% of this scale automatically.
Second round players often receive a non-guaranteed minimum contract, though there are exceptions. Bear in mind that getting drafted in the second round is not a guarantee of playing in the NBA. The value of second-round players is enhanced when there is interest from one or more international teams, powerful leverage which an agent can and should generate for his client.
Free agents or second-round picks who didn’t make it into the NBA can try to play basketball overseas or join the NBA Development League (D-League). The salary in the D-League is not very attractive and a player’s exact role on the team as well as playing time are uncertain. Poor basketball stats can look bad on a player’s resume and can lower the international market value.
Alternatives to the D-League include other minor leagues in the US, but none of these leagues are recognized by either USA Basketball or FIBA. Beyond the value of playing ball and staying in shape, participation in these leagues does not help a player’s career. They are best viewed as a temporary solution until a player receives an offer from elsewhere.