The tough road to the pros for many NBA hopefuls
Two college basketball players with Northeast Ohio roots didn't get their names called during last week's NBA Draft. But they've each been given chances to prove themselves on short contracts, including one with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ideastream Public Media sports commentator Terry Pluto said the structure of the draft and developing players has evolved significantly over the years.
“The first draft that I covered was in 1986. There were six rounds and 136 players selected that year. This year, the draft is now down to two rounds and there were 58 players picked,” Pluto said.
That change was made in 1989 because few of the players picked after the second and third round ever played in the NBA.
But the development of the NBA’s minor league, the G League, gives more undrafted players a chance to sign contracts and work their way up. That’s what Akron native Pete Nance of Northwestern/North Carolina and Xavier Castaneda of the University of Akron did this year.
Nance, a Revere High School graduate who is the son of Cavs franchise legend Larry Nance Sr. and younger brother of Larry Nance Jr., signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Cavs. Castaneda signed the same deal with the L.A. Clippers. It’s a one-year, minimum-salary NBA deal that can be converted to a longer-term contract before the season starts.
Another Akron native, Chris Livingston of the University of Kentucky, was the 58th pick, the last player drafted, by the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The interesting thing about Livingston is while Nance played five years in college and so did Castaneda, Livingston played only one year at Kentucky,” Pluto said. “The old grump in me would say Livingston, who was one of the best players in Ohio when he played at Akron Buchtel, should have stayed in school another year.”
Pluto believes it’s a mistake many standout high school athletes make.
“‘I'm going to make millions of dollars and I'm on my way.’ Well, that's true for maybe 12 or 15 of these guys, but that's it. You know, you get picked in the second round, you're not guaranteed a lot of money and you're going to fight for a roster spot," he said. "And there's a very good chance he could end up playing in that same G League against Pete Nance and some of these others. So, this is a tough road. Reality hits a lot of these players on draft night.”
As for the Cavs, Pluto believes it could be a similar scenario for their pick, the 49th draft pick, Emoni Bates.
“Like [Chris] Livingston, he was considered one of the top prep players in the country when he was in high school. He went to Memphis for a year and struggled. Then he ended up at Eastern Michigan. He was just pretty good, he wasn't great," Pluto said. "The Cavs are counting on him to be back to, like, the star that he was in high school. There's a very good chance you will see in a G League game — the Cleveland Charge — you could see Emoni Bates and Pete Nance playing for the Charge, and they could be playing against Xavier Castaneda. They're going to have to fight their way to the NBA."