On Thursday night, the NBA Draft came and went, and Zack Rosen, the Ivy League and Big Five Player of the Year, went unpicked.
No matter. As a certain Harvard point guard has shown, there is more than one route to an NBA roster.
Though not selected in the draft, Rosen will play for the Philadelphia 76ers in next week’s Orlando Pro Summer League, which will include eight NBA squads. The five-day tournament, which will run from July 9 to July 13, will be Rosen’s first chance since the draft to compete with draftees and other free agents to make an NBA roster.
While the Sixers’ squad features a lanky and athletic group, a pure, pass-first point guard like Rosen is conspicuously missing from its ranks. Regardless of whether free agent Lou Williams re-signs, Philadelphia will need to add a guard to its roster, making the situation optimal for Rosen.
“In terms of roster, spots and the construction of the organization, from the outside kind of looking in, the Sixers are a good fit,” Rosen said.
Due to his free agent status, nothing limits Rosen to signing with Philadelphia. He could join virtually any team, including the seven other squads competing in the Orlando summer league.
In fact, the Harvard grad-turned NBA star Jeremy Lin first appeared on the Dallas Mavericks’ summer league roster before later signing with the Golden State Warriors in July 2010, which is the type of circuitous route to the NBA Rosen could take as well.
It remains to be seen whether Rosen will also participate in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas from July 13 to July 22, where he could play for another team, as the Sixers are not slated to compete there.
In order to make a roster, Rosen must overcome the challenge of being in an unusually large free agent market, which is still recovering from the effects of last year’s NBA lockout.
A year ago, undrafted players had no summer leagues or training camps to attend. As a result, many signed contracts in Europe for last season, but now they have returned to pursue their dreams of playing in the NBA.
“You have a whole other crop of guys … who are now getting their first chance at a free agent NBA situation,” Rosen said.
Despite these obstacles, Rosen looks forward to putting behind him the “cosmetic” components of the draft, where teams look for players with prototypical NBA profiles. It’s an environment in which a 6-foot-1 Ivy League guard getting drafted is “a long shot,” as Rosen put it.
By contrast, the summer league will focus on unadulterated five-on-five competition — a place where speculation about measurements of height or vertical leap can be forgotten.
“The draft is different from the free agent market in the sense that as a free agent … it’s pretty much about how you play,” Rosen said.
While Rosen hunts for a spot in the NBA, offers await him in Europe with contracts that would financially dwarf those in the NBA’s Developmental League. Rosen’s potential abroad is significant enough that one wonders whether some Israeli teams did a dance when he went undrafted.
Thus, if Rosen does not make an NBA team but is offered a spot in the D-League, he will have to decide between two paths: take the money and embrace a career across the water or continue to chase the NBA dream despite the D-League’s relative obscurity and paltry paychecks.
With one summer league on his schedule and the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas still ahead, not to mention the possibility of training camp, Rosen’s words in The Daily Pennsylvanian on April 2 have never rung more true:
“The draft is not where it ends,” Rosen said. “The draft is where it begins.”