60 names were called in last week’s NBA Draft, validating the dreams of the nation’s best college basketball players. Jahii Carson’s name was never called.
The Sun Devil star, projected to be a possible first-round pick if he had departed for the draft last year, received an invitation from the Houston Rockets to play for their summer league team. The NBA Summer League is an opportunity for NBA franchises to get a extended look at undrafted players. By doing so, the Rockets have an exclusive right to sign Carson to an NBA contract. Should he go unsigned, Carson will become a free agent.
This is the best case scenario for Carson. A summer league invite will open up several options for him. Not only do all 30 NBA teams look to sign talent, but they also look to sign players to their NBA Developmental League affiliates. International scouts are often present as well.
Houston is shuffling at the guard position. Backup Patrick Beverly is a solid defender but is inconsistent offensively, and starter Jeremy Lin carries a large contract. With the Rockets looking to make a run at big name free agents LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Lin could be on the move. Carson could play the foil to Beverly, as he is gifted on the offensive end, but a sub-par defender.
As bad as it looks for him, I believe Carson’s undrafted status says more about the talent level of this draft than his own skill. The 2014 draft was high on talent, particularly at the point guard position.
Ten point guards were selected, and while just as many were picked last year, the talent gap between 2013 and 2014 is significant. Of those drafted last Thursday, Dante Exum (5th pick, Utah) and Elfrid Payton (10th pick, Orlando) will likely start for their respective franchises. Marcus Smart (8th pick, Boston) may just push perennial All-Star Rajon Rondo out of beantown.
Last year’s floor generals? Not so impressive. Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams “led” his Philadephia 76ers to a 19-63 record, including a 26 game losing streak. Trey Burke (9th pick, Utah) will likely lose his job to the aforementioned Exum, and CJ McCollum (10th pick, Portland) is currently the Trail Blazers’ third string point guard.
I think if Carson had departed after his freshman year, he would have been drafted. True, there would be no 40 point game or U of A win on his resume, but the more average skill level at point guard in the 2013 draft would have made all the difference. Additionally, Carson didn’t improve appreciably (by NBA standards) in his second season. His jumper remained questionable and his defense did not develop.
Hopefully Carson can upgrade his game and find a home in the NBA. It was a joy to watch him in his time in Tempe and his “Prince on Chappelle Show” dunk against Arizona will go down as one of the greatest basketball moments in recent Sun Devil history. We’re pulling for you, Jahii.