He needs another year to develop.
Why doesn’t he wait for a weaker draft?
If he stays another year, he’ll get more exposure.
He needs to prove that he has an undying love for the game.
Those who disapproved of Cam Oliver’s decision to hire an agent and forfeit is NCAA eligibility to pursue a career in the NBA had no shortage of validations for their opinion over the last couple months.
Many believed their stance was proven correct on Thursday as Oliver went undrafted in the two-round event in Brooklyn. The fact he wasn’t taken was a mild upset. Oliver certainly believed he would hear his name called. He wouldn’t have hired an agent otherwise and even flew across the country to be there in person.
He worked out for a third of the NBA franchises after vastly improving on the element of his game that was weakest: His outside shot (teams like, no, love, to shoot three pointers now).
Countless mock drafts put Oliver in the mid to late second round range. But you show me a perfect mock draft and I’ll show you the way to the door. You’re as likely to encounter a perfect mock draft as you are to witness sasquatch riding a unicorn around the McCarran loop.
Nobody knows how the draft is going to unfold. Not the executives doing the actual drafting. Not the players getting picked, or not picked. And certainly not those with access to the Internet and the ability to type “Mock Draft 7.0.”
So, did Oliver mess it up? Did over eagerness bust his NBA dream bubble before his career even started?
It’s too early to tell.
Obviously hearing your name read and walking across the stage as a draft pick is something played out in hooper’s heads from the moment they stop shooting at the wrong basket. It’s a culminating event that proves the years of 6 a.m. practices, the painful suicide sprints when coach refuses to put the whistle down, the rolled ankles, frustrating foul calls and elbows to the eye were all worth it.
And Oliver didn’t get to experience that. But he still gets to call himself an NBA player, at least, for now. He was almost immediately scooped up by the Rockets as a free agent once the draft ended.
By not getting drafted, Oliver got to choose where he went.
In Houston, Oliver will play in a system that best utilizes his skillset. He won’t be asked to create shots in the half-court offense each time down. Instead, Mike D’Antoni prefers to let James Harden run and create in the open floor. Oliver is a plus athlete who will benefit from a free-flowing offense that berths open jumpers with regularity.
The now former Nevada stud spiked his three-point shooting percentage six points last year. How much can he improve working with one of the best offense minds the game has ever seen?
Throw in the fact Houston has a relatively flexible roster with five non-guaranteed contracts, only one draftee, and room to improve at the power forward position, and Houston makes a lot of sense for Oliver.
The lone difference between getting drafted in the second round and signing as a free agent is purely perceptual. Thirty second-round draft picks get to say they were selected. Most got to walk across the stage and take a picture with the deputy commissioner in their new team’s hat (if their rights hadn’t already been traded for cash considerations).
And, in fairness, the draft picks may be given more slack by teams due to the implied investment.
But contractually, there is no difference. The second-round draftees and free agents are not given guaranteed contracts. They are starting from the same spot.
Now, they have to prove they belong on an NBA roster. They must silence the doubters.
For someone occasionally criticized for an apparent lack of motor, an emboldened chip on the shoulder isn’t the worst way for Oliver to start his professional career.
Nathan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning. Nathan’s weekly radio show airs Fridays at noon on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM.