Former Pack standout signs free agent deal with Houston after draft night disappointment
After two standout years at Nevada, Cam Oliver opted to leave school and try to make a living playing the game he fell in love with as a child in Oakland.
Seemingly all mock drafts pegged Oliver, a 6-8 225-pound power forward, as a mid to late second round pick. The NBA draft is only two rounds long (60 picks total) and mock drafts are no more than educated guesses.
Oliver flew out to Brooklyn to be at the NBA Draft on Thursday night, but did not get to walk across the stage and take a picture with deputy commissioner Mark Tatum. He was not one of the 60 names called.
He wasn’t a free agent long, however. ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported minutes after the conclusion of the draft that the single player most responsible for Nevada’s ascension signed a contract with the Houston Rockets. Yahoo’s Adrian Wodjnarowski reported it was a “multi-year” deal.
“Keep sleeping on me! I’m here now,” Oliver tweeted Friday afternoon in his first public comment since the draft. “Sorry everyone. I had a really rough night last night, still emotional (until) this day but I have to be grateful of the opportunity that God has given me! I had the intentions of getting drafted last night unfortunately God has (turned) my path otherwise for the best for me and my family! … But I (can) truly say I’m officially an NBA player (it) still hasn’t hit me yet but I know eventually it will! I’m a Houston Rocket. Thank you everyone for the love and support! Still a little devastated but I’m humbled and grateful and ready to get to work and show them what this Oakland boy can do!”
As a free agent signee, his contract is not guaranteed and he will have to play his way to a roster a spot over the summer leading into fall camp. Only first-round selections earn guaranteed contracts. Oliver will start his run at one of the 15 roster spots July 7-17 at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League hosted by UNLV at the Thomas and Mack Center as well as Cox Pavilion.
The Rockets are a franchise that celebrates pace and the ability to shoot the three ball in coach Mike D’Antoni’s brutally fast system. Those are two skillsets Oliver, an outstanding athlete, brings with him to Houston. He went from a 32.8 percent three-point shooter as a freshman to hitting 38.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc as a sophomore with almost three times as many attempts.
His tweener size (small for a power forward) and sporadically questionable motor at Nevada were likely two of the reasons he went undrafted, but Oliver finds himself in a favorable situation. Houston plays a brand of basketball that Oliver can assimilate to, and the on-roster competition is relatively limited.
The Rockets had only two draft picks and traded one of the them. Nineteen-year-old German power forward Isaiah Hartenstein was taken with the 43rd pick and its possible he stays in Europe for at least another year.
Houston also has five players with non-guaranteed contracts that Oliver could replace with almost no additional cost to the team.
Kyle Wiltjer (6-10) and Troy Williams (6-7) are two of the most likely players Oliver will have to beat out for a spot on the Rockets’ roster. Neither played significant roles in 2016-17 as Houston went 55-27 and grabbed the Western Conference No. 3 seed before getting bounced in the Conference semifinals by San Antonio in six games.
Oliver averaged 16 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocked shots per game this winter and was peculiarly voted to the Mountain West second team when a strong case could’ve been made for him to be the Conference’s Player of the Year. Colorado State’s Gian Clavell earned the honor.
Oliver is third on Nevada’s all-time list for career blocks with 190.