clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2014 NBA Draft: Why Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, and Casey Prather went undrafted

When it comes to making the NBA, limitations have a way of making things hard.

Rob Foldy

Patric Young can't quite shoot. Neither can Casey Prather. And while Scottie Wilbekin's game is threes and floaters, he's just not quite tall or strong enough to make the floaters happen on a consistent basis in the NBA.

In a nutshell, that's why Florida's 2014 senior class, or the trio from it that is pursuing NBA careers, went undrafted. There's more to it than that in each case, but the NBA — maybe more than any other American pro sports league — focuses on and picks apart weaknesses, intent on getting something close to the 450 best pro basketball players in the world onto its 30 teams' rosters.

There's nowhere to hide on an NBA roster, which is just 15 players deep, with no practice squads for developing players. And the NBA Development League, which will have 18 teams next year, is small, as minor leagues go. If a player is good enough to make an NBA roster as a rookie, that player is (usually; Hasheem Thabeet exists) good enough to never need the D-League; on the flip side, if a player does need the D-League, it's often hard to get called up to the big leagues, as it were.

And Young, Prather, and Wilbekin are all both not good enough to be sure things, and not good enough in the wrong ways to make teams reluctant to take risks.

Young is mostly a back-to-the-basket big man who isn't towering, and that profile, which could've made him a monster in previous eras, makes him the wrong puzzle piece for a 2014 NBA frontcourt, a mess of stretch fours who shoot three-pointers and lanky rim protectors. Prather isn't tall or quick or strong enough to guard three-point shooters effectively, and can't shoot threes of his own to compensate; the model for his slash-heavy game went out of style in the early 2000s. Wilbekin's more than a decent shooter, but he's no team's sniper, and he was terrible on twos in 2013-14, making just better than 40 percent of them. And his relentlessness on defense, his greatest strength, is mitigated by his relative lack of size: His wingspan is a respectable 6'3", but pales in comparison to that of Rajon Rondo, a similarly defense-oriented player.

To make matters worse, all three players are "old," if only compared to most NBA rookies: Young is 22, Prather 23, and Wilbekin, for all his precociousness, is 21. There's no benefit of the doubt given to them — or to other older prospects, like 25-year-old DeAndre Kane or 24-year-old Sean Kilpatrick — in respect to their potential ability to grow, physically or otherwise, and change. They are more or less who they will be as NBA players.

And when it comes to fringe players, NBA teams would rather take chances on younger players with more potential or acquire the rights to players who can develop overseas and cost teams nothing than invest picks on players who could just prove themselves in summer league play. The final 15 picks of the 2014 NBA Draft featured two Serbian guards with years of professional experience who stand taller than 6'5"; seven-footer Alec Brown of Green Bay; Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the brother of one of the best picks of the 2013 NBA Draft; and two projects who will likely stay in their Italian and French leagues.

If a team is not assured of getting one of the best 450 players in the world right now with that late pick, why not save some money by stashing a foreign player, or pick a player with a chance of someday being in that top 450, or pick a player another team covets and ship him off for cash considerations? There's little benefit to having the exclusive rights to a guy with a low ceiling.

For these Gators, it all boiled down to their play on the court. "Character," which probably helped sink Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, was almost certainly not an issue for all three guys, and may well have been a plus. Young's persona is about as winning and smart as athletes' personas get, Wilbekin's the right kind of confident for the point guard position and can use his recovery from the bad decisions that got him suspended twice as Exhibit A when his character is on trial, and the quiet Prather doesn't register as a risk. There's no chance that Florida or Billy Donovan is being blackballed, before anyone starts in with the conspiracy theories, and there's nothing to suggest that the NBA doesn't like seniors who have graduated from school for reasons other than the ones that kept those same players from jumping to the NBA in the first place and their age.

Like it or not, Florida's seniors, who were good enough to lead the Gators to one of the best seasons in school history, and the precipice of one of the best seasons in college basketball history, were not good enough for 30 NBA teams to use draft picks to pick them up. That doesn't mean that they weren't good at or for Florida, just that the NBA is a different and more difficult game.

But it does mean that the roads they now face are very much on an incline.