Think the NBA dream is dead for mid-major stars that don’t hear their names called on draft night?
The undrafted free agent route has produced a number of quality NBA players, such as Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Udonis Haslem, Wesley Matthews and Jeremy Lin. Ahead of breaking down the players that could get the call after the clock stops ticking on Thursday, here are several success stories from last year’s class.
Antonius Cleveland | Atlanta Hawks
The former Southeast Missouri State wing picked up buzz as a “three-and-D” prospect ahead of last year’s draft. Cleveland would go undrafted, but eventually signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks in November after bouncing around several other organizations. He appeared in 13 games for the Mavericks, but was waived in December.
The Atlanta Hawks picked him up two months later, signing him to a 10-day contract in February. Despite nursing a foot injury and appearing in just four games (10.5 MPG), the Hawks liked what they saw and gave Cleveland a non-guaranteed contract for next season. Here’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Cleveland’s time with the Hawks:
Soon after Cleveland took the floor for the Hawks his length, athletic ability and defensive activity stood out. Cleveland produced 5.9 deflections per 48 minutes as a rookie, an excellent mark. He produced good rates of blocks and steals at Southeast Missouri State and could do the same in the NBA.
Milton Doyle | Brooklyn Nets
It may seem hard to believe now, but Loyola Chicago started last season needing to replace its best player. That was Doyle, who was an athletic factor in the Ramblers’ backcourt for four years. He inked a two-way contract with the Nets in mid-December, and spent the rest of the season shuttling between Brooklyn and the team’s G-League affiliate in Long Island.
Doyle appeared in 10 games for the Nets, averaging 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game, all the while knowing Sister Jean before it was cool.
Charles Cooke | New Orleans Pelicans
Dayton’s two-way star played in the Summer League for the Minnesota Timberwolves before signing a two-way contract with the Pelicans in August. He would stick with the organization all season, appearing in 13 games for New Orleans — including most recently in the final game of the regular season — with stops in the G-League sprinkled in.
Gian Clavell | Dallas Mavericks (formerly)
Clavell turned his 2017 Mountain West Player of the Year campaign into a two-way contract with the Mavericks during the offseason. The Colorado State star would appear in seven games for Dallas, and go six-for-15 from distance. But he was waived in favor of Cleveland, who took a two-way contract with Dallas before ultimately ending up in Atlanta.
For his part, the internet suggests that Clavell pent the rest of the year overseas with a first division Turkish club (Sakarya).
Several other familiar mid-major names didn’t get a call up, but got heavy playing time in the G-League last year:
- Scoochie Smith (Canton Charge | Dayton)
- Cameron Oliver (Delaware 87ers | Nevada)
- Jeremy Morgan (Memphis Hustle | Northern Iowa)
- JeQuan Lewis (Wisconsin Herd | VCU)
Here’s hoping a 10-day contract (and more) is in each of their respective futures next season.