Draft night came and went for Josh Scott last Thursday without hearing his name called, like so many other talented players. Unfortunately this did not come as a surprise to most, since it was nearly impossible to find his name on any NBA mock draft.
However, not all is lost for the former Colorado big man, as he will have an opportunity to prove his worth to all the GMs that overlooked him on draft day in the NBA Summer League this July.
With Scott playing for the Nuggets, there is endless potential here for him. Still, the Las Vegas Summer League doesn’t begin until July 8th and there are plenty of unanswered questions regarding Scott and his future. Trevor and Sam will try and make sense of everything and answer the most pressing questions.
What does Josh Scott have to do to make the Nuggets?
Sam: The first thing you have to look at here is the Nuggets existing roster. Barring a trade of Kenneth Faried, Denver looks to have a relatively stable and promising five-man rotation with Faried, Darrell Arthur and three internationals. Beyond them, though, Denver has potential openings. They have cap space to land a big man if they so desired, but with a few starter-quality bigs, that seems unlikely. As such, Denver may need depth down low and without the draft rights to anyone overseas (besides their 2016 European draft picks), they’ll probably look to fill that with someone like Josh Scott.
Getting looked at for the opening position is just the first step. Once he’s being looked at, Scott will have to show he can consistently score and defend against NBA-quality players. Here, the questions about whether or not his skill set can translate will heavily considered. Scott will also be competing with additional Summer League signees, including the likes of Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Axel Toupane, Jimmer Fredette (!), and several others (See the full team here).
If the Nuggets see that Scott’s game will translate and that he’s better than his counterparts, he should get a look in the regular season. If not, Scott will need to look elsewhere and his Summer League performance will be more of a showcase for other teams.
How do big men usually fare during and after Summer League?
Trevor: Typically, there is little connection between big men success in the Summer League and success afterwards. The only connection between big men and the Summer League is if a big is drafted and plays at least somewhat decently, he’ll make a team. Most undrafted forwards and centers, regardless of how well they play, end up going being signed immediately after the Summer League only to be placed on waivers right before the season starts. After that, the players have to jump through the hoops of 10 Day Contracts, the NBA D-League, or finding an overseas club.
That isn’t saying hard work is not rewarded, there are the small percentage of players that showed out in the Summer League and managed to make an NBA roster, despite not being drafted initially. The most comparable players to Scott in this group are Jack Cooley and Alan Williams.
Cooley graduated from Notre Dame in 2013 after averaging a double-double his senior season, earning Big East First Team Honors, and a mention in the Naismith Award race. Sound familiar? After playing internationally for a year, he returned to the 2014 Summer League and dominated, averaging 15.0 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. He subsequently earned a spot on the Jazz following a 10 Day Contract.
Alan Williams went undrafted this past year after finishing four years at UCSB. Williams was a statistical phenomenon in college, as he averaged a double-double by a wide margin three seasons in a row. That being said, it was in the Big West conference. Still, an impressive feat nonetheless. In the 2015 Summer League, Williams led all players in rebounds with 11.8 per game, and was fifth overall in scoring dropping 20.5 points per game. He too still had to earn his keep on a 10 Day Contract for the Phoenix Suns.
So, the road less traveled seems to be the pathway to the NBA for Scott right now. It all begins with how well he does in the Summer League. Without a doubt, he will have to put on a pretty impressive performance if he wants a shot at making an NBA roster.
If he makes the Nuggets roster, what role will Scott play?
Sam: The Nuggets want to step up their rebuild and have a team that can compete with the best of the West. They aren’t quite there yet, but they’re much closer than a year ago. Being on the bubble, I expect the Nuggets to look at experienced players (rookies can be experienced too) for depth.
If Scott makes this team, it will be as a seldom used rotation big who is ready to step up when needed. He has experience playing against NBA talent and the versatility to play either big man position, so he should be solid depth. From there, he will probably be used as a pick-setter (more or less) against opposing bench brigades, where he will be less likely to be exposed defensively. And yes, the first team all-conference defender will be considered a defensive liability — center is a defensively grueling position in the NBA.
If Scott fails to make the NBA, is the D-League or Europe better?
Sam: I say Europe, but not for NBA-related reasons. Scott is a highly-skilled big man limited by mediocre athleticism. In the NBA, his non-shooting offensive game has been all but aged out and he’s considered a defensive liability. In Europe, they play down-tempo and rely on passing and back-to-the-basket scoring. There, Scott would be a hot commodity who could potentially have some of the strongest teams in Europe competing for his services. Scott could then be guaranteed security and playing time, and he wouldn’t be affected by salary restrictions like he would be in the D-League. D-League salaries range from $15,000 to $25,000, but in Europe, skilled players like Scott routinely fetch contracts surpassing $80,000 in salary. I’m not saying Scott will get that much, and I have no idea how motivated he is by money, but it would affect my decision.
The immediate downside to playing in Europe is that players are somewhat removed from NBA opportunities. In the D-League, a team can purchase a player’s contract and sign them immediately. In Europe, if a team wants a player, they have to deal with weird contracts restrictions and have to wait until the season is over to bring them stateside. NBA teams are also much more likely to scout and desire players in the D-League, mostly because of proximity. That said, plenty of American players develop their game in Europe, make the transition and end up having an easier time securing a spot in the NBA. Chris Copeland, another CU alum, did this, among many others.
I must admit that I’m downplaying the social cost of playing in Europe. The player has to leave everyone they love behind and travel to different countries. We know Scott loves home, and we know he can’t be without his family for long. If it isn’t an issue for Scott to leave home, I side with him going overseas to make more money and have more roster security while he’s improving his skill set.
Trevor: I personally think the the NBA D-League would be the best option for Josh Scott. While playing in Europe or somewhere else overseas offers somewhat decent financial security, the opportunity of a 10-Day Contract seems too great to turn down. While playing in Europe does provide more consistent financial security, the potential to make big and quick money can only be found in the NBA. Currently, the D-League has a tiered pay scale ranging from $15,000 to $25,000, as Sam stated above. However, a 10-Day Contract is worth a minimum of $29,843 for rookies, and many players get multiple 10-Day contracts per seasons, if not ink a long term contract and a spot on an NBA roster.
Scott might not have the incredible athleticism or size to become a star in the NBA, but that does not mean he could not be a highly valued role player for a team. He could easily be a consistent second or third string big man, which is a position greatly under appreciated, as the Warriors learned when Andrew Bogut went down.
As Colorado Buffalo fans have seen for the past four years, Josh Scott is willing to put in the work. In the D-League he will have high visibility to NBA teams, while making his keep through 10-Day contracts, and honing the necessary skills required to play at the highest level. He has the drive and durability to grind it out in the D-League, and earn a roster spot.
Sam: Considering skilled big men are more likely than not to get a 10-day contract, I might have to change my stance.
If you were an NBA GM would you sign Josh Scott?
Trevor: Yes. However, I send him for assignment to my D-League affiliate for the first year, and sign him once he shows he is ready on a 10 Day contract, or two in necessary. By assigning him to the D-League at first, he would be able to improve his game all around, and not get upset or lose interest by riding the bench the entire season. As I said before, Scott does have NBA potential, but it needs time to be refined and perfected.
Sam: Yes, I would definitely sign him. It would be prudent to sign him to a D-League contract, as Scott needs to extend his range and prove he can score at the NBA-level. That said, if I’m the Nuggets, I would be hesitant to send him down to the D-League. Denver doesn’t own their own affiliate like most NBA teams, so by sending players down, they risk another team snatching him up. This is fine for the the players — it might even be better for them, since their NBA chances aren’t limited to just one team — but this adds an uncertainty to the plans of the teams. With this in mind, I would have to decide whether or not Scott can be a contributor to my team right away. If the answer is yes, I would sign him to an NBA contract and keep him as depth. If the answer is no, I would send him down to the D-League and cross my fingers than he would be available when I need him.