Every year when October runs out, several players are denied a happy ending to their stories, and their NBA dream vanishes in a moment. This happens when waived by a franchise after a training camp spent sweating blood to emerge from among the “desperate ballers” hoping to make the team. So, there are two different paths to follow: Go down to the D-League or CBA, score 20 or more points per game, catch and shoot any ball you can, and try to obtain a ten-day contract (at least) from a NBA team during the season; or cross the ocean, build a new career maybe less rich, but in some cases much more satisfying than one in the US.
Let’s see who may be looking into this window of opportunity right about now, starting with NBA-caliber players.
Justin Williams didn’t have huge numbers with Sacramento and Houston, but has demonstrated that he can stay 10 minutes on the floor thanks to toughness, defensive intensity and rebounding capacity (Williams averaged 4.4 in 12 minutes per game with the Kings two years ago). Salim Stoudamire and his talent need no explanation: Obviously it’s his out-of-control mind that keeps him playing below expectations. But remember, he’s Damon’s cousin, so he should have no problem in ever finding an NBA team.
Comparisons between the former Hawks guard and Smush Parker are clear: Smush is crazy and he has been overpaid during the past seasons, but there’s no doubt about his value. David Harrison is another player endowed with a not-so-good relationship with the law. His body (213 cm, 125 kg) could allow him to dominate around the basket, but how badly does he want it? If nobody gives him a chance, the flight to Europe is ready for departure.
In my opinion, it’s time for Jamal Sampson, Darryl Watkins and Awvee Storey to come to Europe, just to name a few who will never be more than role players. The same goes for Elton Brown and David Noel; by contrast, Chris Richard is too young and promising to leave the NBA world. Luke Jackson, Keith McLeod, Jelani McCoy and Adrian Griffin are NBA travellers, and somewhere there they’ll remain.
Patrick Ewing Jr. (say goodbye to New York!), Coby Karl, Dwayne Mitchell, Jamaal Tatum, Blake Ahearn, Dan Grunfeld, C.J. Giles, Cheyne Gadson, Gerry McNamara (what a disaster in Europe: paid $90,000 to play exactly one minute with Olimpiacos, then was terrific with Panionios and Ventspils), and Julius Hodge are strictly US minors material.
Searching some interesting names for European leagues, Malik Hairston (a 6’6” all-arounder from Oregon who was the 48th overall pick in the last NBA draft) has both the scoring instincts and the physicality needed to be a factor not only in one halfcourt; David Padgett is a solid low-post player and comes from a winning team at Louisville; Nick Fazekas has signed with Oostende by now.
The remaining waivees are all Europe-experienced, many able to compete at the medium-level (Roger Powell is too inconsistent to elevate his grade, Mateen Cleaves is far from the metronome admired in the past, Derrick Byars is intriguing but his five months in Roanne were less than stellar, Curtis Sumpter is always injured), many ready to serve as solid substitutes on elite teams (Gabe Muoneke, Josh Davis, Jared Jordan, Devin Green, Eddie Basden), and others yet close to upgrading themselves to top-level play. Reyshawn Terry, Charles Gaines, Robert Hite: Choose one of this trio and you’ll see the team improve very, very quickly.