I can't believe how messed up some people are with how Kai Sotto's NBA Draft turned out. Teams turned down a 20-year-old phenom from a basketball hotbed that is also 7'2 and listed at 230 pounds.
It's not the end of the world.
Actually, it could be an awesome starter kit for his young career.
Again... 20 years old!
The path can be straight for Kai Sotto... but it may not mean as much. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and Steph Curry wasn't given a scholarship by Duke.
I wonder how their basketball careers turned out?
With that said, I don't know why he's not going to play in the NBA Summer League. Did no one invite him? How can Bobby Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena score invites and leave pretty our best opportunity to score a homegrown NBA player?
And yeah, playing for Gilas Pilipinas is a good thing. With that said, Gilas has been good at developing gifts. Under Rajko Toroman, the team transformed Chris Tiu from a sharpshooter into a playmaker and you're probably going to be a leader... if you're governing an all-college player lineup (see his stint with the Yeng Guiao-led Rain or Shine). Dylan Ababou is another player who had all the confidence in UST only to lose it after his Gilas stint. Specialty players like Gabe Norwood trump 6-time MVPs like June Mar Fajardo in terms of usage in Gilas.
And while yeah, one can argue that Dwight Ramos and Will Navarro excel under Gilas conditions but what has happened to Isaac Go and Allyn Bulanadi? I know Go is out with an injury and Bulanadi is still feeling Jeff Cariaso's system in Converge but maybe it would have been better if they had Gilas stints while playing in the PBA?
Kai can continue his Australian League stint but this only works when there are eyes still locked in his game. Scouts scout for prospects but not free agents - unless they are that integral to the squad like what PBA agents do with imports.
In the 2019 NBA Draft, Terence Davis asked the league to snub him when he missed the first round. I don't know if this is the same case with LuGuentz Dort but Davis has stated this in interviews. The reason for this is for him to enter the NBA as a free agent because second-round picks aren't valued as much in terms of monetary compensation.
In some ways, Kai's agents could have deliberately asked the rest of the teams to snub him. We'll never know. In the 2022 NBA Draft, four of the 30 picks in the first round were either a junior or a senior (Ochai Agbaji is the only senior to get selected in the first round). And then in the second round, the number barely increased to six with nine picks from Ignite or in the other leagues. There are three NBL players taken in the draft with the highest being Ousmane Dieng. Ignite also had three players taken in the draft.
It makes you wonder about the possibility of Kai Sotto if he just started his pro career in the NBL or if he just stuck with Ignite.
The juniors and seniors are in no man's land since the longer you stay in the US NCAA, the worst it gets for a player. Chris Duarte and Corey Kispert are the only seniors selected in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. A year prior, they were Payton Pritchard and Udoka Azubuike. None of these players are lottery picks and in fact, the 2020 NBA Draft had Pritchard and Udoka at 26 and 27.
If Kai can combo the Summer League and his Gilas Pilipinas preparations, then that's a good way to condition as well as to make heads turn. The Summer League isn't a good indicator though of whether or not he'll have an NBA shot. Scoring a G-League team is a great indicator though - with probably Toronto or the big market teams being the best drop points. He can break the NBA as a two-way player - like how Davis broke with the Toronto Raptors. Toronto, in particular, has a good farm system and they have treated Asians well with Yuta Watanabe as an example.
Kai Sotto is a player from an English-speaking country with a massive following in the Philippines. I bet some of our ASEAN friends are also going to piggyback on his awesomeness.
If Kai Sotto really wants to prepare for the 2023 FIBA World Cup though, then let him be. After all, he has his future ahead of him. For his case though, Gilas Pilipinas needs to help him have an impressive showing. Sotto can't be like what they did to June Mar regardless of what kind of naturalized player they are going to parade. A twin tower combo of either June Mar or Ange Kouame is a good idea. Realistically, it's hard for the Philippines to win in the presence of the basketball main events in the world.
However, maybe if they just create some environment wherein our players can thrive, maybe instead of praying for our countryman to get drafted in the NBA, the question we're going to talk about is which team would benefit from his talents the most?