First, let’s start with the numbers:
Seven former Marquette players participated in the 2013 NBA Las Vegas Summer League.
At the start, only one was under contract for the NBA regular season – Jae Crowder for the Mavericks.
Four of the participating MU players were not on last year’s team. One got signed – Dwight Buycks to the Toronto Raptors.
That leaves us with three Marquette undrafted rookies in Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett and Vander Blue. If you’d have asked an MU fan a week ago who would’ve gotten signed first (or signed at all), they’d have gotten it wrong every time.
So certainly, when the Sacramento Kings announced on their website Thursday that they signed Trent Lockett to an NBA contract, feelings of shock and pride arose from any MU fan who followed the team closely last season. During his one-year tenure at Marquette, Lockett averaged 7.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and shot 33% from three – which, from a college standpoint, are beyond a doubt contributing numbers, but not ones that draw much attention from NBA scouts. According to ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, the deal is worth 2 years with a partial guarantee:
Prior to signing, Lockett played with the Kings in the NBA Summer League, averaging 7.0 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 20.2 minutes in five games. This contract makes Lockett the eighth Marquette player under Buzz Williams to sign an NBA contract, a remarkable feat for a coach who has been here for only five years. The more surprising part is that it could end up being nine by the end of the season, as Vander Blue still waits to find a team (whether it be in the NBA or Europe). However, it seems as if the more the offseason drags on, the less likely Blue is going to get signed to the NBA. The peak of Blue’s draft stock happened during the NCAA tournament, and that rise was put into consideration for the 2014 draft since it was assumed he would stay in school. After declaring early and going undrafted, most of the speculation that Blue would be taken in the second round or quickly get signed by one of his summer league teams has turned out to be wishful thinking, as his offseason has been rather quiet since Vegas. This dead period seems to be due to Blue’s current reluctance to go overseas, but at the same time not getting any interest from NBA teams.
Now, there’s no doubt VB is more talented than Lockett, but their current approaches to the NBA may have something to do with Lockett getting signed first. In this article by cowbellkingdom.com, a website covering the Kings, Lockett is portrayed as a player who knows he’ll have to embark on a career as a role player if he wants to succeed. According to the article, the area where Lockett most impressed Sacramento was his “solid communication skills on the court, especially on the defensive end” and “high basketball IQ.” Describing him as a coach’s player, Kings assistant Chris Jent praised Lockett after the Vegas Summer League:
“Every systematic thing that you do, he knows it. He knows your terminology. He applies what he learns in your system on the floor.” Jent continued the praise, adding “He’s a very heady player…He’s kind of like a second court general out there. He’s good.”
Of course, no mention of scoring ability or talent – only basketball knowledge and leadership, giving us a perspective that teams maybe have other reasons to be still passing on Blue. Lockett knows his place, and that for him to be successful in the NBA, he’ll have to mold himself into a one or two-dimensional player – whether it be for defense, three-point shooting, rebounding, or a combination of all three. To present an example, Lockett turned to Spurs 3-point specialist Danny Green as a comparison for his desired role:
“I definitely enjoy watching Danny succeed and especially in the playoffs this year because I’m not coming in here trying to be Carmelo or Kobe,” Lockett said. “I know that’s not my role and I know I do have a role in the NBA.”
We’re not sure if Danny Green is the best comparison to Lockett’s game, at least as of now – Lockett didn’t attempt nearly a fifth of the threes Green did in his senior year at North Carolina, and didn’t make even close to half (Lockett being 13-33, Green 77-184). Nonetheless, Lockett’s efficiency and defensive prowess give him the potential to be an impact bench player in the future, something he and the Kings are completely fine with. Lockett has approached his opportunity with realistic hope, something that Blue could take note from. With his opportunity gone to stretch his tournament run over a full season, VB seems indecisive in choosing whether to either sign overseas or keep waiting for “the call” – and bottom line is, if Blue wants to make money, play with professionals and still be able to make the NBA later on, he will choose overseas. But if he is still attached to the dream of “being in the NBA,” it could end up as yet another regrettable decision he has made since he declared for the draft.
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