As 60 NBA hopefuls descended on Chicago this past week for the league's draft combine, there was one notable name who wasn't among the invitees: BYU's Tyler Haws.
While lack of a combine invite doesn't necessarily bode well for Haws' chances at being selected in the upcoming draft in June, that doesn't mean the Cougars' all-time leading scorer is giving up on his NBA dreams. If anything, he's working harder than ever to make them a reality.
But hard work in and of itself often isn't enough to crack the world's top league — players also need an experienced hand guiding them in the right direction. That's why Haws has hired long-time NBA agent Bill Duffy to represent him. Duffy is a former player and draftee himself (he competed collegiately at Minnesota and Santa Clara in the early 1980s), and has been representing professional athletes since 1985.
To give you an idea of the caliber of agent Haws is dealing with: Duffy's current client list includes at least 33 NBA players, including top performers like Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo, Joakim Noah, Andrew Wiggins and Goran Dragic, among others. Unsurprisingly, considering his Santa Clara ties, Duffy has also established a strong connection with WCC athletes, representing the likes of two-time MVP Steve Nash, former No. 1 pick Michael Olowokandi and current Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova over the years, as well as former BYU athletes Brandon Davies and Travis Hansen.
This is clearly a man who's been around the draft process and knows how to get results, and not just for top prospects like Wiggins, last year's first selection. Duffy has proven that he can help borderline prospects like Dellavedova and Davies (and, ostensibly, Haws) find a spot in the league, even if they go undrafted. Davies was able to stick with the rebuilding 76ers for two years before an unexpected trade to the Nets (which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown vocally opposed, solely because he did not want to lose the former BYU big man in his locker room) resulted in him being waived. And as his recent playoff heroics have evidenced, Dellavedova has obviously landed in an idea situation in Cleveland — one where he can fit within a larger team construct that utilizes his specific skill set. (Admittedly, it also doesn't hurt to be playing with the greatest player in the world.)
So Duffy can clearly help a guy like Ty — but even having a proven agent guide you to the right opportunities can only do so much. At some point, the player has to put in the work and earn his spot — especially when you're scrapping for said spot as an undrafted free agent. That's exactly what guys like Davies and Dellavedova have had to do, and it's paid off for them. But landing a place on an NBA roster is not for the faint of heart.
Haws obviously understands that, which is why he's spent his summer so far living in Santa Barbara, Calif., and working out at the world-renowned P3 performance facility. Founded by Harvard-trained physician Marcus Elliott, P3 has helped countless NBA athletes utilize advanced sports science techniques and technologies to help assess, train and build both their bodies and their games.
Like fellow scorers Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward before him, Haws is working with the team at P3 to up his athleticism, strength and endurance to an NBA-ready level, while also working with a shooting coach to extend his range and improve his consistency from deep to fit the modern pro game. Based on conversations Vanquish The Foe has had with NBA scouts, those are the most pressing holes that teams see in Tyler's game — particularly his perceived lack of size and lateral quickness, combined with his preference for mid-range jumpers — so it's encouraging to see him actively working to address them.
But even with all the work he's putting in out in California, it remains unlikely that Haws will hear his name called on draft night. The numbers just aren't there — only 60 players get drafted, and with Haws not even receiving an invite to the combine, it would appear he's currently off most teams' radars as a draft selection. That could change, and I'm sure at least a few teams are taking a look, but don't expect to see the Cougars notch their first draft pick since Jimmer Fredette in 2011.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, going undrafted and becoming a free agent may be preferable for a player like Haws. When you get drafted in the second round, you receive an non-guaranteed contract and the team that drafts you owns your rights. You get to play for them in summer league and come to training camp in the fall, but there's no guarantee you'll make the team's roster for the regular season. If you don't fit into their system, they can (and will) cut you. In fact, a huge percentage of second round picks never end up playing a single season in the NBA.
Contrast that with the experience of the undrafted free agent. When you don't get drafted, you can also receive a non-guaranteed contact from any team in the league. Sure, those teams have to want to sign you, but you immediately have a wealth of options. Whereas getting drafted locks you in with a single team that may or may not be a good fit for your skill set, being able to compare and contrast different offers may give a borderline prospect like Haws the best chance of finding the specific situation that will work for him and give him the greatest probability of making an NBA roster.
Granted, it's not quite that simple. Oftentimes undrafted players will sign a summer league contract with one team in hopes of showcasing their talents for a week in Las Vegas, Orlando or (returning this year!) Salt Lake City — both to the team they're playing for and to others. While these type of opportunities don't always turn into training camp offers, they certainly can if a player acquits himself well.
For example, Davies parlayed a strong summer league performance with the Clippers in 2013 into a camp invite from the team. And when Los Angeles ultimately chose not to keep him for the regular season, he was then able to latch on with the 76ers as a result of his impressive summer league showcase, landing him in a basketball situation that was an ideal fit for his talents.
So even if he doesn't get drafted, there are multiple other avenues for Haws to realize his NBA dream. It's going to take a lot of hard work and more than a little luck to find the right spot, but it's been done before by players who aren't supernatural scoring machines — and it can definitely be done again by one who has already proven he's just that.
For now, the BYU legend is surrounding himself with the right people and doing all the right things to prepare for his big shot, whenever and however it comes. And even if it doesn't work out for one reason or another, a lucrative contract to play professional basketball in one of Europe's top leagues should be just around the corner — especially given his decision to seek dual-citizenship in Belgium and the advantages that provides an American player wanting to play overseas.
Yeah, no matter how the chips fall over the next few months, I think Tyler Haws is going to be OK.