Long season done. Heading back to the west coast. I couldn't get a call-up, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I got better everyday.
I'll always get that feeling in my stomach when I think of an NBA opportunity but, for now, it seems that I'm the odd man out. Forever.
The above tweets are from Reno Bighorns big man Rod Benson, also known as "Boom Tho," following a 135-118 playoff loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers that ended his season. Benson averaged an
impressive astounding 24 points, 16.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 63% from the field and keeping his team in the three-game series, but still wasn't able to get the opportunity of an NBA call-up that so many of his D-League counterparts received.
This isn't the first time Benson said he was done with the D-League, but I have a feeling that this time he means it.
The reasons Benson hasn't been able to get a call-up have been speculated on ever since he began his D-League career way back in 2006-07. Upon graduating from Cal and entering into professional basketball, scouts said that Benson was too skinny. He eventually put some weight on, but was then chastised for blogging. He eventually quit blogging in January, seemingly taking care of every excuse that NBA executives were able to come up with, but to no avail. This season, I've heard everything from "he's too smart for his own good" to "he doesn't have the passion for basketball to play in the NBA" to "I don't know how much better he can get. He's reached his potential."
Ironically, the one excuse for Benson not getting a call-up that you're not going to read in the preceding paragraph is anything relating to Benson not being skilled enough to play in the NBA - even though that's the only thing that an NBA player should really need to possess: NBA talent.
That's because the NBA talent is there - and is quite visible not only in the numbers you can see in the box score (look at the playoff averages above), but also when looking at the Synergy Sports Technology numbers to get a better idea of his impact on the defensive end. According to SST, Benson had 337 defensive possessions this season while holding his opponents to a meager 35.7% field goal shooting percentage. He ranked as "excellent" both as a post defender, a situation he was in 35.6% of the time, and as a spot-up defender, a situation he encountered 32.3% of the time.
So to recap thus far: he's good on offense, he's good on defense, he's smart, he's well-rounded and he's fixed every problem NBA teams have been said to have with the 6-foot-10 big man. What am I missing?
According to Benson's agent, Bill Neff of SAGA Sports, I'm not really missing anything.
"NBA personnel people have a very difficult job. I respect what they do. One of the most ridiculous things to me is how few guys make judgments with such little information on draftees, on players. They may see them once, twice, on a good day, on a bad day. They do not get a feel for them as people," Neff told me. "Research and development should be a much larger part of their budget, but is not, and that is why they fail at times. That they are correct as often as they are is remarkable considering how little they spend in this area."
This opinion from Neff falls in line with what a scout told me at January's D-League Showcase: "It's just as important to see these guys in Dakota on a snowy Tuesday night in March with 900 people and no scouts in attendance as it is to see them playing in front of everybody here. It's hard to gauge a guy based on two games when they know everybody's watching."
Essentially, if a team isn't watching every D-League game, they're going to dismiss the statistics and rely on maybe two games of anecdotal evidence and a whole lot of hearsay. Most NBA general managers probably think Benson weighs 195 pounds, has no semblance of an offensive game and blogs every night simply because they haven't taken the time to look at Benson recently.
"I get the strangest responses, almost like he is a leper but he is such a good, normal guy ... If they didn't think he is good enough, I could deal with that - but that is not the response he gets," Neff said. "On Rod Benson, they could not be more wrong. He is an NBA player. Period. I independently spoke to 5 D-League coaches and all of them said that he was the best center in the League, but the NBA guys are 'scared of him' or 'think he's strange.'"
Like I said, it is not as if NBA general managers don't think Benson has the talent, but they randomly assume that, well, he's strange or scary, I guess.
I would attempt to prove how wrong that is as I've spent a decent amount of time dominating Benson in games of Madden during his Dakota tenure, but Neff explains it much better than I ever could:
"Bottom line is what is scary about Rod is that he is the D-League's all-time leading rebounder, wins everywhere he goes, is more versatile than any of the other big men called up, had the highest defensive ratings by Synergy and is extremely well thought of by coaches like [Memphis Grizzlies' assistant Dave] Joerger and [Reno head coach] Jay Humphries, for instance. Add Indiana to that list after Rod was with them in camp.
And, off the court, he is smart, loyal, funny, looks you in the eye, never causes an ounce of trouble, can carry a serious discussion with you on health care but happened to write a ridiculous blog that poked fun of himself a lot. He does not even write the blog anymore."
All of that said, honestly, was the longest way possible of saying that it's a tragedy Benson spent four seasons in the D-League - developing; dominating; getting buckets, boards and blocks - yet still wasn't able to get a chance with an NBA team.
The only way to make it up to him, NBA, is to give him a chance this Summer then in training camp so he can earn his way to the NBA.
Free Boom Tho.