NBA Summer League: A Platform to Cash In On a More Lucrative International Contract?

Doug Pensinger

NBA Summer League obviously provides young guns with the opportunity to strut they stuff for NBA teams, but the offseason session is also quickly becoming a showcase for international executives as well.

NBA Summer League has officially come and gone, leaving fellow aspiring NBA athletes and some of the best prospects in the world wondering if they did enough in Las Vegas to prove they deserve a shot.

But the waiting game to find out whether they did, or not, doesn't necessarily end here. With well over a month left before NBA teams report to training camp, executives can very well take their time figuring out who they'd like to invite to camp.

And even then, an invite is an invite, and by no means does it hold any guarantees. For a fringe player simply on the cusp of making an NBA roster, attending training camp (and ultimately not making the team soon after) could mean sacrificing and kissing goodbye an otherwise promising and more lucrative contract overseas. By the time NBA training camp is done, such an international offer may no longer be there as a fallback option.

The fact of the matter is, with regard to international contract offers, players sometimes need to move quickly and take advantage of it sooner rather than later. At NBA Summer League last week, there were an array of scouts, coaches, and executives from overseas observing the talent present. They were all around, and could be seen talking to various agents about negotiating a contract for a player that was, at the time, going through Summer League motions with an NBA team.

Just how difficult is it to turn down guaranteed money? For some players, it's indeed pretty tough if the only alternative to not making an NBA team is playing out a much less lucrative D-League contract. The international personnel at Summer League know this all too well, understand what's at stake for the players, and use such information to their advantage.

Of course, if a player is still young and not necessarily ready for the NBA level, sometimes it may be worth going overseas for more reasons than one. Money aside, the competitive is high and the experience they'll gain is certainly valuable. The following summer, they can always return to go through the Summer League circuit once more. Only this time, they'll be more experienced, and arguably even more polished with some international flavor added to their game.

Just ask Dwight Buycks. After spending a season with the Tulsa 66ers, the point guard tried his luck in Las Vegas with the Phoenix Suns last year. Though he had a successful year in the D-League, averaging 15.2 points (on 50% from the field and 35% from downtown) and 1.2 steals off the bench, Buycks unfortunately couldn't parlay that into a big league contract with the Suns. Instead of staying stateside and playing in the minors for yet, another season, Buycks ventured to France. He played well and had the opportunity to cash in on a more lucrative contract, too.

Having returned for NBA Summer League this offseason, the improvement and maturation in Buycks' game was evident immediately. After just a couple of games leading the way for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando, Buycks found himself with a new multi-year contract and a promise to be the Raptors' backup floor general next season by the time the Las Vegas session came around the following week.

Needless to say, showcasing one's skills for international personnel at NBA Summer League may be an intriguing trend. Less than one week removed from the Las Vegas session this year, and the dominos are already beginning to fall.

After spending this past season with the Santa Cruz Warriors and helping them advance all the way to the NBA D-League Finals, forward Lance Goulbourne was undoubtedly becoming an important player under the umbrella of the Golden State Warriors' family. Having watched him average 8.5 points (on 47% from the field) and 7.2 rebounds through their minor league affiliate's playoff run, Golden State opted to bring him aboard for Summer League last week as well.

Though it would have appeared likely that Goulbourne could too have also received an invite to Warriors' training camp this fall as well, there would have been no guarantees for what followed. Just days after helping Golden State win the Las Vegas Summer League championship, the Brooklyn, New York native announced that he's signed a contract to play with a team in Korea next season.

Currently only 24 years of age, this may be the perfect time for Goulbourne to go overseas. With no promises in the NBA, he's still young enough to play international ball, develop even further, and then come back next summer to strut his stuff yet again.

Such isn't the most glamorous trend, but it's certainly becoming an ongoing and increasingly more common one. There are pros and cons to each side, but if one thing is for sure, it's that NBA Summer League is quickly becoming a showcase for international teams to feast on as well.

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